I’ve recently finished a painting truly in the round, a fanciful forest-scape depicting a hermit, naturally enough, reflecting upon his mortality , painted upon a life sized plastic skull.
Let me tell you , painting in the round with some degree of detail is no simple task.
For this “painting” I have focused upon the memento mori theme, the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth; hermits and Holy Fools and Death Angels populate this fertile sylvan scene.
I’ve crammed the narrative upon every surface of the skull, deliberately treating the surface not as a figure in the round but as a flat surface, allowing the surface narrative to meander as life itself.
My intention with the piece was to create an object of reflection , to be handled and meditated upon; a bauble for a wunderkammer.
The ultimate reveal being its base, where Life defeats Death, cradling slightly phallic Amanita muscaria toadstools.
The piece was inspired by an international art collective I was to be included in, a plastic blank skull arriving by oversea post. Initially I was excited by this joint venture, I do not collaborate generally but I was eager to see what I had hoped to be like minded folk from across the globe found inspiring in this most basic and eternal theme. Sadly, thus far, pretty tame: the usual “Steampunk” sort of treatment ; the gratuitous appropriation of traditional Oaxacan decorative arts and Posada’s Catrina; faux finishes, beads and sparkly bits . The occasional preparation of shot of a skull smoking .
Schoolyard stunts. I’m surmising Death might NOT have been pondered by my fellow artists, a theme once universally explored, now it seems too terrible to bear contemplating. Hence the pretty beadwork. I’m grateful to my neighbors here in LA with our annual Dia de los Muertos festival reminders, festive, beautiful, mindful.
But this is a theme I’ve long contemplated, making my peace with fear by walking side by side with Death, first in my youth through the AIDS crisis, and now to this day as I approach my final chapter. Never knowing when my spin of the Danse macabre will be upon me, I want to stay mindful of just how precious this miracle of Life really is.
This has lead to a large body of work reminding me time and again to be present, to be grateful , and to have a little fun with Death, making Lord Bones and Lady Skull laugh along with me.
A sample follows:
In the end I might decline the collaborative invitation, if the work doesn’t go beyond the superficial or decorative , I feel less inclined to participate . But nonetheless, grateful to reflect, brush in hand, on this great reality and chuckle a bit in the process.