Skulls, as I understand them

For a long time, skulls have appeared in my work.  Sometimes cartoony, sometimes creepy, they’re an indispensible cornerstone of my artistic vocabulary.  It occurred to me today while riding the subway that it might not be a bad thing to say a few words about this.

Composition with Skull, 2007

Composition with Skull, 2007

I’ve always appreciated the look of skulls in old pictures, especially momento moris, and although colour-wise my palette is far more neon I would like to think that something of that same contemplative spirit occasionally resides in my use.  The range of hues I use is generally purposeful so as to make these objects look animate, if not actively characterized.  Skulls are for me symbols for Time, not Death, and thus co-occur with Life.  If anything, they represent the impermanence that typifies existence, and to my mind have nothing interesting to say about its opposite state; although frankly, I tend not to use them as metaphors at all, so much as stand-ins for a normally fleshy portrait template, with which they are of a piece.

Skull, 2010

Skull, 2010

What intrigues me is that, unlike people/portraits, we are not trained to differentiate between skulls much.  A skull is a skull is a skull, and yet every one is truly as unique as the faces built over them.  Since we usually don’t relate to skeletons in social situations, beyond various forms of specialization there is little reason to get better acquainted.  I think there’s something poetic at work here – what we do ignorantly in the case of skulls would be lovely to import to our social appraisals of everyday faces, considering that the equality we assigned each other was of a positive and not a reductionist sort.  So as meta-portraits, my pictures of skulls partially refer to what is common to us…not symbolically, but actually.  We are all physically supported by the same matter – which is instructive, especially in the realm of compassion, for how to orient ourselves in the Now.

All of that, plus they look pretty cool.

Skull on Tabletop, 2010

Skull on Tabletop, 2010





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