How Life & Death Affects Art
Art is beautiful and sometimes evil. It can embody a multitude of different emotions from pain to happiness. Recently one artist from San Francisco got me thinking a bit more about death and its relationship with art. The artist is Agelio Batle and the piece is titled Ash Dancer.
Essentially a life-sized graphite skeleton that makes drawings of itself on a vibrating table covered in Vellum paper (parchment made of calfskin or other animals)
I love this piece for how it invokes you think about life and mortality. The mysterious marble like pattern it creates on the Vellum paper, while it’s shifted around by the vibrations, makes me think that the pattern could represent how everything leaves an impression even after death. I find this piece asks a bigger question that every human is bound to ask themselves, what becomes of us after death and what happens to all the unanswered questions? Because let’s be honest no one really knows.
Art has always been a matter of interpretation, much like death. The irony is, most people have very strong opinions about both. As you could imagine this makes one hell of a conversation and is a very big subject. Whether it’s a wife, brother, family member or friend, death and pain has always played a big role in the way artist explore emotions.
One of my favorite pieces from Frida Kahlo, a mexican artist known for her self-portraits, is called “La Venadita (Little Deer)”
This 1946 painting is far from the only time Kahlo addressed dark themes of death and suffering in her work. In this particular piece it shows how she feels like a trapped wounded deer that is pushing on. All too often she rendered herself in surreal scenarios trapped between life and death, The reason I love a lot of her work is the power in the colours and themes she uses. But if you think of all the different cultures and how they celebrate life and death, it’s amazing to think just one life can do so much.
A tradition I have always loved is Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). This is a 3 day festival, held in most central and southern regions of Mexico, where family and friends gather to remember, pray, and celebrate life and death focusing on those who have died, and asking them to help support their spiritual journey. The thing that stands out to me is the vibrant colours and joyous energy this day brings. Even though we are upset for our lose we are still happy to have been part of each other’s lives.
I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Yann Martel it reads
“Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is just a passing shadow of a cloud.”
So as you read this I want you to ask yourself the question
“What’s my relationship with death?”
Jack D. Thomson