Death is a normal part of life; the two are inseparable. Most creatures seem to understand this instinctively – allowing death to happen, whether a quiet passing into old age or a violent removal from this world, often to feed or protect another life. But human beings have a strange fascination with death, ranging from denial of its finality and obsession with rebirth, to the need to surround ourselves with images of it. While most animals on earth leave their dead behind to merge once again with the soil and air, humans preserve death, and throughout the ages have found ways to live with it via cemeteries and tombs, photographs of dead relatives, freezers or taxidermy. Christopher Marley is an artist who specializes in taxidermy of exotic insects, snakes and birds, and calls his collection of beautifully preserved once-living sculptures “Reclamation” – of a body that would otherwise rot and decay. He sources his species from those that have died in captivity, and hermetically seals and mounts them in fascinating displays. My favorite pieces are his insect mosaics, because while nothing sends chills up my spine like a large, scurrying beetle, when they are stilled forever and arranged in gorgeous and symmetrical bursts of color, I love them. Check out some of his pieces below, which can be found for purchase here.
Like a lot of broke people with good taste, I often dream about my perfect home – what it would look like, what treasures I would fill it with. I am not talking about stainless steel appliances or heated floors, I mean the artwork that would adorn my walls and tables. When I come across sculptors like Evan Chambers, I put them into my home furnishings spank bank for that distant, doubtful day that I will have shitloads of money to spend on things other than food and rent. Chambers’ sculptures are in fact utilitarian – they are lamps that stand on clawed feet or dangle from tentacles, jars to hold your potions/cookies in and vases for your headless roses and thorn sticks. They have a steampunk vibe to them, with the portholes and rivets and his heavy use of copper, bronze and glass, but they look alive in the perfect way to stand alongside a two-headed taxidermy fanged squirrel skeleton. Not that I have one of those, but I might, one day. Chambers is a skilled metalworker and glass blower based in LA, whose one of a kind creations can be bought online here and viewed below.
Walter Potter was a self-taught Victorian taxidermist in Sussex who became famous for his anthropomorphized taxidermy scenes featuring all types of animals, but mainly kittens, squirrels and mice – probably plentiful in those parts. He is famous for scenes like “The Kittens’ Wedding,” his commentary on social inequity “The Squirrels’ Club” and “The Rats’ Den” and “The Death and Burial of Cock Robin.” My daughter freaked when she saw this, but I also got a kick out of their tiny costumes and perfect gestures. The museum Potter created in his home was broken up and sold for over £500,000, while a bid of £1,000,000 was offered by Damien Hirst for the entire collection but was rejected by auctioneers. Check out some of Potter’s scenes below.
Every year, while much of the world staggers around in a hung-over stupor after a night of mocking death, Mexicans worldwide celebrate their most important holiday of the year – Dia de los Muertos – from November 1st to November 2nd. While Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in many countries, it was founded in Mexico, but the roots of this celebration of the dead go back thousands of years, as the honoring of the dead through festivals was a common practice of many of the indigenous cultures that inhabited the territory known as Mexico, most notably the Aztecs. The Aztec celebration of Mictecacihuatl was merged with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day after the Spanish invaded their territory and forced their beliefs on them. The concept of honoring those who have died, and setting aside days to spend with them in spirit, is a beautiful one. The altars that people build in their homes and communities are meant to welcome dead relatives and friends back to the land of the living for a couple of short days, and cemeteries become gorgeous, candlelit party grounds. Far from the slimy zombies that Halloween offers us, cemeteries that are decorated for Dia de los Muertos are warm and welcoming, covered in marigolds and brightly colored decorations. Definitely what I would want to see if I came back from the grave, rather than a bunch of machete-wielding angry survivors trying to chop my head off. Maybe if I rose to find flowers, tequila and Marlboros waiting for me, I wouldn’t want to eat your brains. Check out some beautiful Dia de los Muertos altars and cemeteries below…
Every year since 2010, Emma Thomas aka Miss Cakehead does an amazing pop-up cake shop in the UK called Eat Your Heart Out, featuring disgustingly awesome edibles from some very talented UK bakers! This year the event will be held in London from the 25th to the 27th of October, and it’s sponsored by The Kraken Rum so there are a lot of amazing Kraken-themed desserts, like The Kraken Cake and Cupcakes by Heartache Cakes. I took a look at her blog, Evil Cakehead, which is now my favorite dessert blog (ok my only dessert blog). The shit she has up there is mind-blowing, and even more so when you think it’s meant to be eaten. STD cupcakes? Come on, who’s never wanted a mouthful of genital warts? And the Buffalo Bill’s Skin Suit cake – I know when I watched Silence of the Lambs I was like, why has no one made a cake out of that? There are also Pretty amazing shit, I wish I could be in London to check it out first hand at this year’s pop up. Speaking of pops, there are also little movie buff cake pops for David Lynch and Steven King fans. I can only imagine how great Carrie’s bloody head must taste. Check out a selection of stomach-churning pastries below!
Buffalo Bill’s Skin Suit by Conjurer’s Kitchen
Kittiwat Unarrom is a Thai baker and artist, and a son of bakers, who uses his culinary skills to create some of the most disturbing and realistic corpse sculpture I have ever seen. Food art is no stranger to Thai culture – they pioneered fruit sculpture – and neither is death; the Thai have a close relationship with death and spirits, living alongside them and acknowledging their presence and power. So Unarrom’s sculpture makes perfect sense in the context of his culture, but also in the context of American food culture. Unarrom looks at his artwork as a way of communicating with people, asking them “whether they are consuming food, or food is consuming them” (source). If you look at the state of food in the US, the food eaten by a majority of Americans is certainly hastening our progress towards looking like one of Unarrom’s sculptures. His pieces are all edible, made of sweet and savory breads and sold at his Body Bakery in Ratchaburi, Thailand, although I don’t know if I could bite into a dead bald man’s face. Even Hannibal liked his flesh fresh. The textures and colors he achieves on the skin are breathtakingly real – mouldering skin, blotched with decay and sticky with oozed bodily fluids. Check out the photos of his work below. Those feet…THOSE FEET!!!
The Northwest has always been home to creative people who explore the darker side of our existence, and Corey Urlacher aka Goatus Art from Bellingham, WA is no different. His sculpture is an intense blend of images of decay and despair – a combination of the occult, medical pathology, horror and black metal. Each sculpture is an offering to dark gods, an altar of sorts. The colors he works in invoke rotting flesh and decaying antiques, and they look like the kind of pieces I would expect to hang on the castle walls of Elizabeth Bathory or Vlad the Impaler. Striking and terrifying, Urlacher’s sculptures give the impression of chaos but are simple and symmetrical in their symbolism. Urlacher is currently showing as a part of Curiosities at the Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco, and there you can see his work in person until September 7th.
When I picture the house of my dreams, I think of rooms that are inviting and creepy at the same time, where you want to hang out but it takes a minute for you to feel completely comfortable with all the weird shit staring at you. Basically, I want to live in the Adam’s Family’s house. In these rooms, Adam Wallacavage‘s chandeliers hang in almost every room, bestowing light on its occupants from hissing snakes’ mouths or dangling tentacles. Wallacavage has reinvented the chandelier from its bougie roots, and created an oddities version of it. My favorite piece is the Medusa chandelier, with its golden screaming heads, snakes with awesome snakey tongue bulbs (um, where do you get those if they burn out?) and the outpour of blood red crystals from the severed heads of this mythical beast. His specialty is octopus chandeliers, which would seem at home in some Atlantis mansion but would also add a weird and amazing quality to land-bound rooms. He also creates pieces using animal skulls which are really fucking cool, highly lacquered with crystalline teeth gaping down at you. Check out a collection of his stunning works below!
Wayne Martin Belger is an artist whose projects are time consuming and ultimately hugely rewarding, not only for him, but for his audience. He creates some of the most unique and stunning sculptural and photographic work I have ever seen. When Belger chooses a subject to photograph, he starts from the very earth the subject grew in. He makes a pinhole camera using items of significance for his subject – relics and materials that represent or are directly connected with the person or things he will photograph. He constructs complex and beautiful cameras of organic and inorganic materials so that when he takes the photo, the image is interacting with parts of the subject both outside and inside the camera. Belger uses pinhole photography rather than lens photography – this way, there is nothing interfering with the light reflecting off the subject onto the film, no mediators or manipulators. In an age of digital photography, this dedication to the bare science of capturing light on film is both astounding and impressive. His cameras are works of art, and the photos he captures with them are haunting. Check out the works of Wayne Martin Belger below…
Designed to study the beauty of decay.
4″x5″ camera made from Aluminium, Titanium, Brass, Silver, Gem Stones and a 150 year old skull of a 13 year old girl. Light and time enters at the third eye, exposing the film in the middle of the skull.
This post was originally published on time does not rest. Enjoy:
One of Czechia’s most famous tourist attractions is the Sedlec Ossuary, located in the town Kutná Hora, about 45 miles east of the country’s capital Prague. The place is often refered to as bone church or bone chapel, and that for a reason:
The Sedlec Ossuary contains the skeletons of approx. 40.000 people (some resources say up to 70.000), whose bones have in many cases (about 10.000) been artistically arranged to form furnishings for the chapel. When you enter the small, inconspicuous portal you don’t have very much time to prepare yourself for the sight: Due to the small size of the building (it’s really just a chapel) and the fact that there are no vestibules of any kind you’re instantly faced with the first decorations, all made of human bone.
Right after the entry a short stairway leads downward. To the left and right there are two huge, probably about 5.6 ft tall chalices made of bones. Downstairs there’s the enormous chandelier, which supposedly contains at least one of every bone in the human body. Underneath there are four pinnacles, each assembled with 22 skulls. The whole chamber features various garlands of skulls and bones. READ MORE…