Thursday, August 2, 2012

Skulls and Bones as Perfect Things

Skulls and Bones as Perfect Things

Cross-posted to my personal blog, Sparrowmilk. and my Deivant Art journal

Today, I got chosen for the August Feature of one of the skull/bone art clubs I’m in on Deviant Art.

I got to thinking maybe I ought to talk about just why I am so interested in bones and skulls and all things skeletal.  Why do I feel slightly bad “killing” Stalfos in the Legend of Zelda? Why are there so colorful many former animals on my walls? 

Some may wonder if I am obsessed with death.  Let me set the record straight: I AM. I find it difficult *not* to be obsessed with inevitable things, doctor appointments and road trips get my anxiety all up (more in the good ways with the happier things but anxiety can still be a problem).  When I was a child, I was obsessed with growing up like most children are – enjoying being a kid but wondering who and what I was going to be (I had plans… only as an adult did I learn that dreams die, too).  As it was, growing up kind of snuck up on me.  I still feel like a kid inside, but my body grew up and the world changed without my permission.  It was inevitable, and I suspect that death will be like that for me, even if I end up in a position where I can see it coming…  I figure I’ll only *know* when I’m dead if there is an actual afterlife of some kind for “ethereal-me” to register ‘cause I’m pretty sure the good ol’ meat-brain can’t.

A walk in the cemetery or looking/working with a skull… It’s a reminder of the inevitable and the essential equality that we all share – in this if in nothing else. Someday, I’ll never annoy or be a burden on anyone again.  Someday, people will never hope to see a new beautiful work by me again and those who like my voice will no longer get to hear it.  I wonder what the lives of deer were like as I paint them, what they might have felt and smelled – how they experienced the world.  What were things like for a sick or wounded fawn as it laid down?  What was it like for the scavenging creatures for which this was a life-sustaining windfall? All before I found the delicate little jawbones that ended up as one of my favorite necklaces…

There’s a more “life” reason why I love bones.  They are *evidence of life.* Sure, they are only life that was, but growing up and discovering my love for them in the desert of the rural part of Arizona in which I lived, I saw finding a bone as evidence that “there is life here” in a land where most of the life is sparse and thorny. A lot of what I found was livestock-dumping from the local people who butchered the fatted calf or who lost the young dairy calves and just got rid of them in a place where the police wouldn’t find them.  (In hindsight, I’m overjoyed that I didn’t find any human remains out there… phew)!  When I found bones that I knew belonged to actual wildlife (like the time I found a javelina / peccary skull) I was very excited, because it meant that “Javelina still live in my area, cool!”  (I still have that skull, unpainted.  I painted another of the same species that a hunter-uncle gave me).   In my life in Pennsylvania… sure, fishing the skull from a groundhog that had died under the porch of my former residence was nasty, but, it was remains of a sort of unwanted “pet” of ours – a real character that ate the garden pumpkins that year. (It became a piece I sold… I’m sure the owner of it appreciates the affection I put into painting it because I’d felt some affection for the old animal while it was still living).

I love bones, perhaps, most of all, because they are very sculptural.  I have the same kind of attraction to them I suspect Georgia O’ Keefe had.  The “lively” shapes, the smooth beauty of something that was a part of the support structure of a living creature.  The “living sculpture” that is bone makes purely human-created sculptures in stone or bronze seem a little “dead” to me.  Bones are what remain of the cells and the calcium and the proteins that were once used by a vibrant being.  If some scientist in the future ever studies my bones, fossil or otherwise, perhaps their trained eyes will catch that little rebuilt-bit of the radial-neck fracture I suffered in my right arm one time, or can tell by their growth patterns that I was a well-fed, overstuffed American of my time.  My teeth alone would interesting – all the fillings and a little bit of cosmetic-work.   Bones are sculpture – sculpted by life. 

Skeletons, in addition to all, are structure – the underlying structure of a vertebrate animal, like the scaffold of a building or the outline of a novel.  I’m fascinated by that, too. 

So, there you go - My obsession with a thing that I love that loads of people find creepy and others also find beautiful.

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