Artbound: “Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead”

This episode of the Artbound documentary series considers the reinvention of the Day of the Dead festival in the USA, particularly via the work of the Self Help Graphics community art center in East Los Angeles during the early 1970s. For much more on this subject, I strongly recommend Regina M. Marchi’s 2009 book Day … Read moreArtbound: “Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead”

“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”

Here is Allison Elizabeth Solso’s 2015 dissertation on the theme of “vernacular memorials”; the often-temporary shrines constructed by bereaved families and friends at the sites of often-violent deaths. An excerpt: My relationship to these spaces was always confused, even as I did my best to maintain respect and some modicum of decorum. The need to … Read more“Beyond Memento Mori: Understanding American Religions Through Roadside Shrines”

The Vanitas Shrine: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day

By Tony Wolf During late January of 2020 I returned to snowy Chicago from a three-week long vacation and family reunion in sunny New Zealand. During the trip we’d celebrated my mother’s 80th birthday with a surprise party and also received the devastating news of a death in the American branch of the family. At … Read moreThe Vanitas Shrine: Remembering Death and Seizing the Day

“All that has dark sounds has duende”

Here is the Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca’s mesmerizing 1933 lecture/essay The Theory and Play of the Duende, as translated by A.S. Kline. Some excerpts: Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance … Read more“All that has dark sounds has duende”

The New Danse Macabre at Stamping Ground (2003)

By Tony Wolf Several years after staging The New Danse Macabre in Wellington, New Zealand, I had become part of the regular faculty of the Stamping Ground Festival of Dance and the Action Arts in Bellingen, Australia. Stamping Ground was the brainchild of veteran dancer/ choreographer Peter Stock, who wanted to encourage greater participation in … Read moreThe New Danse Macabre at Stamping Ground (2003)

The Might-Have-Been 200-Ft. Tall Owl Mausoleum in New York City

Click here to read the Atlas Obscura’s excellent account as to why the New York City skyline is currently lacking an enormous owl-shaped mausoleum. The early 20th century French architect Maurice Guillemot described Andrew O’Connor’s monumental design in these terms: This gigantic bird of night looms up from its pedestal, a startling apparition, enigmatic and … Read moreThe Might-Have-Been 200-Ft. Tall Owl Mausoleum in New York City

Jim McKenzie’s “Friends with Death”

Artist Jim McKenzie’s process in sculpting Friends with Death is documented here via stop-motion animation. Reimagining the Reaper is important work as we move towards a more thanatopositive cultural outlook. In McKenzie’s vision, eternal Death pauses for a moment, entranced by the transient beauty of life in the form of a turquoise-winged butterfly. If you’d … Read moreJim McKenzie’s “Friends with Death”

The Skull and the Flower

By Tony Wolf The evocative yin-yang juxtaposition of flowers and skulls has a curious artistic history encompassing Catholic reliquary, 17th century Dutch vanitas painting, Mexican folk-art, Edwardian art nouveau and ’60s psychedelia. In combination, they offer a startling and provocative alternative to the black-cloaked, scythe-wielding figure of the Grim Reaper, whose imagery is inextricably tied … Read moreThe Skull and the Flower