Tag Archives: Life

Day Four, Blogging 101: Identify your Audience, Exploring New Elements


This particular assignment encouraged me to examine the audience, demographic and the readers who may visit the blog. This is a very interesting exercise that involves writing for an intended audience or reader in mind, although I dedicated two days to brainstorming in order to determine, who is reading Black Calavera?

While I don’t have a particular person in mind, I hope to share the research I’ve undertaken over the past few years with the outside world. Now that I’ve switched to my focused state of mind, I would imagine the ideal reader as a skull enthusiast or an artist with a strong interest for skulls.

The second component involves introducing a new element to the blog and I wondered whether there is something new I can possibly explore that is different to what I’m familiar or comfortable with. I was intrigued to explore illustration or drawing that is something that I haven’t practised for about a year now. For two whole days, I sat beneath the heater with a pencil and an old sketch book that was recently discovered in the bottom of a cardboard box; this basically summaries the length of time I haven’t practised my sketching.

With two to three attempts, a sugar skull illustration was finally created! I can be rather picky, although the objective of the exercise involved experimenting with a different medium and the test determined that I can push beyond my comfort zone.  With additional practise and persistence, the sugar skull illustrations will improve over time. This is the starting point anyway and the sketchbook will hopefully provide new ideas for upcoming projects.

Why Sugar Skulls?

The designs are incredibly inspiring and there is a fascinating cultural association with the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival that is unbelievably admirable and highly creative. For those who are unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead, this vibrant celebration welcomes the spirits from deceased friends and relatives through decorative altars, sugar skulls and other creative events, as referenced by Regina.M.Marchi.1

The sugar skulls are highly colourful, although I’m intrigued to explore the decorative designs in black and white. Another fascinating subject, is the interpretation of death and how would one describe this ambiguous subject? This is something I’ve questioned over and over again, although death is one of those mysterious occurrences that is a natural process of life, although the thought is relatively daunting at times.

I’ve actually awakened from a good night’s rest and realised that I perceive the world through my own point of view and one day that’ll eventually disappear, when death approaches. This is actually difficult to explain, although I experienced a sudden wave of anxiety when I realised that there is an ending, there are some things in life that are unavoidable and death is one of them.

So where do we go from here? Good question, well I would love to explore how others interpret death, perhaps this’ll transform into an exciting new project, you’ll have to wait and see.


1.Regina.M.Marchi, Day of the Dead USA, The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon (USA:Rutgers University Press) p.26 

Nude with Skeleton by Marina Abramović 2005


Hey there, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted, although I have recently discovered the most extraordinary performance artist that I have the urge to share!

Marina Abramović is internationally recognised for her inspiring, captivating and conceptual performances that provoke a powerful and emotional response from the audience, as referenced by Sean O’Hagan.1 I’ve recently watched a documentary known as, The Artist is Present that presents Abramović most iconic and fascinating performance at the MoMA Museum of Modern Art.

According to The Marina Film Project, audiences queued to sit in front of Abramović as she sat completely still within a gallery space for six hours straight for two to three months. There was complete silence, as Abramović would continue to stare at the person right in front of her. This is one of the most remarkable performances to date and I’m completely mesmerised by the way Abramović can emotionally engage with the audience.2

The documentary presents Abramović artistic career including her relationship with Ulay, although there was one performance in particular that immediately captured my attention. Nude with Skeleton 2005 presents the artist with a skeleton that is placed over the top of her nude body, as referenced by Lima. The most fascinating aspect is the skeleton’s synchronised movements that correlate with Abramović’s slow and controlled breathing; the overall performance delivers a very interesting parallel between life and death.3


Lima explains that the performance explores death’s inevitable presence and the very notion that life itself isn’t permanent. In fact, the performance invites me to consider the presence of life and death that is profoundly emulated through Abramović’s performance including the dramatic and captivating composition with the life-sized skeleton.5

According to the MoMA audio recording, Marina Abramović explains that the skeleton exposes the frightening perceptions surrounding death and the concept of facing mortality.6 This is quite a confronting piece, as the juxtaposition between the artist’s figure and the skeleton invites me to consider my own mortality and my impermanent presence within the world that is a relatively scary thought at times. The performance delivers a powerful and emotional response that is admirable and inspiring.

I know if I had a life-sized skeleton placed over the top of me, the experience would be surreal, even frightening. The thought that we’ll have to face the inevitable at some stage is a challenging feeling that invites me to reconsider the value of life and the present moment. It’s amazing to actually realise how one single performance can trigger these profound emotions or thoughts; this is what Abramović does best! 7

The Marina Film Project mentions that the performances were recreated within the exhibition at the MoMA through a dedicated group of artists that participated in Abramović’s intensive training sessions leading to the grand opening.8

If you ever get the chance to watch The Artist is Present, I would definitely recommend it, even if you’re not into performance art, this will provide a completely different perspective in regards to art and the surrounding world. The documentary invited me to understand the importance of being present and aware of the your surroundings internally and externally. Don’t forget, rent or buy a copy of this documentary, you will seriously be amazed!


1., “Interview: Marina Abramović,” Sunday 3rd October 2010, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/oct/03/interview-marina-abramovic-performance-artist
2.The Marina Film Project, Force LLC and Mudpuppy Films INC, 2012, http://marinafilm.com/
3.Lima, “Nude with Skeleton,” http://www.li-ma.nl/site/catalogue/art/marina-abramovic/nude-with-skeleton/9280#
4.Lima, “Nude with Skeleton”
5.MoNA Multimedia, “Marina Abramović. Nude with Skeleton.” http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/audios/190/2016

6.Lima, “Nude with Skeleton,”
7.Lima, “Nude with Skeleton,”

8.The Marina Film Project, Force LLC and Mudpuppy Films INC

Emma Allen’s Ruby, an Extraordinary Animation of Incarnation

Animation from YouTube (Link attached below)

A couple of days ago, I received a very interesting video from the Black Calavera Facebook Page that was posted by Ryan Fehily. The stop motion animation was originally uploaded onto Vimeo, this particular clip was produced by Emma Allen an artist who specifically works with ‘animation, face painting and body painting’, as referenced by Allen’s official website. 1

When I first viewed Allen’s clip, I was particularly fascinated with the level of craftsmanship, the face paint featured some decorative patterns and designs that gradually changed throughout the stop motion animation. According to Allen’s Vimeo Page, the animation features the artist who has painted her own face in order to present ideas of ‘incarnation’. The artist animates herself ageing, Allen’s face slowly transforms into a skull that suddenly makes a rapid transition into a living creature.


Allen’s Transformation 

So I began to wonder, what is the definition of incarnation? According to the Australian Oxford Dictionary, incarnation is a psychical ‘manifestation’ from an abstract concept. In reference to Allen’s stop motion animation, the artist becomes an embodiment of life and death through the application of face paint. 2

The name of the clip, Ruby is rather intriguing, this does add a level of mystery to the animation, I have wondered whether the title has a reference or a connection to Allen’s work?

I was intrugued by the skull that Allen had painted onto her own face, for me personally the surrounding darkness becomes a reminder of death and disintegration. Allen presents the processes of ageing, the artist’s facial features gradually change throughout the clip, which is quite a unique concept!

From a personal perspective, the animation does question what actually happens after death? I’m not too sure if there is a specific answer to this question, although it is interesting to view Allen’s own interpretations of ‘incarnation’ 


Images from Allen’s Animation

Throughout the clip, the black and white skull is composed with colourful / decorative designs; Allen’s face suddenly transforms into a range of leaves, branches and flowers that also provides a unique aesthetic. There is a very interesting composition between the skull and the floral patterns / designs, from a personal perspective the face paint does question what happens to the soul when a person dies? Is there another life or entity waiting for us on the other side?

Who knows really, these are very difficult questions to answer, when I first viewed the animation I was convinced that the concept was inspired by ‘reincarnation’ as Allen depicts herself slowly decaying, the clip explores the transition from death to another physical entity or form.

The use of glitter also adds an interesting composition that significantly contrasts with the surrounding darkness. I was instantly captivated by Allen’s extraordinary designs, the glitter also disguises Allen’s features that also provides another creative approach to the animation. Towards the end of the clip, Allen’s face suddenly transforms into a wild cat and the designs appear similar to a lion or a leopard.


Notions of Incarnation

It is interesting to view how the designs change over time, I wasn’t quite expecting to see a lion or a leopard towards the very end, although this does reflect the idea of reincarnation. Allen’s designs are definitely creative and imaginative, it is also interesting to view the combination of face paint and stop motion animation. If you haven’t seen this clip before, I would definitely recommend visiting Allen’s Vimeo page!

Click on the link below to view Allen’s official website!

1. http://www.emmaallen.org/about/

2. Moore, Bruce (ed) The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary (Australia: Oxford University Press, 1996) 

3. http://vimeo.com/72670988


Image Citations




‘Animate / Inanimate’ at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art

Animate Inanimate

Lin Tianmio’s installation at Tarrawarra Museum of Art, Photography by Mark Ashkanasy

A couple of months ago, I visited an exhibition at the Tarrawarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Ranges, ‘Animate / Inanimate’ is a group exhibition featuring the works of local and international artists; this extraordinary collection depicts the relationship between life and death through a range of large scale installations. According to Victoria Lynn in “Tarrawarra International, 2013”, the exhibition explores the connection between the animate and the inanimate, human and non human.

There was one installation in particular that immediately captured my attention, the very first gallery space features the works of Lin Tianmiao, a contemporary artist who has displayed a range of synthetic skulls that are covered in bright and colourful materials. The silk thread does provide an artistic effect that invites the spectator to view these three dimensional skulls from an entriely different perspective.

In the Western culture, the skull is normally perceived as a subject of fear, dread and anxiety, on the other hand, Lin Tianmiao uses bright and colourful silk thread that provides an artistic and innovative portrayal of death. In a way Tianmiao’s skulls become the subject of ‘beauty’ and simplicity as referenced by Anne Madeline in Art Almanac. Tianmiao’s synthetic skulls are combined with a range of inanimate objects, such as musical instruments and gardening tools that also feature a very unique composition.


Reaction, 2013 Lin Tianmiao, Photo from Tarawarra Museum of Art

From a personal perspective, Tianmiao abstracts the original shape of the skull through a range of miscellaneous items; the installation explores how the human skull becomes an ephemeral object. The exhibition invites me to speculate upon the human form, the human body is ephemeral and nothing in life lasts forever, even when death occurs, the body continues to decomposes until there is absolutely nothing left.

Each sculpture is attached to the ceiling with a piece of thread, as I continued to walk around the gallery space, I suddenly began to notice that the skulls would gradually rotate. This is such an innovative idea, as this allows each visitor to view the skulls from a different angle or perspective; I actually enjoyed walking in-between each sculpture / installation, this also provided a very unique experience, you don’t often have the opportunity to stand relatively close to an original work of art, most of the time there’s always a glass window or a strip of red tape protecting the works on display.

The gallery lights are placed in various positions within the space, each installation features a unique shadow that also creates a range of unusual patterns and compositions. This also provides another dimension to Tianmiao’s installations, at first I was attracted to the bright pink synthetic skulls twirling around within the centre of the gallery space, I then discovered the shadows that are refelcted onto the gallery walls, in a way these abstract patterns become a separate work of art!


Synthetic Bones displayed on the Wall – Lin Tianmiao, Photo by Yan Yuguang

On the other side of the gallery space, there were a range of synthetic bones that were also covered in multicoloured thread, these bones were attached at the very top of the wall in chronological order. The bones do increase in size from the entrance of the gallery all the way to the other side of the space, this also provides a rather unique composition!

I’m used to viewing artworks / installations at eye level so this was definitely a nice surprise, I had to tilt my head towards the very top of the gallery space in order to view the second installation, in fact the synthetic bones do feature a quite a unique proportion that also adds a very interesting effect to the overall exhibition. These synthetic bones are also wrapped in colourful thread, in a way the artist has created a gradient, a spectrum of colour that ‘abstracts’ the human form, as referenced by Victoria Lynn.

So the exhibition has also questioned whether the human form in both animate and inanimate, it’s quite an interesting theory when you think about it. Well, when we’re live, the body is animate, when the living body dies what does it become? In a way the skeletal remains become inanimate, they’re no longer apart of a living, breathing organism, the skull becomes a skull, it doesn’t move or run away anywhere, it’s a skull that becomes apart of all the other inanimate objects in the world, right? Yes, I know as strange as it all sounds!

Animate Inanimate

Photo from Tarrawarra museum of Art

This what I love about this exhibition, the works on display do invite me to speculate about the human form, about my own physical existence. It’s one thing to actually view a sculpture or a painting but it’s a totally different thing when you  actually begin to look further for the possible meaning / interpretation. While there were other works on display , I was particularly fascinated by Tianmiao’s work, the synthetic skulls were displayed in a very unique and innovative manner that also provided a unique perspective of space and proportion.

The installation was definitely different from anything else I have ever seen before, not only was I able to view the synthetic skulls, I was physically able to weave in-between each individual sculpture that did create a very unique experience. I would definitely recommend visiting the Tarrawarra Gallery, the exhibition is fantastic and the scenery is simply amazing!


Victoria Lynn in ‘Tarrawarra International 2013: Animate / Inanimate”, 29 June – 6 October, p. 2 -3

Anne Madeline, ‘Animate / Inanimate’, Art Alamanac: Australia, Next Media, 2013, p. 46 -47

Image References





Richard Avedon

31/5/12 – Richard Avedon and Fashion Photography

At the moment i am trying to find different artists who appropriate the Death and the Maiden in Fashion or photography for the purpose of the research project. There is limited information in relation to these particular works, although Richard Avedon was a highly influential fashion photographer, who was recognised for his portraits.

One could argue that the bottom image features a very erotic composition between the young woman and the skeleton whose is holding the woman’s inner thigh. In comparison the top image features a skeleton holding a mirror in front of the model, which may encourage the young woman to consider her own mortality.

Image Citations:



Death and the Maiden

Hans Baldburg Grien: Death and the Maiden, 1518 – 1520

31/5/12 – Death and the Maiden in Renaissance Art

A couple of days ago, I posted a couple of images from artist’s Laurie Lipton and Edward Wilcox who used Death and the Maiden as the title for their artwork. I received feedback for my blog yesterday after another presentation and someone had mentioned that the Death and the Maiden originates from Renaissance art.

I decided to undertake further research into this particular subject and Rudolph Binion argues that artist Hans Baldburg painted Death and the Maiden during the early 1500’s, which also originates from the ‘Dance of Death’.

According to Binion, the Renaissance Reformation introduced the Death and the Maiden to the public sphere. These particular paintings featured death holding or touching a woman in a suggestive and sexual manner.

In comparison Enrico De Pascale  claims that “The origin of the theme lies in Greek Mythology, in the abduction of Persephone by Hades, king of the Underworld who epitomised the eternal conflict between Eros and Thantos, between love (life) and death” (E.D. Pascale, 2007 p.237)

Pascale also recites an ancient myth in relation to Hedes and the Underworld, who attempted to kidnap a young girl for her hand in marriage. Pascale also refers to other European mythologies that associated life and death with the four different seasons of the year, which were introduced through the Death of the Maiden.

Hans Baldburg Grien: Death and the Maiden 1517

Pascale explains that “The Gracco – Roman Myth, a metaphor for the alternating seasons of death (fall and winter) and of life (spring and summer), was revived in the Middle ages in the iconography of the Death of the Maiden” (E.D.Pascale, 2007 p.239)

Parhaps the juxtaposition between sex and death becomes a reminder of mortality. One could argue that the contemporary culture continually reproduce images or representations depicting sex and death, which may question whether society have been interested in these two particular subjects since the Renaissance period. Will society always have an interest in sex and death? Is the Death and the Maiden or the Dance of Death revived through the contemporary culture?

One could also argue that the Death and the Maiden has influenced contemporary horror films, which usually depict women being terrorised by grotesque characters who impose death or violence.

Danny Draven also highlights an interview with Stuart Gordon who believes that ‘sex and death’ compliment one another. Stuart also emphasises the villain holding or carrying the woman although her wellbeing remains ambiguous.

Binion argues that the Death and the Maiden features a close connection with the Protestant Reformation. Kim . W. Woods argues that the Protestant Reformation emerged within the 1500’s, which abandoned Catholic rituals and believes. This particular movement was supported by Martin Luther King, who questioned  practises from the Catholic Church who forgave certain sins or transgressions.

Pascale, Enrico De. Death and Resurrection in Art.  Italy: Mondadori Electra Publishing, 2007. p.239

Binion, Rudolph. Love Beyond Death: The Anatomy of a Myth in the Arts.  New York University: New York, 1993. p.73

Kim Woods, Carol M. Richardson, Angeliki Lymberopoulou. Viewing Renaissance Art, Volume 3.  London: Yale University Press, 2007. p.5-75

Draven, Danny. The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead: How to Make Your Own Heart-Racing Horror Movie.  Oxford: Elesevier Inc, 2010. p.118

Image Citations: