At first glance, the artwork of Alexandra Bastien appears to be photographs of a nude woman with a variety of skulls. However, the artist unbelievably renders her hyper-realistic drawings from layer upon layers of color pencil. Bastien’s astonishing ability to create such incredibly detailed drawings allows her to beautifully show the human body in a state of transition. The heavy symbolism that has long been attached to the skull in art history represents death. Bastien illustrates this concept in contrast to the soft, warm body of the nude woman. The women in her work are holding the skulls, embracing whatever darkness they may bring. In one drawing, both skull and human have even merged together in perfect balance. This balance of life and death is shown in a state of transition and transformation, exploring themes of rebirth and the afterlife. Seeing the many different skulls amongst a human in its natural state may be reminiscent to human origins and ancestry.
Bastien’s incredible, artistic skill and talent can be seen in this photorealistic series titled Taming the Beast. She finds inspiration in her natural fascination with the human body and form. The accomplishments of this Canadian artist are just as impressive as her skill. Her work has been included in several publications and magazines as well as been exhibited all over the world.
Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre’s “recarved” sculptures are aptly named—Lasserre takes existing clichéd figural wood carvings and “exposes” the skeleton underneath. Of course, the new carving only seems like a reveal of what lies beneath. Part of the success of these works is how inevitable they feel.
Lasserre’s drawings and sculptures explore the unexpected potential of the everyday through allegories of value, expectation, and utility. Elements of nostalgia, accident, humor, and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar, and provoke uncertainty in the expected.
In the style of an anatomy book, the bifurcated sculptures preserve the existing sculpture on one side while exposing the fantasy skeleton on the other. It’s a reverse of the classical artist’s process of learning about anatomy in order to draw more realistic figures. Lasserre is taking fully realized figures and imagining their bones. In an interview with Joseph Kendrick, Lasserre said,
“There is an intrinsic honesty and humility to the carving process. There is no magic, no hidden technology or trick, just the simple subtraction of what was already there. This humble quality makes the amazing alchemy that carving can achieve so much more interesting. … Like the physical materials I use, and the processes I apply, there is something categorical about death/mortality. The aspect of it that I try to coax out is that death is a potent sign of life — albeit an ended one. To carve skeletons into inanimate objects infers their past — and maybe even future — potential for life.” (Source)
Although these sculptures are whimsical, in concept if not execution, there’s an “Alas, poor Yorick!” undertone that’s sobering. Those who are fortunate enough to be healthy and whole rarely think of the inevitable end, the skull beneath the skin. Lasserre’s skilled carving work reveals what was never there, and in doing so makes us think of what eventually will be.