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.
Talented French sculptor and restorer Alain Bellino creates extremely detailed, ornate bronze sculptures from metal leftovers. He transforms various old items such as cutlery or chandeliers by welding them into fascinating works of art.
Born in 1955, Bellino has been learning gold and silver plating and bronze restoration in his father’s workshop. Only in 2010, after years of practice and technical research, artist developed his personal style which was highly inspired by both Renaissance and steampunk. As described in his website:
“In his work of re-directing and re-assembling, which is both iconoclast and highly rigorous from a formal point of view, at the crossroads between past and future, Alain Bellino sublimates and rehabilitates the ornamentation.”
Various steampunk motifs and floral ornamented skulls are frequent objects in his work. Bellino’s vanitas are often infused with extra surrealism, for example castles and ships and mounting on top of skull sculptures. His latest work, the Darth Vader mask, demonstrates how delicately Bellino’s creations connect modern and antique worlds.
Upon running out of paper, the French illustrator DZO turned to unexpected canvases: a found skull and stones collected from the river. Following the curves of the bone and rock matter, the artist imagines monstrous and divine forms. Skulls, serving both as surface and as illustrative content, lend the pieces a distinctly foreboding current. Coiled upon itself, a serpent and a tentacled beast recall John Milton’s Satan, carrying with them notions of death and fallenness. As if gazing at her mirror reflection, a woman, quite like the Medusa with thick serpentine locks of hair, is imprisoned within the surface of a stone.
Despite all his allegorical references to death and decay, DZO imbues his stones and bones with an undeniable pulse of life. His fertile images, these doodles that turn in upon themselves with passionate vigor, are alive with creative energy. As the artist was inspired in part by Medieval artwork and alchemy, the stones may be viewed as modern-day interpretation of the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary object said to be capable of transforming lead to gold and human being to immortal.
DZO’s art objects, serving as strange embodiments of both death and fertile abundance, much resemble Medieval and early Renaissance engravings like those created by Albrecht Dürer. Through his ecstatic use of religious symbolism, DZO leaves the interpretation of these magnificent objects to the viewer. The skull and stones may be turned in any which way; with the shifting perspective inherent in the medium, we might choose to see his pentagrams right-side up, denoting holiness and religious faith, or upside down, symbolizing corruption and death. Take a look. (via Colossal and Lost at E Minor)
Carved carefully into the delicate surfaces of shells, Gregory Halili’s magnificent human skulls look like forgotten human fossils, discovered long after the extinction of our species. The New Jersey-based artist draws inspiration from the wild plant and animal life the Philippines, where he lived into his teenage years; his medium, black-lip and gold-lip mother of pearl, are gathered from the shores of the island country. The artist’s shimmering skulls are complex bas-reliefs, and his technique, which includes detailed oil painting, is evocative of ancient coins; in the place of hard metal lies a soft partially organic material, and portraits of kings are replaced with ominous skulls.
Halili’s skulls are poignantly fragile, far less durable than human bone. A single slip of a tool, and the tender piece is ruined. The shape of the shell lends itself to the humanoid form; encased within its circular bounds, the skull appears like a child in the womb. The shell material that once protected a gastropod with maternal determination, softly frames Halili’s expert carving. In this way, the artist forces a collision between birth, the “mother” of pearl, and death, represented here with the skull. Like relics washed ashore, these masterful pieces serve as a memento mori, reminding us of our own mortality, our creation and our inevitable demise. Take a look.
The surrealist artist Cristina Burns creates tiny, magical worlds made of skulls, toys, and delightfully kitschy knickknacks; her series Through the Mirror appeals to the subconscious mind, inviting viewers to engage with seemingly disparate materials that together form a strangely cohesive narrative. Inspired in part by the Oniric movement, the bizarre and delightfully pink work allows viewers to make surprising associations within carefully constructed scenes; the familiar and the frightful work in tandem, frantically blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.
Burns’s images, imbued with the innocent connotations of budding flowers, baby deer figurines, and Victorian lace, introduce comically dark elements: a round eyeball, brains served on a platter with a fork. Together, the delightful and the dangerous work to create arrangements that might be viewed as manic and surreal altars to the dead. In one elegant image, a skeleton attracts the attentions of a large beetle, an insect often symbolic of decay, with the presence of budding funereal flowers and sweets.
The meticulous symmetry of Burns’s compositions heightens the idea of supernatural harmony between purity and sin, between life and death. Much of the work centers around a symbol of man and especially womankind’s fallenness: Eve or Snow White’s skull bites an apple, or a mermaid figurine peers woefully at a deteriorating skull at her feet. In this state of death and corruption, there exists too a powerful sense of play, as seen through delicate china mice, candy hearts, and Disney princess dolls. In this way, Burns’s imaginative and feminine dreamscapes capture the allure of mischief, for in our disobedience and fallenness lies a magical sort of madness and celebration.
Gary Ward uses charcoal, graphite, oil pastels, and an overall sharp wit to examine humanity’s mess of emotion over the confusion of body and identity.
His Archeology Series, collected here, is a playful response to the quandary of life after death: how, despite fame, class, or notoriety at the end of it all, we are basically just a slew of skulls with slight form variations.
Regarding process, Ward, a self-taught artist based in Los Angeles, says he is “interested in how the mind and hand talk to each other in one uninterrupted sitting.” He likes to see the authorship of a flawed line and honors how each mistake can spontaneously charge the work in a new direction.
Eric Franklin‘s sculpture’s glow with a certain life. Though the series focuses on skulls and skeletons, it isn’t exactly dead. These skulls are carefully made of flameworked glass, or glass melted and shaped with a torch. The hollow skulls are then filled with ionized neon, krypton, and mercury gases. The ionized gases cause the skulls to glow from within complimenting their eery shape. [via]
One of my favorite tendencies in Mexican cultures is their positive relationship with death, and the above skulls are some beautiful evidence of it. Our Exquisite Corpse partnered with artists from the Huichol community of the Sierra Madres in West Mexico to create a series of stunning beaded skulls. Bead art goes back centuries on centuries on centuries in Huichol culture, from enormous tableaus to, more recently, tiny tourist coasters and covering every object on the way . The skulls are a combination of Huichol artists and OEC designers, painstakingly hand-beaded, and for sale on their website. ( via )