Death has been represented for centuries as a skeleton. Its origins began to appear in the early fifteenth century incorporated on tombs in a genre known as “Dance Macabre” or dance of the dead. This ghoulish representation was not meant to be a comfort, but to warn and frighten people about death. Along the borders of this procession of skeletons was a conversation between death and man. Death always calls out in a threatening tone, and man answers in remorse and despair, crying out for mercy. The message was simple, all will die, none can escape.
There is a contemporary artist who’s work often has skeleton’s present. Taking her inspiration from the hyper-realistic paintings of the fifteenth century Flemish paintings, she has mastered the technique using monochromatic tones with just pencil and paper. Often viewers react either with horror or laughter.
Laurie says of her work that “Art began as a repository for all my negative emotions. I was a perfect, cute little girl in a perfect, cute little suburb in New York and didn’t know what to do with all the dark, fearful s*** that was swirling round in my head. If I hadn’t found an outlet, I would have exploded like a firecracker.”
This piece “Death and the Maiden”(2005) was inspired by the death of her mother, who died in hospice. Like most of her work it is both endearing and horrifying at the same time. While working on this painting she recounts having listened to Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman”. In this opera, there is a scene in which Antonia sings a duet with her dead mother. Music often has a powerful way of mixing with life events, and inspiring even greater creation.
The pieces with skeletons are done as a way to remind us that death is among us. Laurie writes, “my culture runs from it[death], screaming. We encourage youth, beauty and the illusion that we have all the time in the world and will never, ever end. We frantically face-lift, botox, throw vitamins, creams and money at death. Death only happens to other people. Only losers die…” This piece is entitled “Family Reunion” (2005) . It reminds us, like the theme of fifteenth century dance macabre, that all will die.
If you want to look at more of Laurie Lipton art, check out her official website. All images here are copyrighted to Laurie Lipton
Other good links to conversations with Laurie are at Music is Art and Bienart
Cross published at http://arts.pallimed.org/2008/10/laurie-lipton.html