Deadheads, Part 1

I have a confession to make.

I like dead things.

(Collective Gasp!)

Taxidermy, for example, fascinates me aesthetically and historically. I love going to natural history museums replete with stuffed animals, and find the recent trend of contemporary artists making unconventional taxidermy an intriguing one.

Fixed-Crocodile by Lisa Black
 I also happen to own two pieces of taxidermy, albeit not of particularly high quality. One is a blowfish, a long-forgotten and obsolete classroom relic that my mother gave me (she's a science teacher, and this little darling was languishing in her closet until she decided to entrust it to me).

Isn't it cute?
 The other is a dead frog band. Yes, a dead frog band. A friend of mine gave me that one.

I keep this on top of my T.V. cabinet, because really, what better way is there to signal entertainment time than through taxidermied amphibians?

My appreciation for all things dead also manifests itself through skulls. I have four of them at the moment: a bobcat, a coyote, a fox, and some other carnivore I can never remember. I think it's a badger, but not a honey badger. I keep them around on my desk because they make me feel like a distinguished 19th-century natural historian.

Yes, I admit I sometimes wish I'd been one of these fellows in a previous life.
I also like having these skulls around because they're fascinating subjects for drawings. Part of my interest is historical, given the memento mori tradition, but I also love my skulls because they respond really well to light. One shift of a lamp gives you a whole new dramatic array of highlights and shadows, allowing you to create a nearly infinite number of challenging new compositions.

These skulls have appeared several times in my work over the years. Here are some examples:

The Local Gossip, ca. 2006, pen and ink drawing. This admittedly isn't a great photograph of it

Skulls and Masks 1, 2008, charcoal drawing
Skull and Masks 2, 2008, charcoal drawing
Skull and Masks 3, 2008, charcoal drawing
Given my love of these objects, it's not surprising that they've also started incorporating themselves into my prints. Rather than follow the naturalistic approach I typically use though, I've been finding myself portraying them more outlandishly, using bright, vibrant colors.

I first tried this about a year ago, when I did a 4-color linocut of my coyote skull. I wanted to take advantage of the medium's graphic character, so I simplified the form and used different colors to demarcate light and shadow. And because I apparently love to complicate things, I printed it in three different color schemes.

My technique wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad either. I originally intended to do a series with all four of my skulls, but as with many grand ideas, it never materialized.

That is, until now.

For the past three weeks, I've been a linocut factory, cranking out a new series of colorful prints.

Come back next week and I'll introduce you to them!