Saturday, January 24, 2009

Modern Memento Mori

Since when did skulls become a fashion statement? And when did they become so cute? You see them on t-shirts,


even Skechers.

This seems to be a modern take on the Vanitas, a Dutch tradition of painting from the 16th and 17th centuries. Times were good, and a new merchant class with expendable income flourished (sound familiar?) Instead of paintings featuring religious scenes, they painted stuff - opulent crystal, gold watches and abundant food. Yet embedded in this imagery was a message - this is temporary, and you are going to die. The ripe fruit will soon be rotten. The prestigious watch is counting the passing minutes as they march toward your death. To drive the point home, some still life painters featured skulls.

Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull and xx's paintings tap into this tradition.

But my favorite is this concept from Oh Boym - a DIY Vanitas mirror to start your day off right.

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