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.