It’s Halloween season, and campy macabre aesthetic surrounds us, making the general public a little more open to the darker parts of our existence. Reflecting back on the origin of this holiday, All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain, the pagan celebration, it’s clear that death and the unseen world is the foundation. Our ancestors believed that the veil to the other side became thin or disappeared completely on this night, allowing the spirit world to comingle with the physical and living world. There are many people and cultures that still hold this belief and practice today.
In light of the season I began searching through aesthetically significant contemporary art that finds its foundations in death and dying. This is Part 1 of 2 of the scope of art about death, ranging widely in medium and other interwoven themes. Damien Hirst, Angelo Filomeno, Joel Peter Witkin, Konrad Smolenski and Doris Salcedo all embrace the subject of death and dying in a widely varied manner. As well, all are highly revered in their own right for their individual continuums of art produced over the years.
Damien Hirst is no stranger to controversy as an artist. He always delivers shock value well and does not shy away from creating work that makes viewers squirm. Materials he used to create the pieces featured here range from dead flies, to animal carcasses, formaldehyde and maggots. Hirst’s works don’t just discuss the business of birth, death and dying- they display it in action right before your eyes, in a way that some of the work nearly becomes about life itself.