Cemetery Gate

I would not be making skull paintings as a predetermined project. The first one began as a teaching activity– demonstrating palette knife painting for a student. A skull lives on my desk at school and was a convenient subject.

Afterward, looking at it, I became interested. Yet even now when I step back and see it as art making, I am not aiming at fulfilling an idea or interested in setting a final form. But I’ve kept making them.

Through the spring of 2019 I made a skull painting whenever I had a little time during my teaching day, usually beginning and ending each one within an hour or two. Now there are about thirty of them. In some ways they are always a repetition. Always on a small square or rectangular canvas, with both skull and background tending to gray or black. Always facing left. In other ways they depart from the paintings I’ve made for the last twenty years. These are made from observation, are not abstract, deal explicitly with figure/ground, and are concerned with chiaroscuro.

In the current world cultural and physical climate, as crises escalate and things spiral down, making the memento mori image of a skull at least doesn’t give me the sick feeling that some current art does when it makes me ask, “What does this have to do with anything?”

–Ken Weathersby

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