the great unknown
I started this piece in 2017 & it almost came as a surprise that I wanted to make this artwork because I'm not really a skull person. I'm a big fan of the original movie The Punisher with Dolf Lundrin but that's about it! But once the decision was made, I focused on this project with complete tunnel vision.
In my bio, I allude to a pivotal moment that year that changed me. Changed me as a person in a lot of ways, one of which took me from a hobbyist pyrographer to an artist.
This was the artwork that changed me. And what inspired this artwork is the pivotal moment I referred to. Because it's so important, I'll share what it was. When I started this artwork, my husband was a few weeks away from having a spinal fusion. We were both 33 & he'd already undergone two unsuccessful disc operations. This surgery was one of the scariest - & more difficult - things I've ever had to go through in m entire life.
I can't tell the whole story because it'd take a month but the long & short is that I had a lot of weight on my shoulders & on my mind. Burning this bearded skull helped me cope.
Pyrography takes complete focus. Creating this artwork cleared my mind. It was my escape. Therapy by fire, I call it. I worked on it every day, usually in the evenings, after bedtime, hunched at the stove because at the time that was my work station. I listened to music, had a warm cuppa & drifted away.
And that's my story. That's not the end but it was the beginning. There are 3 pieces in this collection after all.
I love this piece. His stare, his beard. Hindsight really is 2020. It's not a coincidence that if you put skin on this man that he'd look like my husband & it's not a coincidence that I was fixated on a skull artwork during that time in my life. When mortality felt like a constant & unpredictable guest at the dinner table.
It helped me face my fears of death. The entire collection does.
This artwork doesn't have it's own name but it's part of the collection titled The Great Unknown.
This piece was also created in 2017, my husband recovering from a spinal fusion & the uninvited dinner guest still making calls. Later this year we had to put our beloved dog down.
His name was Bear. We rescued him at 3 so we're not sure of his breed but we think he was a Leonberger cross. He lived to almost 12 which was a good, long life for a giant breed & like others succumbed to hip dysplasia.
This collection was created as a way to confront & process my fears of death. As it was true with my husband's spinal fusion, so it was true of Bear. Spending the whole year knowing we wouldn't let his poor, sore joints suffer through another bitter cold winter. We put him down in November & having the entire year to prepare didn't do a lick of good. When the moment came, there was no preparing for such a thing.
And that mourning was no easy process either.
These were among the thoughts & emotions I struggled with. These were what I sought refuge from while I burned this stonework skull.
It's funny because certain things didn't seem deliberate at the time but it wasn't a coincidence that the first artwork in this collection was a bearded skull & it's not a coincidence that this piece is so feminine.
Death was an installation in my life that year. Whether it was worrying for my husband or every day looking at Bear, loving him & at the same time thinking of what I would eventually do. It did right by my husband & I think I also did right by Bear.
I love this piece, especially for it's dimension. As a self-taught artist, this piece is where I really learned how to use shading to create depth. It was a puzzle I loved solving.
Dimensions: 9.5 x 11.5" (24 x 29 cm)
Burned by hand on maple, sealed with a clear satin finish, & mounted on a custom black frame
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I completed this piece in 2019 &, according to my art journal, almost two years to the day of when I started the first piece in this collection.
Like others, this piece evolved during the first burn session. I initially ended to keep the background maple like the first two. I stared at the skull when a thought came to me. What might someone see when they die? I imagined that everyone may see something different. That's when I translated that thought into the background.
I created a black background with heavy texture. Texture you could find shapes or images in. I used no design with the thought that as someone looked upon the completed artwork, let their gaze explore the blackness, that they might discover something unique. Similar to those inevitable final moments at the cusp of the Great Unknown.
This collection was therapeutic to create. I have healed and normalized from the things that prompted me to create these artworks...it seems complete...but I feel like there's one more left. One more area to touch on. It's an idea that's been smoldering, not yet set ablaze. Stay tuned!