Tuesday, April 24, 2007Since childhood, I've had a strong affinity for skulls and skull art. It's not that I'm an especially morbid person, but I just think there's something clean, constant, and esthetically pleasing about the skull. Sure, skulls can be creepy when they fly out of an attic at you during a 3D horror flick, but they're also nicely radical and nostalgic. People around the world have used skull symbolism for millennia, and one of my favorite ancient skulls is this Aztec/Mixtec 15th Century turquoise-and-obsidian-encrusted specimen called the "Skull of the Smoking Mirror" currently housed at the British Museum. Note the bony Grateful Dead imagery of the past several decades: are those not the happiest skeletons you've met? Like another part of the human anatomy, skulls are like excuses - they sure come in handy, and everybody has one.
My love of skulls may reach back even further: my parents tell me they visited the Kostnice Ossuary near Prague while I was in utero.
The California Academy of Sciences has a fascinating cross-cultural look at art depicting skulls, human and otherwise, and a major exhibit on everyone's favorite osseous encasement.
If you scroll down the page you'll see a picture of sculptor Henry Moore in his studio in the early 1970's with an elephant skull hanging on the wall. If you look at the small sculpture on the table, you'll see it's a model of his rather skullish work "Nuclear Energy," the full-sized version of which resides at the University of Chicago, at the site of the world's first sustained nuclear chain reaction. [via Neatorama, which also links to a Russian Skeleton Art page via All Night Surfing]