Skulls and Skeletons

Skulls and Skeletons

Come October, children in America anticipate with glee the holiday of Halloween when goblins and ghosts a.k.a “spirits” are believed to come back and visit their descendants.  In Mexico The Day of the Dead is celebrated in homes and at cemeteries where relatives feast and welcome the spirits of their ancestors.  Bakeries are full of candies and cakes made in the shapes of skulls and skeletons which are happily devoured by the families.  Allegedly, it was common practice to keep skulls as trophies and display them during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth in middle American cultures going back thousands of years.

Four artists whose work is topical are shown here in our feature presentation.

Cuban artist Julio C. Pena Peralta has three strong  aquatints with an amusing narrative flair.  Rastaman stares out at the viewer with his large teeth and Rastafarian hairstyle wearing beads and a poncho and large black-rimmed glasses. This Rastaman is a highly confrontational deadman. Conversation en la Ceiba shows a skeleton lighting a cigarette in the foreground while several figures, very much smaller inhabit the background seemingly having a conversation.   The third print in this trilogy shows a skeleton playing a guitar–like instrument as well as maracas in a tropical environment.   These prints were exhibited during 2004 in three venues in Massachussets, one in Rhode island.  The traveling exhibition which came to NY at Baruch College where I saw it  and became enamored of the Peralta works. The show was made possible through private support. 

Saralene Tapley, a Texas artist whose portraits of herself, husband and other models are increasingly complex and very much alive, has made several paintings on board and on canvas that portray life-like skeletons called Lucy 1-2 and 3.   Lucy is a “fully” disembodied figure with a rod to anchor her skeleton and painted in soft pastel colors. The expression on her face reveals the artist’s wink at the absence of fleshiness so prevalent  throughout her portraits.

Nick Papadakis, a New York artist skilled in many media, paints these skulls in pure pigment on panel in his uniquely multi-layered technique. The artist uses pigment that he finds in special places all over the world selected for their unique colors which create an effect of dripping blood.   These roundels of skulls in various states of “bloodiness “ are  compelling and unsettling–perfect for the right horror enthusiast.

And now from a completely different cultural source, we have a wonderful diptych by Ahmet Mater, born  and living in Saudi Arabia who is both an artist and a doctor.

This image is a kind of Rorschach-like  x-ray mounted on a carpet-like ground.  If you go to his website, there is a powerful video in his series ”Evolution Of Man”. It turns the attention of our web-show of skulls and skeletons, presented with some tongue and cheek, toward a strong political message.

Happy Halloween!


© Susan L. Halper Fine Art, Inc. 2020