Brooklyn-based artist Guno Park evokes the tradition of memento mori with an exquisite new drawing highlighting the precarious line between life and death. Titled “Nature of Things,” the meticulously crosshatched piece rendered in graphite stands at a striking 85 inches, portraying the oversized human figure with botanicals winding around its spinal column and through its chest. “Putting the skeleton together with vine, leaves, and flowers represents for me the power of nature and its inevitability of continuum. I find comfort in nature,” the artist says.
Park shares that although skulls and bones are common subject matter, he relegated most to his sketchbook until magnifying the concept a few months into the pandemic. “This drawing has been a journey —as many drawings are—that started a little more than a year ago…I think our whole world was reminded of how close death can be, and I had a constant reminder of it on the news and media,” he says.
In addition to his studio practice, Park teaches drawing at The New York Academy of Art, ArtCenter, and New York Film Academy, and you can see more of his figurative drawings on Instagram.
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In his ongoing Fragments series, San Antonio-based artist Jason Limon (previously) uses muted jewel and earth tones to paint uncanny scenarios for his recurring skeleton figure. The bony subject finds itself in a variety of bizarre situations, whether bursting from a tube of paint, orchestrating a puppet show with a pair of ornate paper hands, or nervously awaiting an encroaching fire. Often set against backdrops filled with multi-colored dabs of paint, his small pieces are imbued with a sense of creative problem-solving as he traps figures in scenes with boxes of pencils, scuffed erasers, and other craft supplies.
Although skeletons are typically tied to ideas of death and afterlife, Limon sees the anatomical subject as a universal image that allows him “to portray a thought, feeling or idea without the identity of the figure getting in the way,” although he tends to pair the ubiquitous form with actions and environments that are tied to his personal life. “My biggest concern has always been what’s been going on around closest to me and that is my family. Things were not so easy growing up in our family, and these days we’ve been able to get closer and help each other out,” he shares.
Originals, prints, and a few wearables are available in Limon’s shop, and you have a few chances to see his unearthly works in the coming months: at the LA Art Show from July 29 to August 1, at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica in September and October, and at Long Island’s Haven Gallery in April 2022. Until then, head to Instagram for an extensive archive of his pieces.
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Vibrant Skeletal Interpretations of Celebrities and Fashion Icons Define Bradley Theodore's Paintings
Energetic brushstrokes, chromatic colors, and the skeletons of pop culture icons make up the prolific work of Miami-based artist Bradley Theodore. His bold use of color is inspired by his roots in Turks and Caicos and the fashionable subjects he’s met in New York and Miami.
The skeletal theme represents something far from morbid. Theodore explained to Omeleto in his documentary Becoming: Bradley Theodore, “a skull for me represents a symbol of a person’s spirit. It’s like I’m wrapping someone’s soul around their skeletal system.” Theodore finds a middle layer of vibrancy that serves as a source of unity.
Theodore is a self-taught painter learning primarily from YouTube and by analyzing the techniques of famous artists, like Salvador Dalí. The artistic practice came from a particularly dark period in his life where he decided that rather than be consumed by darkness, he would metamorphose through art. Theodore spent a year in near-total isolation obsessively painting—so much so that he injured his shoulder from repetitive motion.
Theodore emerged from isolation and painted an outdoor mural of fashion icons Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld together to honor their long-term friendship. The debut went viral and remains one of the artist’s most iconic pieces.
Since then, Theodore has depicted some of the most recognizable icons from fashion, music, celebrity, and history, including Tom Ford, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Kate Moss, Prince, Cara Delevingne, and Queen Elizabeth. His murals can be spotted on the streets of major cities, like Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Oslo, and Paris.
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In an effort to make his otherworldy works more accessible, San Antonio-based artist Jason Limon began creating a substantial collection of small paintings in 2008. Today, Limon continues to add to his Fragments series, which centers on skeletal figures and anatomical forms that often feature stripes, polka dots, and other intricate patterns. His anthropomorphic works indicate movement, like a tube of bone cream that oozes out a skeleton or another character who drives a metal spear through a cracked heart.
With a focused color palette of muted jewel tones and neutrals, Limon’s uncanny projects largely consider how history pervades daily life. “Within the elements that surround us every day are bits of someone else—a record of thoughts made up of color, typography and symbols marked onto paper and metal to represent products throughout time,” he said in a statement.
The artist tells Colossal that Fragments feels especially personal and serves as an exploration of ideas that often turn into larger projects. “I will sometimes have some of these smaller pieces in gallery shows, but for the most part they are a direct connection between me and the collectors,” he says. “I often hear them tell me that the piece struck a chord on how they are feeling or how it relates to their past.”
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In celebration of Día de Muertos on November 1, Raymundo Medina built a massive skeleton that appears to be lurching out of the pavement on a street in Santa Cecilia Tláhuac, Mexico. Piles of crumbled concrete at the places where the skeleton is connected to the street create the illusion that it is bursting through the asphalt. Medina created the sculpture in the traditional aesthetic of the important Mexican holiday that celebrates deceased loved ones and ancestors. According to Mexican news site Miguel Ángel Luna, Medina is a member of the Jaén Cartonería collective and collaborates with Yaocalli Indians in his work. Built with papier-mâché and painted with starkly delineated black and white areas, the skeleton seems to be almost smiling; Día de Muertos is more celebratory than mournful. (via @losalananaya)
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Los Angeles-based artist Nick Runge paints watercolor portraits of people and human skeletons in a unique style that blends elements of abstraction with hints of realism. Soft edges of layered shapes and blended flesh and bone tones present all the visual information required to see features, without crossing into the realm of photorealism.
“I do sketch out the composition first, but I try not to have any kind of formula,” Runge tells Colossal about his painting process. “I try to narrow down the colors to ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ as a rough idea. I like to guide the watercolor but let it also do its own thing, to be more abstract.” Muted colors and expressive poses add to the naturalistic feel of the portraits, even when the subject is a jacket-wearing skeleton.
Raised in Colorado by now-retired professional artist parents (a college art professor and a graphic designer), Runge says that he did not study art formally but that he did benefit from having both of their perspectives. After working as an illustrator for 11 years, he found his voice in 2004 through experimentation. “Oil paint and watercolor allowed me to loosen up and step away from the highly realistic, pop type art (done mostly with acrylics and pencils) and let the paint do more of its own thing,” Runge explains, “Also, getting away from celebrity portraits and pop culture allowed me to focus more on HOW something is painted, and not WHAT/WHO I’m painting. Art for art’s sake.”
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