Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Skeleton Art

Happy Halloween everyone!  Traditionally here at Pallimed Arts we've used the Halloween holiday to focus on skeleton art.  In years past we've looked at the incredible drawings of Laurie Lipton and the breathtaking work of Kris Kulski which incorporates skeletons.

Even more broad, this year I decided to just find some great pumpkin art.  Using skeleton's as a theme, this is a compilation of pumpkin skeleton carvings.  If you've procrastinated this year and need some ideas, perhaps one of these will interest you.

In an effort to provide something educational, does everyone know the history of carving pumpkins?

This tradition stems from folklore told in Ireland, Scotland and England. The tale goes that a man by the name of "Stingy Jack" tricked the Devil into promising not to take his soul when he died. The nature of these tricks varies from region to region. In one story, Jack carved a cross in a tree the devil had climbed, trapping him until the promise was made. Jack ultimately dies and because of his orneriness is not allowed into Heaven.  The devil holds his bargain as well, not allowing Jack into Hell.  He's left to wander the earth as a soul. Jack begs for a light as he wanders, and the Devil kindly tosses him an eternal ember from Hell.  Jack then carves a lantern out of a turnip for the light.  He henceforth becomes known as Jack of the Lantern... or Jack -O-Lantern. The lantern became a part of rural superstition, as carved faces in the lantern were meant to ward off evil spirits as one walked in the dark. The lanterns were then placed on porches to guard the house overnight.  On the left is an example of a traditional carved turnip lantern.
As people from the British Isles immigrated to the US, their autumn traditions continued, however instead of turnips, they used the more abundant and larger pumpkins. As time went by the carved pumpkin became associated with the Halloween holiday.  Now, as the pictures suggest, this creative decor has evolved into elaborate creations!

Monday, October 31, 2011 by Amy Clarkson · 1

Monday, October 24, 2011


No, it's not an virtual autopsy. When I first heard the name of this internet company, that was my first guess. Written on the main page of their website is the message "Build your Immortality because Life is worth it". This is a new company which specializes in the "long term preservation of the digital memory of deceased people." Their claim is that their two web applications are "destined to change forever the way people deal with Death." That's a lot to live up to (pun intended).

I-Postmortem recently released and I-Memorial is site that allows you to build your own memorial. One can post last messages to family, leave funeral instructions and last wishes. You can actually put up digital copies of wills, insurances policies etc. and have them sent to specific loved ones at the time of your demise.

I-Tomb is meant to be a virtual cemetery of sorts. Family members can put up videos, audio files and written messages in memory of the deceased. A family can just set up an I-Tomb or the I-Tomb can come from an I-Memorial account. How I understood it is that an I-Memorial becomes an I-Tomb once the author has passed. Prior to death the author designates someone to declare them dead (a "Death Declarator"). After declared dead, the personalized messages are sent out to the proper recipients or posted to the I-Tomb, whatever the author specified. The site specifically states that the switch over is irreversible, so I guess make sure someone is really dead before declaring.

This does come at a cost, but not too bad. An I-Memorial account is $120 per year and an I-Tomb is $50 per year. But you can plan ahead and prepay for up to 20 years in advance.

I don't know that this is destined to change how we deal with death but it does seem interesting. The I-Memorial is a bit Type A personality for me. I'm just not that much of a planner. I'm more interested in the I-Tomb/virtual cemetery concept. That is something I can actually see myself doing for a loved one.

Monday, October 24, 2011 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 0

Monday, October 10, 2011

Motoi Yamamoto

There are multiple ways an artist may choose to deal with personal grief.  Some allow the theme of their work to capture their feelings. Artist Motoi Yamamoto has taken his grief work one step further by choosing a medium that itself is symbolic of death.

Yamamoto was in art school in 1996 when his 24 year old sister died, just two years after her diagnosis of brain cancer. Immediately he began to use art as a way to deal with his grief. His exploration led him to the medium of salt, which is a part of the death ritual in Japan. At the end of funerals, mourners are handed salt to sprinkle on themselves as a way to ward of evil spirits.

Not only is salt a funeral ritual, it is also allows his masterpieces to be impermanent. When the exhibit is finished, the piece is destroyed, and visitors are encouraged to take some salt and place it back in the sea. Symbolic, I think, of human life; a masterpiece that must come to an end, and the body returned back to the elements from which it was formed.

To create the works, Yamamoto uses a simple plastic bottle, often taking 50 hours or more to complete. The amount of salt used is expansive, in the range of 2000 pounds and up.

When you look at his installations, it is obvious that the process is tedious and time consuming. This too is intentional, as Yamamoto said in an interview with the Japan Times, "I draw with a wish that, through each line, I am led to a memory of my sister... That is always at the bottom of my work. Each cell-like part, to me, is a memory of her that I call up"

I find the work breathtaking in both the intricacy and the overall finished project.

To see a video of Yamamoto at work see below or follow this link.

Monday, October 10, 2011 by Amy Clarkson · 0

Monday, October 3, 2011

You Just Have to Laugh

At a recent event, I had the opportunity to watch the documentary, You Just Have to Laugh. This comedic documentary was appropriately put together by a comedian, David Naster. The impetus behind making the film was apparently a show Naster did in a church in Kansas. Afterward, a man came up and thanked Naster, saying that it had been the first time he had laughed since his son had died.

From there, Naster began exploring the topic of how we use laughter to get through the tough times. In his documentary, he interviews many different people in difficult situations, such as a gentleman with MS, a firefighter who was severely burned, people with tourettes syndrome. One interview was of a psychiatrist with a stutter talking about his experiences working a suicide hotline. Another is of a concentration camp survivor talking about the humor they found in the most horrible tasks. (The documentary points out that we may not find all these experiences funny but if it helps one cope with such a horrible situation, it was funny to them.)

Below is a video clip of Naster talking about his philosophy on laughter and death. Working on a hospice team, this really struck a cord with me.

Naster has also written books on this topic, the most recent Is there Laugh after Death? looks at stories of hospice workers and families of dying patients.

While I don't think Naster's documentary is widely available, it appears to be available at his website.

Monday, October 3, 2011 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 1