Seattle Art Fair 2016 Booth Guide: Memento Mori

Posted on August 06, 2016, 1:46 pm
4 mins


Ars longa, vita brevis, they say. As fearsome as death may be, the memento mori in artwork is an eternal favorite for artists and audiences. Here are three sculptures from Seattle Art Fair 2016 that convey our physical transience in surreal yet beautiful ways.

Mindy Solomon Gallery (Miami, FL), Booth B31

“Casualty,” by Kate McDowell

Casualty by Kate McDowell porcelain sculpture memento mori

“Casualty,” by Kate MacDowell. 2009, hand built porcelain, glaze. 15” x 9” x 3”. Image courtesy of Mindy Solomon Gallery.

By opening the body of the rabbit to reveal an unnatural, anthropomorphic skeleton, sculptor Kate MacDowell blurs the lines between human and non-human life and tests the limits of biological identity in a world where lifeforms are interdependent in the broader ecology. Her whole booth titled Fragile Species is a thoughtful meditation on this subject, but “Casualty” really nails the point home.

See more from the Mindy Solomon Gallery Booth.

Abmeyer + Wood (Seattle, WA), Booth C28

“Keystone” by Christopher David White

Keystone skull sculpture by Christopher David White memento mori

“Keystone” by Christopher David White. 2015, ceramic, acrylic. 7.5″ x 7.5″ x 7.5″. Image courtesy of Abmeyer + Wood.

Here, the artist Christopher David White uses the versatility of the ceramic medium to create a skull that takes on the texture of wood stop a pedestal of rusted pipes. The ambiguous result could speak to fecundity (the acorns in the eye sockets) or to environmental degradation (the decaying plumbing), or both, and where humanity lies at their intersection. White has a number of stunning sculptures in the Abmeyer + Wood booth, among which “Keystone” is the smallest. A stunning bust of a woman (whose skin is also turned wooden) gives a different glimpse of mortality: She tips her head back slightly, toppling an egg from the nest atop her head. Dead before it hit the ground. Ouch.

See more from the Abmeyer + Wood Booth.

Jason Jacques Inc (New York, NY), Booth D4

“Predictive Dream XLVIX” by Katsuyo Aoki

Predictive dream by Katsuyo Aoki porcelain

“Predictive Dream XLVIX” by Katsuyo Aoki. 2014, Porcelain. App 13″ x 9″ x 13″. Image courtesy of Jason Jacques Inc.

The skull is abstracted into something floral, baroque, fluid through the magic of porcelain in Katsuyo Aoki‘s “Predictive Dream XLVIX.” The general shape and placement of sockets is unmistakably that of a skull, but it has none of the ferocity of the usual “death’s head,” despite its prophetic implications. The form is almost as alien to the mind as the very concept of nonbeing, but rather than being reduced to empty bone, the head becomes a beautiful splash of milky matter, an imaginative conduit worthy of contemplation, even in its fragility. Life is but a dream, indeed…

See more from the Jonathan Jacques Inc. booth.

Also be sure to check out the oil on nacre works by Gregory Halili (in which he transforms the inside of shells into literal skulls in profile) at Nancy Hoffman Gallery (Booth C15).

The 2016 Seattle Art Fair runs from August 4 through August 7. Learn more and buy passes on the Seattle Art Fair website, and check out all our coverage of the booths, events and the vision of the fair as a whole.

T.s. Flock is a writer and arts critic based in Seattle and co-founder of Vanguard Seattle.