Sunday, November 15, 2009


Bones do seem to last forever
But they remind you of mortality;
They are severed from reality
As they dally with our fears;
They are solid ghosts, the hosts
Of our pallid faults and frailty.
But we also need our bones
To support our ambition,
Free us from imperfect vision.

Arnold Klein

I have a friend who wears bones as jewelry and others who are nervous about even the thought of what lies beneath the skin. For me the shapes of bones are visually elegant and mechanically fascinating. One of my favorite artists, Eugene von Bruenchenhein, built tiny thrones and small towers out of chicken bones. The finished sculptures were painted with a very delicate and beautiful sense of color or they might be simply painted gold. He was capable of rethinking the use of bones so that each piece is unique. I have drawn 2 of these chairs at the Milwaukee Museum which will be part of the Bird Cabinet I am working on.

Set in the center of the drawing for the bone drawer are 2 pieces of sculpture by Peter Hackett, a gentle soul who recycles parts of animals he finds, who have died by violence or natural process. His work avoids disrespect even when it is humorous.

The cat's skull has a covering of avocado skin held in place by a carefully worked piece of wire.

The mythical beast is actually the skull of a woodchuck with mandibles attached as horns.

The drawing contains bones on loan to me from Missouri State University, Springfield. Some have I.D. tags attached. There are bird, mouse, shrew, muskrat, and rabbit skulls that look as you might expect. But then there is the armadillo skull, surprising for its lumpiness and almost duck-like shape. The spinal column might well be that of a sheep. It was found beside the road in New Mexico when I was traveling to Tucson with our son Barrett and the car broke down. When you are traveling with a naturalist you are never bored when you are outdoors. There are a number of chicken wing bones, vertebrae, an opossum femur and various ribs all lying on a marvelous patchwork piece of metallic embroidered Indian fabrics with mirror inclusions which we bought in Mumbai.

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