Arts & Culture

Scalin’s Skulls

Every day when we clean our teeth we see in the mirror a glimpse of the polished skull to which worms will eventually reduce us. For most of us, though, this memento mori remains unnoticed, and any fears of mortality … Read More

By / October 7, 2008

Every day when we clean our teeth we see in the mirror a glimpse of the polished skull to which worms will eventually reduce us. For most of us, though, this memento mori remains unnoticed, and any fears of mortality we may have are sublimated through alternative outlets: not so Noah Scalin.

 

In Skulls , Scalin describes how every day for a full year he posted a new skull crafted from new material, or in a new way, online (arranged pennies, stapled leaves, carved watermelons). For centuries representations of skulls in painting (Holbein’s The Ambassadors, 1533), literature (alas, poor Yorick), and sculpture (most recently in Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, 2007) have reminded us, as the Book of Common Prayer’s Burial Service intones, that “in the midst of life we are in death.” But for a year online, and through more than 365 skulls (readers sent in theirs too), Scalin showed that death can be far from deadly.