Halloween, Dia De Los Muertos and falling leaves remind me of my own mortality and the beauty that can be found through letting go and change.
“T ain’t no sin to take off your skin
And dance around in your bones”
For Halloween this year, I took my ‘Festival Freak’ costume and simply added a mask to it. I chose the skull because it is symbolic of death. I also chose it because it made the costume seem even more ape like and simply because I love skulls and bones.
The base of the mask was made from a printable paper template from www.wintercroft.com. Wintercroft supply templates and instructions that enable you to turn unwanted card into beautiful 3D masks that you can build and decorate yourself.
My love of creating something out of nothing, geometry, costume and play were fully satisfied through the creation of this mask. The instructions are easy to follow and I find them very therapeutic to make.
I renamed my costume ‘Freaky-Deaky Death’ and wore it to a Halloween festival in Glendalough House, Co. Wicklow.
Damien Hirst’s ‘For the Love of God’ inspired the decoration for the skull. I cover the entire mask with a decorative diamond mesh wrap material, covered the eyes, nose and mouth area with a see-through black material and glue gunned on some real sheep’s teeth (that were part of my bone collection) around the mouth. I teamed the mask up with my “understated” full body silver tasseled monster suit (‘Festival Freak’), which I created out of bundles of recycled silver foil.
I also used the templates from Wintercroft as part of my art class in HSE EVE Estuary, a training service for adults with learning disabilities. My students found the process to be very enjoyable and the finished piece wonderfully rewarding. This sort of project promoted teamwork, encouraged creativity, problem-solving skills and built up self-esteem. I would recommend giving them a go to any art class.
I was commissioned by an events company to create a large-scale artwork for a ‘Day of the Dead’ themed festival (‘BD: Day of The Dead Festival’) in Glendalough House, Co. Wicklow. ‘To the Moon and Back’, ‘The Wolf Pack’ and ‘Freaky-Deaky Death’ were also used during the same event.
I have always loved the decorations associated with this celebration, especially the sugar skull. So I decided to design my own six foot high skull and place it in front of my silver wings ‘Hybrid’.
On Halloween night, since I had the moon out of storage, I decided to pop it up in our front garden for all of the Trick-or-Treaters in our estate. It went down really well and loads of the kids got their photographs taken on it.
During the Halloween weekend, a group of friends and I decided to hike part of the Wicklow Way. We began our adventure at Crone car park and ended in Roundwood. The best part of this hike was definitely between the back of the Powerscourt waterfall and Lough Tay.
The scenery was amazing! Catherine and I couldn’t stop going on about how happy getting out for a day like this made us. You forget how much beauty there is on our doorstep.
One thing that also struck me really was the quietness of it all. Looking across this vast landscape, with loads of creatures living amongst it and not a sound!
For the finished skull design, I incorporated a number of different symbols that I have found to be reoccurring in my work, like the brain, heart, eye and merkaba star. Amongst these symbols I placed a quote by the (death obsessed) philosopher Soren Kierkegaard – “Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.”
This quote, for me, highlights how slippery the mystery of human existence really is and how it can never really be understood. It is in constant movement.
Life is therefore fundamentally unintelligible. You cannot employ rational ways of thinking, to try and understand it.
Life is a paradoxical union of opposites. We cannot remain in reflection and we cannot live a life of pure unthinkable action. We are faced with reflection and action simultaneously and we are stuck oscillating between the two……..There is no sense to be had, so just roll with it and laugh.
The skull is a collection of ideas surrounding how we live our lives through emotions, education, experience and our own forms of spirituality.
A book that I read (and have been blabbing on about to everyone ever since) also influenced me. ‘The Tao of Pooh’ by Benjamin Hoff, helps to explain Taoism through the stories of Winnie the Pooh.
Taoism is about ‘The Tao’. This is usually translated as ‘The Way’. It is a universal principle that underlies everything from the creation of galaxies to the interaction of human beings. Similar to Soren’s ideas, the workings of Tao are vast and often beyond human logic. In order to understand Tao, reasoning alone will not suffice. One must also apply intuition. Taoism is a religion of unity and opposites; Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin Yang sees the world as filled with complementary forces – action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold, and so on.
The main thing that I learnt from reading this book was to slow down. I have been known to be quite a hyper person and often tie my mind and body up with overthinking and over action. One of the main things in life that I had been worrying about was where I was in relation to everyone else. After reading this book however it put a lot of things into perspective. It taught me to question everything. Who made up the rules, facts, laws, systems and goals anyway? Was it just another human with an overloaded brain who has separated him/herself from the supporting network of nature by interfering and trying too hard?
My mindset is now going to be centred on going with the flow and believing in my true inner nature. Having little understanding of yourself leads to having little respect for yourself which leads to being easily influenced by others.
It has also taught me that when I find something that I don’t like about myself I can transform this characteristic into something else instead of trying to brush it under the carpet and forget about it. Don’t try to erase negative emotions, learn from them in a positive way.
“The bad can be raw material for the good.” – Lao Tse
Reconnecting with the real world and with myself are now my main priorities.
© All photos shown have been taken by Rachel Kiernan and are not to be used without permission.