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Death & Art – the Seattle edge

The admirable Douglas Britt at the Houston Chronicle reports on a one-night show in a funeral home. What will these “visionary” Houston artists think of next?

Seattle’s Charles Krafft had a show in a funeral home in 2003, and not, as in Houston, by hanging portraits on the wall. Krafft’s art in a dead house was made from the dead:

He’s making urns from human ashes, following a formula Josiah Spode invented in 1797, producing fine English china glaze by adding calcinated cow bone to the company’s clay mixture. (more)

As Larry Reid likes to say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to Delft.” Then there’s Seattle’s Greg Lundgren, who has turned art & death into a business. Excellent Brendan Kiley story on Lundgren here.

On the other hand, when it comes to turning out the living for a show in a funeral parlor, Houston has Seattle beat. I don’t remember seeing any major collectors or curators at the opening of Krafft’s show at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.


  1. Douglas Britt says:

    D’oh! Don’t misunderestimate Seattle.

  2. Spoken like a true Texan, Douglas.

  3. what is this obsession with who was “first”?
    First is only important in races, and Art is no race.

  4. Not first, Ries. Best. First is incidental.

  5. Douglas Britt says:

    Your post has prompted me to change the last graph to the following for the print edition:
    There was something almost eerily apropos about Geo H. Lewis & Sons graciously sending a pair of limousines to the home of Beverly and Wayne Gilbert, where a party celebrating Toby Kamps’ recent hire as the Menil Collection’s new modern and contemporary art curator was winding down. Artist and Ggallery owner Wayne Gilbert is known for using cremated human remains in his paintings. The limos picked up Kamps’ party contingent and united it with Topchy’s, making this the happiest visit to a funeral home anyone could remember.
    Can’t believe I forgot to bring that up when I wrote the blog post. Back to Topchy: Scare quotes notwithstanding, I think the term visionary applies — not so much because of the paintings, although they are beautiful, but because he’s founded and run an artist collective performance/happening space that’s pretty legendary and had a good 12-year run. Plus he’s working on the self-sustaining artist village built from shipping containers. He’s a utopian who tends to make his utopians happen. And seeing those paintings in the funeral home — a grand, almost imposing place where Houston society’s elite are mourned — did add something both funny and moving, mostly the latter.

  6. Incidental? Are you crazy?
    Invention definition:-A new device, method, or process developed from study and experimentation.
    The inventive phenomenon isn’t limited to those who invent toasters and paper clips.
    A race is only a race if the multitude already knows what the finish line looks like.
    There are many fine craftspeople but true creatives are in a much shorter supply.
    You can admire the inventiveness of an artist who has the creative ability to show the world something new. The simple fact that others will, through recognition, take possession of a new idea and improve upon it, is incidental and ultimately, inevitable.

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