Thursday, January 08, 2015

Butterflies and Elk Mount Vanitas - Memento Mori

Butterflies and Elk Mount Vanitas
20" X 16" X 2"
Judy Vars

The pretty butterflies with their ethereal nature float upon the air and seem to enjoy their happiness; they fly about on their gossamer wings dancing around the once proud elk. They both remind us of the paradoxes in life and death and give us a vision of some of mother earths delights.

This is my latest in a series of memento mori paintings (translated to remember that you will die) or vanitas paintings. Vanitas art explores the age old theme of resurrection, transience and transcendence.  Up until recent history death was seen as a motivator to live a good and meaningful life. To help men remember artists created paintings depicting skulls, and other symbols of death. The skulls and skeletons on some grave markers remind the visiting family members to get right with God before they bit the dust.  So quit wasting your time on stupid stuff and start living your life the way you want today.

We acquired this European elk mount at an auction held to raise money for dying friend’s medical expenses.  My husband the carver is going to carve Celtic patterns onto the skull but in the mean time it resides in the corner of my studio, the only problem with this is it is as big as a lazy boy! The antlers have poked me while trying to find a book or get my supplies.  So needless to say I was cussing the elk daily, after spending some time painting this once proud creature we are on better terms.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."  Maya Angelou

"If we catch a glimpse of freedom, we wish to possess it; if we catch a glimpse of death, we want nothing to do with it." One we cannot have, the other we cannot avoid.  Jeremy P. Johnson