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This Saturday, Houston’s beloved Wild Moccasins kick-off another tour at Fitzgerald’s with LIMB.  No doubt people will be dancing and having a great time, the place will be packed, and it’s almost guaranteed that someone out there is gonna …

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Art is Dead:Human remains as your medium

Submitted by Editor on January 22, 2024 – 7:07 pmNo Comment

By Jacob Calle

Some people use oils in their art work while others may use acrylics or even watercolors. To most artist this all they know and where it ends, but to artist Wayne Gilbert it doesn’t stop. He has went to the beyond and over for his unusual macabre medium, human remains, the ashes of people that no longer exist in this world…dead burnt bodies. Some may say that this is a project that is taboo, but to Wayne he believes that it’s a beautiful way of expressing his art that cannot be priced. The ex-drug abusing alcoholic has turned his life around and has made quite the name for him in the art society. He has shared the pages of People magazine with Jennifer Aniston. He has traveled the world, and even has his in own art gallery in Houston, TX called G Gallery.

Picasso didn’t just one day say, “I am going to paint the “Guernica”.” Andy Warhol didn’t just paint the Campbell’s Soup can overnight. GG Allen didn’t decide he was going to start eating shit…well, maybe he did. So how does one come with the conceptual idea of using dead bodies as a medium? Wayne had a very pragmatic solution to his idea of how he could create priceless art. Wayne studied art for over twenty years reading critiques and books that once you’d get to the fourth page you’d shoot your brain out because you have no idea what the author is writing about. He also was a part of a group with a few artists called The Rubber Group, where in 1989 he and his art mates wrapped a man in plastic and hung him over an arena and let a raging bull tear him up like a piñata.

While driving on the freeway he had an epiphany, using human ashes as a medium. In 1998 he created his first piece called “Anna D” which was once the person’s name. Wayne created a relationship with a funeral home and when there are small boxes of unwanted ashes the boxes are passed over to Wayne. It took him six months to receive his first box of ashes, unwanted babies to unwanted dead neighbors with no local relatives and everyone dead in between. A tour of his art was once given in his private gallery and a woman saw a box of ashes with a woman’s name on it and shouted out, “That’s Peggy from church!”. So sometimes people do find out where Johnny or Jane went. Other ways of claiming his medium is by people donating their bodies to Wayne. It may upset the families but once they read the will they must do as it reads, like Moe Syzlak from The Simpsons once sighed, “I aint never said no to a dead girl before.”

The ashes are not dyed, colored, or treated. Each human has their own color. While a white guy could come out black an African American guy could come out white. Still to this day scientist can not explain this explaination of the coloration in human ashes. Wayne sketches out what he wants on the canvas then takes a person and shifts their ashes and bones within the shape of the sketching. He then uses a pricey archival resin and bonds the ashes together. Once the ashes harden on the canvas he will proceed with another human for a different color. Sometimes Wayne can use more than twenty humans in one painting. Receiving light and dark colored ashes is a great pleasure to Wayne for they are the hardest to find. So if you believe you will produce either of these two shades please hang yourselg and donate your body to Wayne.

So how do you put a price on death? “You can’t.”, says Wayne. Wayne will not sell the decorative dead remains to just anyone. Nor does he just tack up a price and sell it. This does not mean he will not sell his art. He has sold some pieces starting at $10,000. He attends to sell the art only to the ones who will respect them not just as art but also as people. Sometimes there are ten people in one painting. The cost of a cremation cost around $700- $1,000 so somewhere in Wayne’s spiritual hobby someone is making money, even if his art doesn’t sell. He once sold a Nazi logo that is 18″-18″ for $3,000. “They ought to be priceless because they’re people.”, says Wayne.

Wayne isn’t the only artist who creates art from dead bodies. A woman by the name of Emma Fenelon from London once used ashes to recreate tree bark in one of her art galleries. Another unusual artist is Charlie Frafft from Seattle, Washington who created urns from ashes. So now one can put dead people in dead people.

So is making art with dead bodies illegal? Ashes not so much, but for Thomas Condon…another story. He didn’t just stop along with the others at ashes. Thomas went inside a morgue and took photographs of human corpses and when he had his photographs developed the lab tech who was developing his negatives called the police about the dead bodies. Thomas Condon was arrested and was sentenced for two and a half years in prison for unauthorized permission to take photographs of the dead which labels down to corpse abuse.

People will call Wayne to turn their deceased loved ones into memorial art. Even when the caller clearly states that price is not an issue humble Wayne will decline the offer when he could be driving that 2024 Lotus Exige S 260 that his next door neighbor has been dreaming of. Wayne then tells the caller that he does not make memorials. He makes art. If Wayne himself had the choice the dead art would be in a climate controlled museum on display for the world to see.

While Wayne Gilbert is creating art work of the unknown dead I am going to learn his trade and start up a memorial art business and make boo-koos of cash. Why not? I could make recreate Iwa Jima by using good ole Aunt May. Grandpa Joe never did have the chance of visiting Africa so perhaps I could create an African landscape using his ashes. Money isn’t an issue to these people so perhaps someday I’ll buy that 2024 Lotus Exige S 260 that I’ve been dreaming of.

Jacob: Will you make art out of your wife? Would this be a memorial?

Wayne: As to my wife, that is in the future and I don’t read Tarot Cards. Anything is possible. Plus old men die earlier than old women.

J: How many humans have you used so far?

W: Not sure of the exact count, but at least 50

J: How many pounds do you suppose this is?

W: Boxes weigh between 4 and 7 pounds each, and I have varying amounts left in many boxes.

J: Alive or dead who would you like to turn into art.

W: It has always been my hope that I could get a helicopter to take me to an excluded wilderness and set my ass down and leave, then let it all go the way it would naturally.

J: So… Alive or dead who would you turn into art?

W: George Bush did cross my mind now and then, but now that Obama’s in, we’ll give him a pass.

J: Is there anyone that you dislike that you’d like to turn into a penis or a vagina for sake of disliking them?

W: The question of penis and vagina, is a young man’s question and an old man’s resolve. Not to mention pleasure, according to your proclivity, of course. I try not to direct this work at personalities as much as principles.

J: Each human has it’s own color. Are there colors that you are looking for while opening up a box of ashes?

W: As to the colors, I am always hoping for the very dark and very light as I need highlights and shadowing more often than mid tones, therefore I go through them much faster than they show up.

J: Your deceased pet dog is too in the art. Because you had a special bond between your pet and not the others did you take your time on the subject for what your pet what be used for?

W: I use dogs as the guardian gates of the gentle.

J: Say if I donated my body in my will to you and was burned to bits the next day. What would you turn me into?

W: Jacob, If you donated your body to me I would make you a God of something. Just what, I’m not sure. In all seriousness, I am impersonal with the material. (With exception that I am definitively reverent and understand the paradigm of spiritual and respectful domains) I bring to the table my collective observation of the state of humanness with all of its manifestations You would become part of my universal family. No Rich No Poor, No Black, White, Red, Yellow, Brown, No Male, No Female, No Transgender, No Christian, No Muslims No Jews, No Hindus, No Buddhist, just the remains of human creatures. As a result of this form of thinking no one human elevates to a level of specialness, therefore all 7,000,000,000+ - of us are the same.

J: Do you believe the style you are doing now with the ashes is where it stops or are you cooking anything else up such as plastering a mannequin in ashes?

W:  I have a lot of ideas, but due to limited materials and the need to be sure of what I intend to do I am venturing into that world very slowly. I am always on guard against the perception of my art being aligned with funerary art, which it has nothing to do with. The final hope would be that when an observer looked at my work it would say ” I am a piece of Art”.


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