Death is having a moment. OK, death has always and will always have moments, but death has certainly begun to re-enter mainstream consciousness. No longer confined to private conversations, or heavy-metal album covers, death can be found inside cafes, in children’s books, online comics and a multitude of artistic venues.
With the explosion of artistic mediums in the digital age has come a resurrgence of artistic depictions of death (not that art and death ever went away). We’ve scoured the web to find to the most contemporary, interesting and intriguing death positive artists you should know (in no particular order). Please follow, like and share their work (and this post, of course)!
15 Death Positive Artists You Should Know
15. David Orr
David Orr is a Los Angeles based photographer whose recent work uses the dead to explore themes of perfection and symmetry. For Perfect Vessels Orr took skulls housed inside Philly’s amazing Mütter Museum and mirrored one half of the skull. The result is a symmetrical skull with new aesthetic and physical qualities.
14. Ryan Matthew Cohn
Ryan Matthew Cohn’s collection of oddities, bones and deconstructed skulls are exquisite. Cohn painstakingly takes apart human skulls and arranges them into re-articulated patterns. His work is a labor of love and a love of anatomy. On his Instagram account you’ll find beautiful examples of memento mori art, a collection of his own work, and a wealth of historical trivia. Cohn also hosts Oddities on Discovery channel, and curates the House of Wax Bar in NYC.
13. Darker Days Illustration
Darker Days, AKA Josh, is an illustrator from Michigan. His work blends themes of mortality, love, the everyday and the fantastical. Oh, and sex. A sure conversation starter, Darker Days’ prints are clever and beautifully minimal. We also can’t say we’re not a fan of mixing the erotic and death.
Website | Store | Instagram
12. Caitlin McCormack
Caitlin McCormack’s willowy skeletal forms are a throwback to Victorian aesthetics. Her work is meant to resemble real bones (they feel like delicate bones). Her skeleton crotchet art has an uncanny aspect to it, as if the animals she depicts may come to life at any moment.
11. Meagan Meli
Meagan Meli is a Brooklyn based artist and freelance illustrator. Meagan has also done some amazing work articulating skeletons, restoring human remains, and old medical wax moulages (look it up). Her work is influenced historic medical, and occult illustrations, as well as cemetery symbolism. An incredibly talented artist, death is a theme that runs throughout her work.
10. Paul Koudounaris (Hexen Cult)
Paul Koudounaris is an interesting artist, to say the least. You might know him from his awesome Instagram account (where he often poses his adorable cat in outfits) or from his fascinating books. Like Paul, his subjects are strange, esoteric and wonderful. For his book Memento Mori, Koudounaris took photographs of death rituals from around the world to highlight the cultural diversity of death. We tend to have very rigid conceptions of death and dead bodies in the West and Memento Mori is meant to challenge that.
9. Conjurer’s Kitchen
No better way to conquer your fear of death than to eat it, right? Conjurer’s Kitchen is the brainchild, and talent of Annabel de Vetten. Vetten makes chocolates and cakes that remind us of our own mortality. Or as she describes it: “I make demonically delicious cakes & chocolates that look like the things your mother told you not to touch — let alone put in your mouth.” Her anatomically correct cakes are masterful works of art that belong behind museum glass rather than on your plate.
8. AJ Hawkins
AJ Hawkin’s work celebrates memento mori and the quality of transience- what she calls, “the overwhelming notion that all things change and must end.” Hawkin’s art is thought provoking, while maintaining a fun and light aesthetic. Her current work is an exploration of decay and nature. Check it out on her website!
7. Lozzy Bones
Lozzy Bones is a UK based tattoo artist and illustrator. Their work is dark and fun, with an aesthetic that screams ‘death positivity’. Her work is inspired by early memento mori art, woodblock illustrations and new age material. Her tarot cards (pictured above) are a great example. If you’re ever in the UK, you can get one of her prints tattood on you!
6. Noah Scalin
Ever heard of the ‘skull-a-day’ project? That was brought to you by American artist Noah Scalin. Scalin’s work, beyond his skull iterations, explores the transience of life, and is inspired by the medieval memento mori art. Scalin uses every day objects and materials and transforms them into recognizable objects, such as skulls.
5. Landis Blair
You may recognize Landis Blair’s illustrations if you picked up a copy of Caitlin Doughty’s new book From Here to Eternity. Based in Chicago, Blair has written and illustrated a number of short stories, and recently published a graphic novel, The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry, written by David Carlson. His crosshatch style perfectly suits his death positive subject matter.
4. Evi Numen
Evi Numen is an artist, curator, and independent researcher from Athens, Greece. Numen was an exhibitions curator for the Mütter Museum as well! Dark and brooding, Evi Numen’s photography evokes death in many ways. Her subjects are often twisted and in the throes of rigor mortis. Set against black backdrops, there is a life that pops out of the screen and grabs you.
Website | Collection | Instagram
Muertosruz is a sketch artist who focuses largely on death. Her subject matter may be serious, but her art is a lot of fun. Her art is very relatable, and can speak to you in any number of ways (don’t we all have moments where we wish our skeletons could jump out of our bodies?!).
Haenuli is a fashion designer and illustrator who explores death as message and metaphor. Inspired by her own battles with loss and depression, her art evokes the real sense of dread that can come with grief, and our own mortality. Painting allows Haenuli to work through her feelings, and this comes out in her beautiful illustrations.
1. Alison Scarpulli
Alison Scarpulli deals with plenty of subject matter in her esoteric and dreamy photographs. Her work evokes mystery and the unknown. Based in Cleveland, Scarpulli plays with form and light to create stark photographs. While not all of her work centers on death, the theme is certainly present.
Did we miss any death positive artists that you love? Let us know who they are in the comments!
Check out Skye Bergen – Artist on Facebook. ????????
Nicole Pangas Ceramics
These are terrific, thank you!
If you are of a mind, please check out my latest work, which is designed to address the societal taboos of both death *and* sex!
[…] mourners, attract larger crowds ???? How death became an industry – dominated by men ???? 15 Death Positive Artists You Should Know ???? Exploring Death Through Occultism And Art ???? ‘Death: A Graveside Companion’ offers an […]
Caitlin Hackett on Instagram. She’s amazing
Charles Clary! His memento mori and anatomical series are sick and have an incredible backstory and statement
Dylan Garrett Smith – Death positive art with a nod to natural burial. He did original designs for CGBG.
Jeane the Headstone Hunter, amazing cemetery and catacomb photography, books and articles.
R. Allen Jensen 1935-2022
In 1971 Jensen’s father committed suicide. His father’s choice profoundly affected Jensen and in the years subsequent his artwork has dealt with the uncomfortable of topic of death. Jensen made his own hand crafted coffin several times, using one in a mock funeral performance for Jensen himself on his 40th birthday and was then burned upon a pyre. Another was made entirely of cardboard and could fold up and be tied together with string and paper button like an interoffice envelope.
Jensen demonstrated a gift of generating life from death both in his exploration of death as a choice, as well as his willingness to dismember his own artwork and then to use the fragments in the creation of other works. Since 1971 R. Allen Jensen’s work, through drawings, sculptures, installations, and performance cycled through coffins and containers, graves and earth, dissection and dismemberment, the fall of Icarus, bound and rising dark angels, funerary barques, and suicide ideation as play,
Thank you for sharing this!!