Wayne Gilbert's Human Remains Art at 14 Pews
Last night, microcinema 14 Pews hosted the opening of a collection of works by artist Wayne Gilbert. "Human Remains Paintings" features eight pieces created with the remnants of cremated humans. Gilbert uses the uncollected remains of persons, which he finds at funeral establishments, and turns them into art. In his own words, creating art from this material gives him the ability to capture "the essence of a human being."
I had heard about Gilbert's use of cremated remains from previous shows, but had never seen his body of work in the "flesh," so to speak. Gilbert is no stranger to the Houston art scene; he obtained his degree in painting from the University of Houston and his work has been shown around the city, including at Art League Houston, among others.
I won't lie and say I wasn't half going to the show to find out if I would have any reaction to seeing the cremated remains of people, people who may have been mothers, fathers and cousins that no one cared enough about to come collect. The concept of turning this material into art is as brilliant as it is creepy.
Gilbert calls himself a painter and the works on display paintings, but I feel they should more be classified as mixed media. Gilbert takes the remains and mixes them with a clear gel, from there adding color where he sees fit, and molds (in a sense) the remains into a large-size image on canvas.
Some of the creations are very in your face; a giant money sign adorns the piece entitled "God," which is not very subtle. What strikes you about this piece is when you get very close to it, you can make out bits of rocks and dirt. Upon second thought, you quickly realize that those white bits are not in fact rocks at all but human bones. And that's freaky.
Another piece features a sketch of a man lying in the dirt. He is covered with remains, dark on top of him and a light brown below. He looks quiet and resting within the relics of others.
Wayne Gilbert, "Minimal Person"
My favorite piece is called "Minimal Person." The piece is a large square; its edges look like they are made out of bright yellow sand. Inside the square is filled solid with brown granulated material. The whole thing is very simple until you notice up in the left corner of the piece there is a gold tooth embedded. I have to say that of all the pieces, this one made me the most pensive and even a bit upset. I would call this piece a success.
As mentioned, I went to this show very excited to see how an artist would use cremated remains. If you have ever had someone in your life cremated, the concept of turning what they once were into art is a beautiful concept. I would have liked the images to be more reflective of that idea in some respects. I wanted to feel more than I did. That being said, the works are certainly worth checking out and 14 Pews is a lovely place to visit, if you've never been.
Wayne Gilbert, "God"
HUMAN REMAINS PAINTINGS will be on display at 14 Pews from December 30 until February 10. Call for days and times. For more information, visit 14pews.org.