A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 122: Be Cheerful!

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Be Cheerful and Live Your Life, Ronald Kok, 2017, foam mosaic on canvas

And now for something completely odd

If you’ve visited this space over the last couple of weeks, you’ve seen me experimenting with different forms of mosaics. First it was an Easter cross I made for that Sunday morning, next it was a self portrait in colored foam from the dollar store. Here are those two pieces:

As is often the case when you’ve got something on the brain, just a couple days after finishing the above self portrait (as well as guiding my students in creating their own foam mosaics), a Facebook page I like, Colossal, posted an article about an amazingly well-preserved mosaic from the third century that was recently unearthed by archaeologists in Turkey. Here is that mosaic:

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Below is a brief description found on the Colossal website:

Archaeologists in Turkey recently unearthed an exceptionally preserved mosaic inside the remains of a building from the 3rd century. One section of the three-panel artwork includes a reclining skeleton with an arm over its head, holding a glass of wine and resting an elbow on a loaf of bread. On both sides of its head reads the phrase “Be cheerful and live your life,” written in Greek. The purpose of the building surrounding the mosaic, and even when it was made is currently being debated. Some experts believe the triptych was simply the floor of a wealthy person who could afford to have it built, while others think it might be a message in a soup kitchen urging people to get their food quickly and leave. The History Blog has a great analysis and quite a bit more background if you’re interested. (via The History Blog)

Here is a photo of the triptych to give you an idea of size and context:

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This was all too wonderful for me to pass up. The incongruity here, the humor combined with commentary had me hooked right away. Why a skeleton along with the words “Be cheerful and live your life”? Was the artist inserting a reminder of mortality, an “eat, drink, be merry for tomorrow we die” kind of vibe? It has to be the quirkiest mosaic I’ve ever seen. So, naturally, since I was having fun with mosaics myself, I decided to recreate it in foam as I did with my self portrait.

I don’t have photos of the entire process but I share a few here that I did take. To say that this was fun is an understatement. I suppose there is a bit of commentary along with the comedy in my version of this mosaic, as well. The fact that I used animal patterned colored foam from the dollar store could be a statement all by itself!

The bread and wine became pizza and some kind of beverage in my version of the mosaic. The reclining posture of the skeleton, along with its expression and ribs and hipbones, etc. was a joy to recreate. In some ways I think I might have been feeling the same sense of joy the original artist felt. When you think about it, that is both funny and profound all at once, kind of like the mosaic itself!

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