Eric Kuns: Visiting the Dead (Charcoal, 1991)

Periodically I’ll introduce something I did a long, long time ago.

I used to do pieces like the above by smearing charcoal on paper, then looking for whatever imagery would crop up, then realizing it by drawing, smearing, and erasing. I think the eraser was the tool I used the most. I wanted to use only what was in my imagination, so would never look at any imagery to help with drawings. In this one, for example, I wouldn’t look at a photo or illustration of a skeleton. This body of work (there are drawings and paintings) was largely Expressionistic, so verisimilitude wasn’t an issue. When I went to UCLA as an undergraduate, this kind of work was dismissed outright as hopelessly passé, and I soon stopped making it. Looking back, I’m not sure my teachers were right.

In this image I was going along with the idea that the man was visiting someone who’d died, perhaps a colleague or family member who he missed. Oh, I forget to mention the most important part. It looks like he didn’t just visit a grave stone or something. He dug it out and opened the casket.

~ Ends

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5 replies on “Visiting the Dead (early work from the archives)

  1. OK, your teachers were wrong, but what do you believe instead? In your opinion, what is it about this piece that works? It matters to you and that counts, but what else? [all to be read in a tone of casual curiosity rather than caustic challenge]

    For what it’s worth, it reminded me of vague folk tales of Siberia or the arctic or, more likely, some random combination that feels like that even if factually false.


  2. It’s a long part of my personal history and my education. This one is a part of a couple dozen pieces that were my definitive style in my early 20’s. Like I said, that kind of work was considered hopeless, and instead of developing it, I had to abandon it and do a lot of different stuff, which might have been a very good thing in many ways. However, I sometimes wonder if I hadn’t been stopped, how would I have developed this art, and would I have had a career? [Note: in grad school I was completely shut down because of my DNA – white male – and after graduating worked temp jobs and made little art for a long time.]

    I think your interpretation is fairly accurate.


  3. During my Waldorf teacher training days, we did a charcoal drawing of MLK Jr. and we had to do it by erasing. So first we filled our papers black and took away what we needed in order to create the picture. Poetry can be created this way as well, culling the excess words. Looking forward to seeing more of your work, be it old or new. Cheers 🙂


  4. I’ve been digging into my archives lately too. Strangely, I like the old work better than what I am doing now..


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