Showing posts with label skeleton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skeleton. Show all posts

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Debating Artificial Intelligence

I have begun exploring the vast terrain of material available online, and the uncanny abilities of artificial intelligence to construct imagery according to my prompts.

I mean to explore possibilities and dilemmas infusing AI to produce artistic visual imagery. I have thrown myself into the AI world and published a few results online on Facebook in my feed and in group forums and immediately there has been great debate initiated. Reactions have been strikingly polar. Images I have posted have been met with surprise, love and glee. Also, vehemence, hatred and fear.  It seems I have been through this before during the course of my artistic journey in life. I am thinking of my HangUps series of paintings and more recently, my skeleton art.

Big Mac Hangup, oil on linen, 2004

Los Jugadores de Tarjeta, oil on canvas, 2023

If I were not to share the product of my pursuit, there would be no discussion. I am not going to quote some of the negative comments I have received after posting a few AI images I authored.
This is a succinct explanation offered by AI in response to my inquiry:

Why are people against AI artwork?

The attitudes toward AI-generated artwork vary, and not everyone is against it. However, some people express concerns or reservations for several reasons:
1. Authenticity and Creativity Concerns: Some argue that true creativity involves emotions, intuition, and personal experiences, elements that are considered unique to human beings. They may feel that AI lacks the genuine creativity and emotional depth found in human-generated art.
2. Job Displacement: There are concerns about the impact of AI on traditional artistic professions. If AI can generate artwork efficiently, some worry that it might replace human artists, leading to job displacement in the creative industries.
3. Ethical Considerations: There are ethical concerns related to ownership and attribution. For example, questions may arise about who owns the rights to AI-generated art, and how credit should be given when the creation involves both human and machine collaboration.
4. Loss of Human Touch: Some people appreciate the imperfections and personal touch in human-created art. AI-generated art, being algorithmically precise, might be perceived as lacking the warmth and unique touch that comes from the human hand.
5. Concerns about Bias: If the AI algorithms are trained on biased datasets, there is a risk that the generated artwork may reflect or perpetuate existing biases present in the training data.
6. Devaluation of Traditional Artistry: Critics argue that the ease with which AI can produce art might lead to a devaluation of traditional artistic skills and craftsmanship, as people may start to prioritize the convenience of AI-generated art over handmade or traditionally crafted pieces.
It's important to note that these concerns are not universally held, and many see the potential for AI to complement human creativity rather than replace it. AI-generated art has also been celebrated for its innovative and unique qualities. As technology continues to advance, ongoing discussions about the ethical, societal, and artistic implications of AI in various fields, including art, are likely to persist.

AI creation

I am of the opinion that AI can compliment human creativity rather than replace it. I will add it to my toolbox.
Someone might say, “Use this power wisely for the benefit of mankind and never be attached to it.” Another might likely say, “Let us explore these new lands and see what is there, then make use of our experiences.” Or, as an artist and sensualist, a person might say, “Bah, be gone with this trap. It lacks touch and feel. One cannot sculpt it into a thing of beauty that can be touched and perceived from every side.”

No matter for me, the intrepid explorer. I am seeing this phenomenal invention as a way to further explore the visual world in all of its infinite dimension.

AI creation

Here is a positive look at AI, produced by AI:

Why are people for AI artwork?
Many people support AI-generated artwork for several reasons:
1. Innovation and Creativity: AI can produce novel and unique artistic creations that may not be easily conceived by humans. This introduces a new dimension of creativity and expands the possibilities of artistic expression.
2. Collaboration with Humans: AI can be viewed as a tool for collaboration rather than a replacement for human artists. Many artists use AI as a creative tool, leveraging its capabilities to enhance their own artistic process and explore new ideas.
3. Efficiency and Productivity: AI can generate artwork quickly and efficiently, saving time for artists and allowing them to focus on other aspects of their creative process. This efficiency can be particularly beneficial in commercial and design contexts.
4. Accessibility: AI tools democratize art creation by making it more accessible to a broader audience. Individuals without traditional artistic skills can use AI platforms to create visually appealing designs, fostering a more inclusive and diverse art community.
5. Exploration of Styles and Techniques: AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to learn various artistic styles and techniques. This allows artists to experiment with different artistic influences and create diverse works of art.
6. Assistance in Creative Process: AI can serve as a source of inspiration, helping artists overcome creative blocks or providing suggestions that can be integrated into their work. Some artists appreciate the challenge of incorporating AI-generated elements into their pieces.
7. Technological Advancement: Supporters of AI-generated art believe that embracing technological advancements is a natural progression in the art world. They see AI as a tool that can coexist with traditional artistic practices, leading to new and exciting possibilities.
8. Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The intersection of art and technology allows for interdisciplinary collaboration between artists, engineers, and researchers. This collaborative approach can lead to the development of innovative projects that push the boundaries of traditional artistic mediums.

Ultimately, the support for AI-generated artwork is rooted in the belief that technology can be harnessed to enhance and complement human creativity, leading to a richer and more diverse artistic landscape. The integration of AI into the art world is seen by many as an opportunity for exploration, experimentation, and the evolution of artistic expression.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Life and Death Converged


In the heart of a quaint, secluded village, amidst cornfields and rolling hills nestled by mountains, lived an enigmatic artist named Esteban. The old man’s works were a dichotomy that both captivated and perplexed those who gazed upon them. Esteban had a unique perspective on life and death, and he used his art to explore the vast spectrum of existence that encompassed both the marvels of nature and the symbolism of mortality.
For many years, Esteban’s paintings of marvelous nature were a celebration of life's beauty and vitality. His strokes on canvas rendered scenes of vibrant landscapes, with sunsets casting warm hues over cool deserts, wildflowers dancing in a gentle breeze, majestic trees reaching towards the heavens, flowing rivers and high desert plains. He captured the essence of nature before him, infusing his work with a sense of awe and reverence for the natural world. His paintings exuded life and energy, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the splendor of the universe.
Yet, alongside these odes to life, late in life, Esteban delved into the darker realms of existence. His other collection featured symbols of death, prominently featuring skeletons as a recurring motif. These paintings were hauntingly beautiful, revealing the fragility and impermanence of life. The skeletons had a life of their own in the world. Esteban’s skillful use of colors and textures conveyed a sense of melancholy, inviting viewers to confront their own mortality and reflect on the transient nature of existence.
Esteban's dual artistic explorations were not about juxtaposition but about integration. He believed that to truly appreciate the magnificence of life, one must also come to terms with the inevitability of death. In his view, the universe was a tapestry woven from both light and shadow, and one couldn't fully understand the beauty of the former without acknowledging the presence of the latter.
Villagers often visited Esteban's studio, drawn by the dichotomy of his work. They marveled at the way his paintings of life and death resonated with their own experiences and emotions. Some found solace in the reminder that life was precious and fleeting, prompting them to cherish every moment. Others were inspired by the unapologetic confrontation of mortality, leading them to reflect on their legacies and contributions to the world.

Esteban's art became a conversation between himself, his creations, and his audience. He encouraged open dialogue about the interconnectedness of life and death, challenging societal norms that often shied away from discussing the latter. His paintings sparked philosophical discussions, emotional introspection, and a renewed appreciation for the wonders of existence.
As the years went by, Esteban's reputation as a thought-provoking artist grew beyond his village. His exhibitions garnered attention from art enthusiasts, philosophers, and even scholars who saw in his work a profound exploration of the human condition. Esteban's legacy extended beyond his physical art; his philosophy embraced life's entirety, from the resplendent beauty of nature to the contemplation of death, leaving an indelible mark on those who engaged with his creations.
In Esteban's art, life and death converged, coalescing into a testament to the complexity and profundity of existence. Through his paintings, he painted not just scenes on canvas, but a reflection of the universe's vastness, both its light and its darkness. He invited us to look beyond the surface and acknowledge the intricate dance of life and death that shapes our journey through this wondrous world.

All artwork ©2023 by Steven Boone, all rights reserved

Sunday, April 23, 2023


To be honest, the skeleton motif took me by surprise here in Mexico and then I stayed with itcreating about a dozen paintings so far. Certainly there are those who have followed and collected my artwork over the decades who are bewildered and perplexed by my departure from landscape painting. All I can say is this is Oaxaca, Mexico and I have been influenced and like it. People ask when I will go back to landscapes. I don’t know.

My latest is called Venice Vanitas. It shows that even in one of the most desirable places, Venice, Italy, amidst youth, luxury, pomp, élan, gaiety and romance, death is a commanding presence. 

Everyone is always aware of death on an unconscious level. It is omnipresent. We are born with our days numbered. A germ can take over the body and cause it to fail. Sudden accidents occur. People can even die of melancholy. In the 18th century, death certificates signed by the British clergy listed as many as 41 different causes of death, including 'suffocated by wet nurse or mother'. 

Not that we dwell on all this and live fearfully. That is perhaps why I am bringing death to the fore. As if to say, “I see you, and I am okay with you being always around.”

In the painting Venice Vanitas, a lovely young woman is enjoying a gondola ride on the grand canal. She holds red flowers, symbolizing life. A mask is nearby, symbolizing deceptionlife can be deceiving. The water is flowing life force; bringing us from birth to death and always onward. The bridge is passage from one world to the next. The skeleton gondoleer is death, determining when life will eventually end.

A story:

Once upon a time in Venice, there was a young woman named Venetia. She was known throughout the city for her beauty and her love of life. One sunny day, she decided to take a gondola ride on the grand canal, the main artery of Venice.

As she drifted along the canal, Venetia held in her hand a bouquet of red flowers, symbolizing the beauty and vitality of life. But nearby, a mask lay on the seat, a reminder that life can be deceiving, that appearances can be false.

The water flowed around her, a reminder of the life force that carries us all from birth through death. A bridge she passed often spanned the canal, a symbol of the progress from one world to the next, from the living to the dead.

Guiding the gondola stood the Grim Reaper, a reminder that death is always with us, determining when our time on earth will come to an end.

Despite the reminder of death, Venetia was not afraid. She knew that life was meant to be lived to the fullest, and she was determined to enjoy every moment of it. She smiled at the skeleton behind her, knowing that one day they would meet again, but for now, she was content to enjoy the beauty of Venice and the joy of being alive.

As the gondola glided along the canal, Venetia breathed in the salty sea air and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. She knew that life was fleeting, but she also knew that it was beautiful, and that she would always cherish the memories of this moment. And so she continued to smile, holding her bouquet of red flowers, enjoying the ride, and living her life to the fullest.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Summoned to a Reckoning

Vanitas, Noche Encantada, oil on linen, 30 x 40 inches (completed 12/25/2022)

In my recent painting, streaking comets represent the brevity of life. Clouds drifting past the half full moon indicate mystery, and how light of knowledge is obscured. The skeleton blowing the trumpet makes an announcement of death. Two other skeletons dance happily. They are dead and testify happiness exists in the next world too. The lone skeleton on the right is the observer representing reflection. The church setting is from where I live in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is the Santo Domingo churchcenterpiece of the city. A church represents devotion, spirituality, the connection between earth and heaven.

Lastly, at the foot of the trumpet player, a dog, man’s loyal companion, is looking on with great attention. The breed is xoloitzcuintli. Amy and I have one. “According to Aztec belief, the Xoloitzcuintle dog, whose history dates 3,500 years, was created by Xolotl, god of death, to protect the living and guide the souls of the deceased through Mictlán, the underworld or the city of the dead. The most important function that the Xoloitzcuintles were believed to fulfill was to help the souls cross a deep and mighty river that crosses the Mictlán.” Mexico Daily Post (see an article for more about Xoloitzcuintles)

“O Son of Being! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds.”  —The Hidden Words of Baha’u'llah”

Last night was New Years Eve. I walked out on our roof veranda just at midnight as the valley where our house in the village of San Pedro Ixtlahuaca shook with reverberations.


Sunday, October 02, 2022

Dance of Death

Over the years I have come to realize my best artwork elicits strong reactions and not necessarily favorable. People have cried in front of my paintings. I have been assaulted in fury, with invectives hurled. Folks have swooned. 
Most of my career has been as a landscape painter. From the start of life I have been a nature boy. In school I often gazed out the windows to the landscape beyond, wishing to be free as a bird. I am tactile, feeling things to help me connect and understand. Thankfully the world has responded to my creative efforts and I have been able to make a living as an artist all my adult life. 

Keeping Score, oil on linen, 28 x 22 inches  c. 1996 

I struggle to make work that pushes boundaries and reaches into human psychology. A painting series called Hangups, begun in 1993 and continued for a decade were faces hanging from clothespins suspended on lines. The images originated in my subconscious. With the contortions and props, they elicited a wide range of emotions, from happiness to comic laughter, frustration, anger and repulsion. One, called Van Gogh All Hung Up, is in the permanent collection of the Foundation Van Gogh, in Arles France.

French, Middle Ages

Here in Oaxaca, Mexico, I have been working on a series of “Memento Mori” paintings. The Latin phrase literally means, "Remember that you must die." Each time I begin work on one, I touch raw feelings such as sadness or grief. Also come feelings of closure, laughter and relief. 
The famous French painter Matisse made the statement: “Art should be something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue.” I say that is not all art must be.  

The biggest annual festival in Oaxaca is Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It is time of remembrance and celebration of souls departure from this earthly existence. Most Mexicans consider death as not just a misfortune but also an ultimate state of liberation. Many positive images associated with the skeleton can be found in Mexican culture.

Skeletons in art have a long history. Some of the most memorable works in my mind are by Albrecht Durer, Pieter Breughel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch⏤famous artists from medieval times. In the Middle Ages the skeleton started to be used artistically as a personification of Death, i.e. in Dance of Death artworks, and as a symbolic element in other 'macabre' artistic themes with memento mori content, such as the Triumph of Death.

Detail from Pieter Breughel the Elder, Triumph of Death, 1562

In these contemporary times, the dance of death continues with different plagues: world wide pandemics, global warming and the ensuing natural calamities, wars, famines . . . you get the picture.  Death does not care, it comes to all that live. The skeleton represents spirit released of the body; a medium that connects life and death, conscious and unconscious. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Secret

 “I want to be inside your darkest everything.” -Frida Kahlo

The idea for making a painting of Frida Kahlo (Mexican, 6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954) came to me after I watched the movie of her life; simply called Frida. Mexican-American actress Salma Hayek played Frida and the movie is brisk, engaging and colorful. I watched it at home with my wife Amy Córdova.

Amy and I recently visited Mexico City and went to places that Frida and her husband, Diego Rivera left an indelible mark upon. Rivera has immense murals in various places in the city. Kahlo’s family home is now a museum.

One of the highlights for us was visiting Museo De Arte Moderno, and seeing a seminal work by Kahlo, called The Two Fridas. It is a big painting—almost six feet square. To stand in front of it is almost breathtaking. Kahlo’s fame grew rapidly after the 1960’s and now this artwork is iconic.

I researched Frida’s work and chose a painting she made early in her life, just before her terrible accident that left her crippled and in pain. It is called Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress. She made it in 1926 when nineteen years old. I copied it exactly and then put in the skeleton, as if embracing her and whispering in her ear, or about to kiss her cheek. It symbolizes death that speaks to her.

Just before she died at the age of 47, she wrote “I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”

At the top:
 "The Secret" oil on linen, 24 x 30 inches, by Steven Boone
Limited edition print available. Click here: Frida

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Among Skeletons

I found her among skeletons, ravens, and a very odd assortment of other characters. She wears a cute blue dress and stands in a yard under a cloudy drab sky, holding a black balloon that bobs above her head. Her huge blue eyes stare blankly into mine, and are accentuated by pink mascara that goes with her flaming pink hair. Her tiny mouth is decorated with the same color.

Standing in a booth at Spanish Market here in Santa Fe this weekend, I asked the artist who made her about the price and when he replied with a small sum, I said I would take her. I thought she would fit in with the eclectic menagerie on my kitchen windowsill.

A couple weeks ago, my previous purchase was at the International Folk Art Market from an  artisan from Chile. He made skeleton figures doing normal things. I bought a skeleton with long black hair—singing and playing a red cello. I brought him home and placed him with a bony couple holding a basket of bread and playing a guitar.

The latin cultures have a way of celebrating death and making it part of life.

Now I can move my little skeleton figures around as I choose and let them tell stories. They go with my ceramic rabbit, clay figurine ballet dancers, doll with angel wings, bust of Thomas Jefferson, and flying nude girl with arms outstretched and a star on her toes. The circus grows steadily.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Smiling From Ear To Ear

Despite every effort, when a famine spread throughout the land, a man and his wife succumbed to starvation. First the man. His wife loved him so dearly that she hastened in his footsteps. Then they were together again happier than ever. They were skeletons—just bones with no meat, but looked as beautiful as ever to each other. 

One day they went to sit by their favorite piece of art . . . an immense painting of a young woman naked and gazing up into the heavens, in front of two young musicians playing flutes. They were in good spirits and laughed, joking about their former life and how hungry they had been. The woman put on a baking apron, a bakers cap, and took a guitar out and began to play and sing. The man had a bakers apron on and found an immense basket full of bread loaves that he put on his lap as he sat next to his wife. He had his bakers hat on too and sang along gleefully. 

An angel heard the singing and arrived to see what all the merry-making was about. She hovered above the couple, and when they looked up and saw her, they both stopped singing. The man spoke and said, “Do you know that you are naked?” The angel smiled and replied, “I am not naked. It is you two that are naked . . . you have not an ounce of flesh on your bones!” At that, the husband grinned at his wife and both of them broke out laughing. The woman began playing her guitar again and both sang together in such perfect melodies that the naked angel soared in circles around their heads, twinkling her toes and smiling from ear to ear.