US Dollars + 23.5 Carat Gold Leaf + Resin + Brass + Gold Plated Wire + Acrylic Case
12” x 13” 15 3/8”
Life, Death, Faith, Money: “Ex Arcadia” draws on the Memento Mori tradition (Memento Mori - Latin: "remember that you have to die" – is the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.) In other words, it acts as a reminder of the transience of existence, earthly pleasures and achievements. The title is a play on Nicolas Poussins' painting 'Et in Arcadia Ego” and is a meditation on the above which the artist has attempted to extend and subvert by juxtaposing classical imagery with contemporary culture.
The idea for Smith’s Ex Arcadia came from a photograph in a book of archaeological finds in Turkey of a human skull adorned with a fabulous gold wreath. Gold wreaths were made in imitation of various leaves and the oak was sacred to Zeus, and said to be symbolic of knowledge - the wreaths were left in temples, sanctuaries and burial sites from the fourth century onwards. Smith shares, “The natural world has been a continual inspiration in my work along with ideas about the transience of power and where classically a wreath represents knowledge and a golden wreath implies power or divinity. Here it is a reminder of the transient nature of earthly goods, wealth and power and a caution against vanity. The skull itself rests upon French antique prayer books (meditations on the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary), cast resin and triple gilded with 23.5 carat gold, the teeth ornamented with some grinning molded dollar “grillz”. The wreath is made of uncirculated one dollar bills cut in the shape of oak leaves and woven into a band using gold plated wire.