Memento Stones is a blog dedicated to the art and iconography of gravestone carving. As an artist, designer, autodidact and lifelong taphophile, it is my personal mission to spread the word about inspired memorial art with an emphasis on - but not entirely limited to - regional stone carvings produced prior to the Industrial Revolution. Please read on and enjoy the images. I hope you will find some inspiration!

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Loving the Alien......."

There is a stone in Brooklyn, Connecticut for two young children. Their infant souls appear to be encapsulated in an interstellar vehicle. A swirling pinwheel hovers above their heads inside their spaceship. 

Images of aliens in contemporary popular culture reflect human features in an abstracted idealized way, emphasizing large eyes - windows to the soul, while downplaying the other sensory features of nose and mouth. Aliens are invariably bald and hairless, distancing them further from the animal kingdom and projecting an ambition to a state of development more advanced than we mere humans, but they are humanoid nonetheless. 
The alien face is an iconic cross cultural, cross historical image – a simplified and idealized projection of humanness. Alien bodies are scrawnily minimal as if everything that makes us human is contained within the head. 

The Swiss writer Erich Von Daniken created a sensation in the late 1960’s with the publication of his work, Chariots of the Gods. In this and subsequent books Von Daniken outlined his argument for the possibility of extraterrestrial intervention in early human development. His evidence? Rock carvings, paintings, writings and numerous works of art created by societies in various locations throughout the globe and at vastly different points in history.  Petroglyphs from Europe, Australia and America – three dimensional fetishes from Japan, tomb carvings from Mexico, all stood to illustrate his point because all represented humanoid figures with details and accessories resembling twentieth century astronauts.

I once wrote to Von Daniken myself, sending him images from my own collection of early American carvings in order to get his opinion on their potential alien influence. He never wrote me back and I’ve often wondered if he thought I was making fun of him. I wasn’t. Colonial period gravestone carvers tapped into that universal imagery and many soul effigy variations resemble the alien depictions familiar to us today, some two to three hundred years later. Here are some examples of interstellar travelers from early New England….  

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