‘Faces of Death’ Artists Honor Celebrities Lost in 2016
An art project provides a moment of reflection.
Even in the last days of the year, 2016 continued to claim the lives of beloved public figures, with art collector and Wham! musician George Michael dying Christmas Day, and “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher passing away on December 27.
One annual artist project, Faces of Death, pays tribute to those dearly departed by inviting participants to contribute black and white portraits of well-known figures who have died over the course of the year. The increasingly-popular project, founded in 1997, is all the more resonant in 2016.
It has been, by all measures, a tough year for celebrity deaths, a trend that is likely to continue as Baby Boomers age. Given the long list of well-known deaths on the year, it is no surprise that the 2016 edition of Faces of Death features no less than 95 celebrities, up nine from 2015.
The 2016 roll call is impressive: We lost political giants Nancy Reagan, Janet Reno, Antonin Scalia, and Fidel Castro, astronaut-turned-senator John Glenn, and boxer-turned activist Muhammad Ali.
In the arts, architect Zaha Hadid and photographer Bill Cunningham were among those who left us, as did author Harper Lee and actors Florence Henderson, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, and Kenny Baker. The music industry seemed especially hard hit, with Michael’s death following on the heels of those of Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Prince, and Natalie Cole.
Brooklyn artist Michael Hambouz, who organizes Faces of Death, gave Bowie and Prince top billing, with several artists submitting entries for a shot at the title drawing of the two music legends hanging out. Artist Maya Hayuk’s submission “Goodnight My Hero, My Prince,” won by a vote from other project participants. She is joined by artists of all stripes, from fellow professionals to enthusiastic doodlers.
A couple of lingering 2015 deaths, which took place after last year’s design was finalized, are also featured, including Ellsworth Kelly. (Hambouz also slipped in an unofficial drawing marking the death of Donald Trump’s soul, in a not-so-subtle commentary on the presidential election.)
In order to squeeze in the additional drawings, Faces of Death has evolved from a t-shirt, as in years past, to a high-quality artist print, available for purchase for $20. Because this is not a money-making enterprise, the price tag merely covers the cost of printing complimentary prints for all of the participants.
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