Human ashes and illegal powdered substances are not typically the go-to ingredients for works of art. At least not works that make it into reputable galleries. But in a new art exhibit at the Leopold-Hoesch Museum in Cologne, Germany, US-based artist Zefrey Throwell is exhibiting works that use cremated remains and methamphetamine as the primary media. Titled 'Sucked up in the Devil's Bed," the exhibit is dedicated to the artist's father's debilitating relationship with quite possibly the most horrific of drugs— meth.
Zefrey Throwell, "Douglas Throwell #2, 56 Years Old ," 2012, 127cm x 96.5cm, human ash, methamphetamine, acrylic on paper.
Throwell's father, a life-long drug addict, died tragically of a meth overdose six years ago at the age of 59. Before his death, addiction had consumed the artist himself, as Throwell suffered ongoing battles with alcohol and cocaine. Now seven years sober, he recently told Spiegel Online that part of coming to terms with his relationship to drugs has been learning to understand his deceased father.
Throwell decided to create portraits of his dad over the years. But these are no conventional renderings of a father by his son. Throwell used not only his father's cremated remains, but also remnants of meth itself to create these stark portrayals. The images appear very faintly on the canvas, resembling washed-out negatives or badly worn graphite drawings. They show a man, beginning at age 16, as he ages and is simultaneously crippled by an overpowering addiction. From a smiling boy to a dying user, Throwell depicts brief moments in a life ultimately exhausted by self-destruction.
Throwell also told Speigel Online that his exhibit is also part of a movement toward recognizing meth's growing influence in places outside of the United States. Germany, the location of his exhibit, has experienced increased amounts of methamphetamine trafficking and usage, a reality that has yet to be fully digested, according to the artist.
The portraits, along with a movie and performance that also address drug addiction and the epidemic of methamphetamines, make up the exhibit that is on display now until August 12th.
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