Monday, December 14, 2015

The Artist Mary Mazziotti - Laughter in the Face of Death

Mary Mazziotti. A Day in the Life of Mrs Death, 1 in a series of 12, embroidered panel

The artist Mary Mazziotti produces a range of witty memento mori in a variety of guises, from embroidered textiles to full-sized billboards. Her work centres around the intention of producing work that will encourage the observer of her work to understand the fleeting ephemeral aspect that is the life that we live.
Mary Mazziotti. Shopping for Groceries, A Day in the Life of Mrs Death, 5 in a series of 12, embroidered panel

Death, the end of our brief lives, is a subject that none of us can ever be immune to, it doesn't matter how much money you have, how much you think your status on the planet gives you more than others, we all end up at the same place. 

How we approach the subject of the demise of each and every one of us, is a matter that has been treated in an endless array of social niceties across the many generations that our species has walked the planet. We have embraced, grudgingly accepted, or ignored death, we have danced with it, tried to trick it, and even tried to engineer others to take our place, but of course death gives us its eternal grin and takes us all anyway, regardless of what we do during our lives.

Mary Mazziotti. From the Cradle to the Grave, hand embroidery of vintage textile

Mary Mazziotti. From the Cradle to the Grave, hand embroidery on vintage textile

That is perhaps part of the appeal of the work of Mary, her big grin in the face of death. Mary treats the end of our lives with the droll humour and wit that it should perhaps be accorded more often, it is after all just another natural part of life, and if we are all faced with the same, then perhaps we should be at least familiar with it, rather than as we tend to do now, pretend it never happens, or if it does, to others, not ourselves.  

Mary Mazziotti. The Rake's Progress: Tom Gets a Fortune, 1 in a series of 8, embroidered panel

Mary Mazziotti. The Rake's Progress: Tom Marries a B-List Celebrity, 5 in a series of 8, embroidered panel

Mary's take on memento mori, literally "remember you will die", is part of a very long tradition that dates back to the Romans, if not before. "Remember you will die" could also be termed "be prepared, you will die". There are so many sneaky ways that death can sidle up to you nowadays, from pointed political terrorism, to the nonchalance of a moment's distraction on the road, it can happen in an instant, and often does.

So why are we so ill-prepared for our end? We declare as a culture, a zest for life, a love of what it is to be living in the moment that we hope is eternal, but never is. If being born is a part of the rich tapestry of our lives, then so too is death. The two should be celebrated as equals, but in reality births are a projection of collective hope, whilst death is hidden away as an unseemly individual experience, too stressing for our culture to experience.

Mary Mazziotti. Death at the Opera: Carmen, embroidered panel

Mary Mazziotti. Death at the Opera: Tosca, embroidered panel

Mary is an artist that asks us, through humour, to look at the facts of our lives with clarity, and if we can, humour. I personally love the inclusion of death as a healthy subject of creative debate, we spend far too much our time burying our experience of death deep within the interiors of our hospitals and care homes, and not enough within our popular and contemporary culture.

Mary Mazziotti. American Memento Mori: Tango, applique and embroidery on vintage textile

Therefore, I encourage you to visit Mary's website,, and to perhaps take some time to laugh with her, and perhaps even a chuckle with death at the absurdity of life, death, the universe, and everything.

Mary Mazziotti. Obituary billboard

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