Double Vision: Close to the Bone
By Samantha Anne Carrillo
This first installment of Elbow Room N.M. series Double Vision explores the work and perspectives of two local artists by presenting their thoughts on process, inspiration and materials in tandem. One common element in the work of Curiouser & Curiouser and Lust For Dead Oddities is a structural one. It is an aspect that divides animals into two primary groups, those with and without skeletons. Namely, we’re talking about bones.
Curiouser & Curiouser owner Dani Eleven creates “magical terrariums & sublime succulent arrangements using beautiful vintage & found objects, ethereal crystals & gems, bones & antlers.” Drawn to these mediums partly “because of [an] unhealthy obsession with plants” and partly “to make use of the really interesting materials we had,” Eleven says, “My house is an oddities and curiosities dream.”
Amanda Martinez, proprietor of Lust for Dead Oddities, describes her wares as “cruelty free, legally sourced and collected, handmade bone and oddity jewelry and home decor.” Martinez has been an oddities collector and enthusiast for many years. She describes Lust for Dead as an “interpretation of what others, including myself, in the ‘oddity community’ see as beauty in death and a sort of ‘lust’ for wanting more.”
While a cursory glance at Lust for Dead’s inventory highlights the skeleton set, Martinez is a fervent proponent of making use of more than simply bones. “I use the entire animal to professionally preserve, so it stays perfectly preserved forever,” says Martinez. “I also use specimens for mummification … and complete skeletons for articulations.”
Eleven’s interest in terrariums was also borne of her collector’s nature, but the founding of her company had a more social origin. “Curiouser & Curiouser really came to life when my friend Amelia [Olson] asked me to join Moonstone, her monthly pop-up [event] at Sister.” A hairstylist by trade, Eleven explains that she’s, “constantly looking at the composition of things: balance, harmony, and symmetry, so I think it’s hard for me to not always be in that sort of routine.”
Martinez cites her history of making art and music as a source of perpetual motivation to challenge herself. “With Lust for Dead as my full-time job and my ‘baby’, it has always been a challenge to be creative while [also] original in my artwork,” says Martinez. “My goal with Lust for Dead is to use all remains [found or] given to me. I do not waste anything in my work, so others can appreciate the science behind the specimens.”
Both artists find inspiration by attending art exhibits and concerts. Eleven reports attending two exhibit openings this past weekend—one a group photography show featuring young artists, and the other paintings of local tattoo artist Bueno Loco. Neither was hosted at a traditional gallery space, happening instead at a barbershop and a brewery. For Martinez, her last opening she visited was a fundraiser (that she donated work to) for a fellow artist; concerts remain a regular part of her engagement and entertainment.
The question Martinez says she’s asked most frequently is “Where do you get your specimens?” “The animal remains I obtain are primarily from found bones, taxidermists, donations, breeders, other collectors after natural deaths, and licensed hunters who hunt to feed their families,” says Martinez, who expanded her art into the realm of jewelry and founded Lust for Dead in 2012.
“I was always fascinated with the macabre, but it wasn’t satisfying to me anymore,” says Martinez. “I wanted to do more with it, and I was drawn to these oddity communities across the country. I was very intrigued by how much art can be created by using animal bones. I was already making simple pieces of jewelry when I decided to use my found small animal bones and incorporate them into the pieces.”
As for future plans, Martinez’s ultimate goal is opening a brick-and-mortar store. “I’d love to own my own little oddity shop here in Albuquerque. But for now, I’m running my website, social media accounts and always showcasing my pieces at local pop-up events, fundraisers, festivals and gallery style events around town.”
Eleven’s upcoming plans involve both family and community. “I’ve been wanting to do some bigger pieces in collaboration with my husband, Levi [Eleven], who is a collage artist. A small gallery also approached me about housing some of my pieces recently, which would be a pretty big next step,” says Eleven.
Featured photo: Above Dani Eleven (Curiouser & Curiouser) and some of her work. Below Amanda Martinez (Lust For Dead Oddities) and some of her work.
Samantha Anne Carrillo is a nuevomexicana writer & editor, a freelance social media manager, a fourth-wave feminist and a devout situationist. Find her at facebook.com/samanthaannenm