Recently, George W. Bush unveiled some of the artwork he’s created in retirement. The former president took up painting late in life, and his work reflects the world he knows–one populated by Tony Blair, Vladimir Putin, and his dog, Barney. This week, some paintings have come to light from another unlikely source, though: The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian, whose euthanasia advocacy was a hot topic in the 1990s. Much like President Bush, Dr. Kevorkian’s paintings were also about the world he knew. Unlike President Bush’s work, however, these pieces may haunt your dreams.
Dr. Kevorkian was notoriously consumed by a desire to ease people’s suffering. Using his self-designed Thanatron machine, which sounds like it was named after a Transformers villain, the doctor facilitated over 130 assisted suicides. His commitment to helping people end their pain eventually caused him to spend eight years in prison. In taking a look at his oil paintings now, this hypersensitivity to the scourge of human suffering is readily apparent.
There’s an element of the otherworldy torment depicted by Heironymous Bosch in Dr. Kevorkian’s paintings, which are on display at Gallerie Sparta in West Hollywood through April 30. They illustrate how pain can feel like a biblical plague, or as in one instance, turn the body literally into a prison. In a piece entitled Coma, a bedridden man is being sucked into the gaping maw of a pale, ghastly entity, which also recalls an MRI machine. In Kevorkian’s eyes, clearly the release of death was preferable. These pieces shine a light on what was driving the doctor’s dedication, articulating his complicated opinions about pain and death better perhaps than he did when he was on trial.
Have a look through more images in the slides above.
H/t to Beautiful/Decay