Author Topic: Interview W/ Skull A  (Read 2673 times)


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Interview W/ Skull A
« on: October 24, 2007, 12:31:55 AM »

Head of the Class:
An Interview W/ Noah Scalin of ‘Skull A Day’

“And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: / Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.”
-John 19:17

“Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.”
-Rod Sterling


-MAD: Noah, to get in the mood of our discussion today, and in the spirit of Halloween, I’ll let you know that I’ve plugged in my skull strobe light and have another flashing LED skull above my computer, as well as an “Elvis skeleton” statue staring at me, channeling in some good questions to ask you this evening regarding your excellent website SKULL A DAY. Thank you for taking the time, I’ve been a regular visitor to your blog for the past few months and am always intrigued by the imagination and creativity put on display there. For first time visitors to your site, could you give us some history on why you decided to devote yourself to the SKULL A DAY project, and your background as a graphic artist?

-Noah: Thanks, I’m glad you’re enjoying my project (though be careful with all those flashing lights, you could give yourself a seizure, or at least a headache)!

I wish I had a better story about how I started Skull-A-Day, but the reality is that the idea just popped into my head: “I should make a skull a day for a year” and so I did. It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t think too hard about it at the time since it’s ended up taking a giant chunk of my time, something that’s in limited supply as I run my own socially conscious design firm (Another Limited Rebellion) full-time as well as teach as an adjunct design professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I must admit there’s some precedent for this project as I did write (nearly) a haiku a day for a year in 2001 on a whim. However a daily art project is definitely a different animal. One that can be an incredibly fulfilling challenge for a creative person, sort of the way a marathon is to a runner.

Of course everyone wants to know “why skulls?,” which always strikes me as a funny question. I guess I can’t just say “why not?” and leave it at that, eh? They have a respected role in the history of art from the earliest human creative expressions and I’ve always found them fascinating. I have collected them in my house (and in tattoo form on my body) for quite some time and rather than something morbid, I’ve always considered these “memento mori” to be life affirming things.


-MAD: I am getting a headache and nosebleed, now that you mention it. Maybe I better turn this strobe light down a little bit. There we go. You’ve put the responsibility on yourself to create/display at least 1 new Skull a day for the full 365 days of a complete year, and you’re currently around skull 140. That’s got to be quite a task and undertaking to come up with something new everyday. Have you had any problems looking for inspiration in this process?

-Noah: Amazingly I haven’t run out of ideas yet and I have a long list of ones that I haven’t gotten around to and that friends & readers have suggested as well. Of course many of them are so complicated that I’ve put them off for when I have more time. Very often I’ll start the day off not knowing what I’ll do, but inevitably something turns up to inspire me. If anything, the hardest part is carving out the time needed to get them done while still making a living!


-MAD: You’ve received many dozens of submissions from readers to your website over the past 6 months or so, offering their own skull associated artwork. What are some of your favorite skull sightings that have so far been submitted to you?

-Noah: My favorites are definitely the ones people have made in response to seeing the site. It makes me happy that my project has inspired others to be creative, you really can’t ask for a better response than that. Some of my favorites are the international skulls inspired by the United Skull of America, the ones made by kids (who clearly have some cool parents), and of course the amazing songs created in response to the contest I held recently. But just the fact that folks think of my project when they encounter a skull and send it along is pretty incredible to me.


-MAD: That’s what I really like about your site Noah, that even if you’re not a “skull fan”, you still can’t help but to get some inspiration from your dedication to the creative process. Do you have any personal favorites from the pieces you’ve created, and do you have any favorite medium(s) to work with?

-Noah: I think like a lot of artists, my favorite one is the next one. The challenge of discovering a skull in an odd material, or working with a new medium is definitely the most fun part; and while I like what I’ve created I definitely look forward to what will happen next (and believe me, I’m often as surprised as my readers with what I come up with some days!).


-MAD: Some people think that society, Western in general, has a current fascination with Skull accessories and logos; from jewelry to clothing to posters. The icon of the skull as a symbol of mystery and power goes many thousands of years, even to the start of human civilization and ancient culture. Do you hold any special beliefs or significance with the symbol of the skull, and are their any specific folklore's or mythologies related to skull iconography that you’ve found most interesting in relation to the creative process of ‘Skull A Day’?

-Noah: I completely understand the enduring fascination (even as fashion fads come and go) with something that is so intrinsic to us and also stands as a reminder of our inevitable demise. One thing that I’m constantly reminded of as I work on this project is that death and its symbols were (and still are in many other places) directly incorporated into society much more than they are now in the US. Our distance from the reality of mortality may explain some of the dissonance we’re currently experiencing as a culture.


-MAD: Not to get too morbid with you, but here’s a link I hope you'll visit when you've got a moment.

It’s in relation to Underground Secret Societies and Catholic Churches throughout Europe, Russia, Australia and elsewhere, dating from around the period of the Middle Ages. These churches and hidden grottos are adorned with hundreds of human skulls and bones, sometimes formed in the macabre forms of chandeliers, pieces of furniture, statues, or bizarre “Crucifixion” temples which almost seem blasphemous when considering their Christian association. All of the skeletons used for these works of “art” usually came from victims of the Black Death, or other diseases that swept through the region during these centuries. When looking at works such as this, in the name of art and religion, what are some of your opinions regarding the usage of human body parts for creative or ceremonial purposes? Do you see these as being legitimate works of art, or is it an unnatural fascination with death?

-Noah: Death is one of the few guarantees in life, so why wouldn’t humans focus so much energy on responding to it throughout history? And of course people fetishize the remains of their deceased loved ones, since it is the most direct connection to them when they are gone. If anything, working with bones seems like a much more healthy response than just hiding them away.


-MAD: Some researchers and authors on the subject believe that the story of the ‘Holy Grail’, or Sacred Chalice, is in fact connected to the drinking of “mystical” substances from the cup of a human skull (perhaps a revered ancestor). Do you have any thoughts on this possibility that the Holy Grail mythos might be linked to the age old practice of “Skull Worship”?

-Noah: I’ve got nothing for you on this one, I’m not Christian so it’s just not an area of research that I’ve ever had any interest in.


-MAD: You might find it a very interesting subject considering the nature of the Skull. There are many books on these theories, but a recent one which I’d recommend is THE SERPENT GRAIL by Philip Gardiner and Gary Osborn. In other news, the next installment of the Indiana Jones franchise has been titled: “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the of the Crystal Skulls”. Do you have any opinions on this upcoming film, the subject of Crystal Skulls in general, and are you a fan of the previous trilogy? Have you done any research into the topic of ancient Crystal Skulls which have been found, specifically in South America, from around the supposed time period of Christ?

-Noah: Ha! Well I did see the original Raiders of the Lost Ark several times in the theater when it came out and I enjoyed the other films, though not as much as the first. I’m warily looking forward to the new installment, since it seems like a remarkably long time between sequels and I worry that it’ll just be silly. I can’t say I’ve ever really thought much about crystals skulls, other than they look pretty cool!

-MAD: On a totally different subject, did you get a chance to watch the video of the “Internet Sensation” who got tasered at a John Kerry speaking event for asking him about his association in the elite Yale ‘Skull and Bones’ society? If so, what did you think of this whole situation and the hype surrounding it?

=Don’t taser me, bro!!!=

-Noah: I heard about it, though I feel like I got it through osmosis, since I tend to avoid mainstream media and yet I still find out about these types of things somehow. I think there may be a valid bit of news in there somewhere, but so much of the time these stories seem to be a distraction from the real pressing issues of the day.


-MAD: Seeing as how 2004 Democratic candidate John Kerry, as well as Republican winner George W. Bush were both members of the same Skull and Bones fraternity in college, do you have any opinions on this elite secret society, and do you find it suspicious that both candidates are members of the same group which only “taps” 15 new members each year?

-Noah: I think secret societies are silly and just a pathetic way for people to feel more important. The fact that they were both members just reflects the fact that they are both from wealthy, powerful families to begin with. I certainly won’t be letting them in my Super Secret Skull-A-Day Mystery Club Society, that’s for sure.


-MAD: I want to join! Skulls aside, what kind of literature, music and cinema are you currently in to? Do you have any favorite books, movies, music, artists? Do you find inspiration for SKULL A DAY in some of these outlets?

-Noah: I’m a music addict, voracious reader and avid film fan, so I definitely incorporate everything I absorb into my work. I recently finished reading ‘The Ominvore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollan, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in where their food comes from (which should be everyone). I’m currently in the middle of ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins, which is not as good as I’d hoped it would be considering the controversy around it, but still there are some great nuggets throughout. I’m also a big science fiction fan so there’s usually a few of those in my 20+ books “to read” shelf. My current favorite albums (and this changes from week to week since I buy new CDs pretty regularly) are the latest from ‘Go!Team’, ‘Bat for Lashes’, ‘Caribou’, and ‘Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’. As for movies the last truly great film I saw in the theater was ‘Children of Men’, an instant classic in my book, I also recently rented ‘The Constant Gardener’, which was really beautifully done. 


-MAD: ‘Children of Men’ was a pretty great film. Noah, you’ve created so many unique and interesting Skulls at your website, a person can spend hours and hours going through all of the ingenious displays of art, as well as the great submissions from your readers. Once Skull A Day comes to an end, around JUNE 4th 2008, do you have any plans on continuing it, or do you have something new in development? Any hints on what future projects might entail?

-Noah: Thanks. I’ll definitely be taking some time off first, it’ll be nice to actually have some free time in my day! After that I have a few ideas, including running a modified version of the Skull-A-Day site, since I’ll probably have a few months worth of submissions left to post! Other than that I hope to finally return to a long-term project I’ve been working on for years…League of Space Pirates, sounds exciting doesn’t it?


-MAD: Haha, look forward to that one! I’d really like to thank you again for this terrific discussion, and wish you much luck with future endeavors. In a word (or two), the Skull A Day project is AWESOME and COOL, and other gnarly adjectives, and everybody should take a look, especially as we enter the Halloween festivities. As we close up today, are there any parting words you’d like to leave everybody with as we determinedly finish out 2007?

-Noah: Thanks so much, it was my pleasure. Parting words? Life is short, so spend it doing things that make you (and others) happy.


MAD is the Administrator at , recent ARTICLES and INTERVIEWS can be found at the corresponding links.

Noah Scalin is the founder of SKULL A DAY , runs his own design firm ‘Another Limited Rebellion’, and is a design professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.