Title: Altar of the Nameless Dead
Size: 36″ x 48″ x ~18″
The Altar of the Nameless Dead was created using wood, acrylic paint, spray paint, painter’s caulk, and polyurethane.
The Altar of the Nameless Dead was a fun project. It also served two purposes. First, I needed a sign-in table for a Day of the Dead themed art show. Second, I needed a project for my Sculpture II class in art school. Since, at the time, I didn’t have any power tools that could cut large pieces of wood, being able to do this for a school project in the wood shop was a huge help.
The inspiration for the piece came from a Day of the Dead parade. There was a costumed performer riding a float that looked like a skeletal horse. It was a black paper-mache horse with white bones painted on it. I thought that would be a great aesthetic for the table.
When I started this, I had never built any type of furniture in my life. I never took shop class in 8th grade like the other kids because I was in private school for part of that year (which didn’t offer shop or home economics). I also discovered that my college’s shop class was rather lacking. I also developed a healthy skepticism when it came to the safety of a lot of the machinery. Half of the stuff I did use there was insanely dull. Then there was a lack of equipment that would have been useful in building a table. I ended up buying a Dremel which I brought to & from class along with my mini power drill / screwdriver combo, and my own set of drill bits. All in all, it was an interesting experience.
After getting the table top and 4 legs put together, I realized it was going to need a stabilizer so I added the bars at the bottom. A similar structure was built at the top so I could attach more bones. I cut and carved the feet and skulls myself. I used the school’s bandsaw for the shape and then carved in detail with my Dremel. The kneecaps are made of polymer clay. The bones I bought online.
Once everything was attached, I covered all the the portions that are white in painter’s caulk. It took many days for the caulk to cure. The reason I used it is because it creates a paper-mache like texture but is lightweight when dry. It’s also very inexpensive. Once the caulk was dry, I carefully painted around all of that in black. I also went over all the caulked areas with a bright white acrylic paint.
The skulls along the back of the altar are detachable. I knew I would have to move this table several times and I worried that I would accidentally break one off during one of the moves. Instead of permanently attaching them, I used “L brackets” to attach to the table. All I had to do was a remove a few screws from each and I could move the table without worry.
I ended up having the table for a lot longer than I had planned. I’m happy that it finally found a home after the [email protected] show in 2013.