Show #21: Memento Mori presents a series of idiosyncratic interpretations of monuments, and I think Alex O’Neal’s drawing series Shrine for Ice Cream Royalty stands out as especially so.
In the complexly layered world of each drawing, “wreaths, words made of flowers, shields, badges, sashes, pine cones, ears of corn, peppermint donuts, vintage phones, and neck ties (among other things) are in tall, cluttered arrangements. Commemorations of ‘Flea Market Superstar,’ ‘Sellout,’ ‘Marion Jail Fan Club,’ and ‘Yonkers Nursing Home’ are - as banners state - ‘At Rest,’ ‘Beloved,’ and ‘In Loving Memory.’ Almost buried in these decorative showcases are the totemic, bling-draped Ice Cream Royalty. Personages of sorts, they are crown-wearing, multi-scoop stacked cones, inhabited by sleepy shrine groupies that hold to disconnected phone receivers and lick at melting, sugary surfaces.”
As O’Neal poetically states in his artist statement, there are towers of ice cream scoops where (upon closer inspection) small sleepy human faces emerge, licking the ice cream structures they inhabit. The ‘Ice Cream Royalty’ references those seduced by fleeting pleasure and glory of awards etc.
The juxtaposition of these towers with the epitaphic text implies that these words sustain us in grief just as ice cream does. They keep us feeling high but don’t really nourish us; don’t curb our hunger. These sayings, personal memorials, and ice cream scoops are all fleeting - but the endurance of the series of drawings allows us to appreciate the beauty in transience and loss.
Check out more of his work at