Ever challenging her students, Carol Bishop instructed us to depict the concept of entropy. As background, I read an utterly confounding treatise by the artist Rudolph Arnheim called Entropy and Art: an Essay on Disorder and Order. After that, a scientific explanation of entropy and the expansion of the universe by my husband left me totally in the dark. Rather than wallow in confusion, I went with my original, albeit simplistic, understanding of the topic: “eventually, everything falls apart.” This, I can relate to.

An old-fashioned take on the theme is vanitas, which dates back to the middle ages in European art and is still “alive” today in Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. Central to this theme is the human skull. Images also include flowers and insects that symbolize the fleeting aspect of life. The mirror is a symbol of reflection on mortality and the “vanity” of youth and beauty, which fade.

Instead of a painting, I decided to engrave a skull on a mirror embellished with papier-mâché.  After two attempts, the mirror broke. Defeated by entropy, I brought the broken mirror to class. Carol’s advice was not to start over, but to “break it some more.” It’s guidance like this that makes art classes at LAVC so worthwhile.

The broken mirror is embedded in a wreath of oak leaf litter that fades from green to beige. Its decomposition is aided by a centipede. The viewer participates in the entropy process by looking into the mirror, providing the living face to the fractured skull grinning back at him or her: an all-in-one before-and-after picture.

My Vanity is in even better company at the student show “Insomiacs” at Los Angeles Valley College Gallery from now until June 3rd, and then again in the fall. I am proud to be included in this amazing collection of artistic talent. Come check it out! For more info, go to:

For great pictures of the “Insomiacs” show, go to the LAVC Arts Club fan page:

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