‘Mike Egan: The Death of 1977’

Egan's stunning, simple graphic images of skulls bring Yard Dog to life

<i> Crying Out the Gold</i>
Crying Out the Gold

'Mike Egan: The Death of 1977'

Yard Dog, 1510 S. Congress, 912-1613
Through Oct. 9

Come on, baby, don't fear the reaper.

<i>Our Lives Were a Lie</i>
Our Lives Were a Lie

Death comes for all of us eventually, so it's just one more shared human experience that we can revel in until ... ah, well, until we die.

Painter Mike Egan might realize that more deeply than most people, as the Pittsburgh native is a former funeral director and embalmer – which would help explain his fascination with skulls. He paints them, you see. He doesn't paint on skulls, mind you, he renders simple graphic images of skulls, in acrylic paint on wood, and accompanies them with similarly simple symbols of life and death and the myriad mysteries pertaining thereto.

"Simultaneously creepy and beautiful," states the exhibit description at Yard Dog, and there's no arguing that. Egan's paintings with their rich yet muted colors could answer the question: What if the Reverend Howard Finster had been 1) obsessed with the arcana of life's termination and 2) strictly coached by Shepard Fairey? These stunning squares of various sizes (14 inches by 14 inches, 16 by 16, 24 by 24, and more) could be enlargements of mid-century German postage stamps used by mortuaries to send out funeral announcements, a death-cult church's stained glass windows made ligneous by some weird alchemy, pictographic Burma-Shave signs on the road to heaven or hell.

This Egan show's got the spotlight right now, but it fits perfectly, comfortably part of the whole, in the well-stocked South Congress hall of American folk art treasure that is Yard Dog. To which emporium we'd recommend a visit soon, because life, as they say, is short, while art remains as long as ever. You know, like the wind and the sun and the rain.

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Mike Egan: The Death of 1977, Yard Dog Folk Art

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