“I think life is better when you’re conscious that you’re mortal,” said painter and collage artist Axelle Kiefer, “It gives a little flavor to everything. Life is beautiful because our time is limited.”

Kiefer’s current exhibition with printmaker Jordan Fitch Mooney, "Danse Macabre," is a take on the universal theme of death through a lens of collaborating cultures. As Kiefer, a French native residing in Savannah examines her emerging American identity through revisiting the art of her home country, Mooney throws a modern Americanized twist on the classic French theme.

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“Danse Macabre is a French term,” said Mooney, “In English, it would mean Dance of Death, and it’s mostly a European theme that started in the middle of the fourteenth century and was made popular by Franz Holbein in the early 1500s.”

“There were a lot of pieces born out of the religious and political things that were going on at the time,” Mooney expanded, “and a lot of it had to do with reminding people that death can come for anyone at any time. There’s a lot of pieces depicting Death coming for you regardless of your status in life, there’s a ton of pieces showing Death coming for the Pope, or a wealthy landowner.”

“The theme has been studied by all sorts of visual artists down to our own century,” explained Kiefer, “starting around the black plague and making it’s way up to the first and second World Wars. So, we had fun trying to do our own take on revisiting the classic theme and incorporating our own experiences and fears of the modern world.”

While the two artists are united in a common theme Kiefer’s paintings and photo collages offer a stark contrast in style, line work, and texture against Mooney’s tool-marked linocuts and one-off monotype prints.

 

“With a lot of my printmaking,” said Mooney, “I take religious themes or motifs that show up in art and look at them through a different light, or satirize them a little bit, so that dovetailed in nicely with the Danse Macabre because the theme fits in with what I want to do already. I have some pieces that are nods to classic images of death, and some of them are kind of modernizing people that think they’re free of death, or are going to live forever.”

Kiefer added, “I do a lot of macabre, dark, art, and when I was living in France, my art was even darker. Eventually, I realized that the roots of this theme started with my culture in France, Germany, and Switzerland, and as a kid, I grew up going to church and seeing skeletons and macabre religious art regularly. Nowadays we’ve taken that same imagery that used to mean so much to people and turned it into something cute. Now you see skeletons and skulls everywhere and they’re supposed to be fun.”

“I hope the show makes people question who they are as humans and their place in life and society,” said Kiefer, “it’s kind of vague but universal as well and I hope it’s going to have resonance with everyone who comes to see it. Even if you don’t like the macabre, there are two sides of the coin, life, and death.”

Added Mooney, “Noone can escape it.”