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Recto Verso

Marcel Broodthaers, a Belgian poet and artist, who died in 1976, designed his own gravestone located in Ixelles Cemetery, Brussels. Engraved on both sides the front of the stone reveals that he was born and died on the same day and month;  there is speculation that he committed suicide and may have therefore designed his death.

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Source: http://withreferencetodeath.philippocock.net/blog/broodthaers-marcel-tombstone-of-his-own-design-1976/

A phrase on the front of the stone, O Mélancolie Aigre Château Des Aigles, (Sour Melancholy Castle Of Eagles) is part of a line from one of Broodthaers’ poems. In 1968, he announced that he was no longer an artist and appointed himself director of his own museum, which he called the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles).

The back of the gravestone is a compendium of symbols, and is indicative of Broodthaers’ first solo exhibition in 1964 where he exhibited everyday objects, words, lettering and drawings.

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Source: http://withreferencetodeath.philippocock.net/blog/broodthaers-marcel-tombstone-of-his-own-design-1976/

This eclectic mix of symbols is accompanied by letters of the alphabet and the words, Moderato and Allegro which are both music tempos. The phrase Chez Le Droguiste Op Den Hoek appears to be Dutch and translates as, At The Druggist On The Corner.

In 1968 he used thin vacuum-formed plastic signs to create industrial poems with cryptic text and imagery. Academie I was one of those art forms relating geometric shapes to nature.

The clock at the top of the stone differs from similar symbols in that the Roman Numeral XII is outside the clock face. Both hands point to midnight yet one hand is also located outside the clock face.

A bottle, perhaps champagne, is marked with his birth year 1924.

One of his well-known works, Casserole and Closed Mussels, was created from accessible materials and everyday objects including eggshells and mussels. He published a poem on the subject of La Moule in which he described the mussel as a perfect creature which creates the shell which then contains itself.

A tobacco pipe emitting smoke is a reference to a painting, The Treachery of Images, by his friend and famous Surrealist Rene Magritte. It portrays an image of a pipe with the words, This is not a pipe.

The four geometric shapes reflect the 1966 Primary Structures exhibition in New York and Broodthaers’ later pronouncement that there are no primary structures.

And lastly, in the bottom right hand corner is the image of an open book. This reflects his first art object in which he embedded into plaster fifty unsold copies of his book of poems, Pense-Bête.

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Bear Beard

In Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York City, you may be surprised to find an enormous bear sitting atop what appears to be a blank gravestone.

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Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12451565/william-holbrook-beard

Jeffrey I. Richman, historian, discovered that a famous artist named William Holbrook Beard was buried within the cemetery in Section 115, and yet there was no marker identifying his grave within a 14’ x 27’of the Beard family plot.

In 2002 a ceremony took place to erect a memorial to the 19th-century painter of animal scenes. As his favourite subject was the bear, a Colorado sculptor, Dan Ostermiller agreed to donate a bronze sculpture of a bear reflecting the humour that Beard often used in his art.

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Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12451565/william-holbrook-beard

The front of the granite stone is blank reflecting that the exact place of Beard’s remains is unknown. The rear is engraved; William / Holbrook / Beard/ 1824-1900/ American Artist/ L’Ours (the bear) sculpture by Dan Ostermiller, Sc. / Gift of the artist 2002

William Holbrook Beard died on 20 February 1900 from apoplexy (hemorrhage or stroke) at age 75.

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Source: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12451565/william-holbrook-beard

Carberry Hill

Carberry Woodlands is a few miles east of Edinburgh in the region of East Lothian. A marker laid in 2004 by the Marie Stuart Society relates the power struggle in Scotland in the 16th century.

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M.R. / 1567 / At This Spot / Mary / Queen Of Scots / After The Escape Of / Bothwell / Mounted Her Horse / And Surrendered / Herself To / The Confederate / Lords / 15 June 1567

The marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell was an unpopular union with the Lords of Scotland who believed that Bothwell had murdered her previous husband, Lord Darnley. Although acquitted of the charge the Lords felt that Bothwell had too much power over Mary and attempted to break this influence.

In 1567 Mary and Bothwell set out from Dunbar with their army. They met the army of the confederate Lords at Carberry Hill on June 15th where Mary was forced to surrender under promise of Bothwell’s safe conduct to Dunbar and eventually to exile. The rebel Lords imprisoned Queen Mary in Edinburgh Castle then Lochleven Castle.

A more detailed story of Queen Mary of Scots can be read at the companion post https://wordsonstone.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/a-short-history-lesson/

 

Spirit Houses

A graveyard at the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Eklutna, Alaska is filled with burial sites in the form of large dollhouses. Russian Orthodox missionaries who lived in the area in the early 19th century lived side by side with Athabaskan natives.

The Athabascan burial practice began with placing a blanket over the grave to comfort the departed soul. Forty days later a spirit box was placed on top. The size of the box was determined by social status and was painted with tribal colours. Athabascans believed that that which is taken from the Earth must be allowed to return and therefore the spirit houses were not maintained and left to decay.

People who were members of the church also have their graves marked with the Orthodox Christian Cross. The upper horizontal bar represents the inscription over the head of Jesus. The Middle Bar is the board on which the Lord’s hands were nailed, and the slanting bar represents the footrest.

Drowning Tragedy

John & Jacobina Dotterweich who lived at old Hamburg Turnpike near Green Brook Farm were the parents of nine children. On 13 December 1874, five of the children went out to ride a sled and ventured on to a pond that was not completely frozen. When the ice broke the children were plunged into the water.

In an attempt to save their children the mother and father waded into the water up to their necks and attempted to save the children using a rope. The bodies of the children were pulled from the pond an hour later.

Between 800 and 1,000 people attended the funeral for Caroline aged 16, Augusta aged 14, Maggie age 13, John aged 11, Philip aged 9, and Barbara aged 6 at the Preakness Reformed Church Cemetery, Passaic County, New Jersey.

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Drowning is not so pitiful
As the attempt to rise.
Three times, ’tis said, a sinking man
Comes up to face the skies,
And then declines forever
To that abhorred abode,
Where hope and he part company –
For he is grasped of God.
The Maker’s cordial visage,
However good to see,
Is shunned, we must admit it,
Like an adversity.
~Emily Dickinson~

R.I.P. Not!

The power of water and subsequent flooding can be catastrophic disturbing even the dead. Hurricanes with record breaking amounts of rain, and rising sea levels due to global warming cause subsidence especially in ‘spongy’ soil.

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Lawton, PA. Source: https://imgur.com/gallery/JHY5GxH

Charles Hunter, the Calcasieu Parish chief coroner investigator, Louisiana. “In a flood, the air pressure builds up in that vault and it will eventually break the seal,” he said. “When that happens, the lid just pops off. I’ve even seen the water pick up the entire vault, and they can weigh in excess of 3,000 pounds.”

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Rochester, VT after Hurricane Irene 2011. Source: https://www.nola.com/hurricane/2011/10/flooded_vermont_town_struggles.html

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Springfield SC. Source: https://khqa.com/news/nation-world/caskets-rise-from-south-carolina-cemetery-after-widespread-flooding

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New Orleans LA. Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/louisiana-flooding-caskets-calcasieu-parish/
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Louisiana. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGYkA7HgKCU
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Louisiana. Source: https://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0518/How-fast-is-New-Orleans-sinking-Faster-and-faster-says-new-study
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Source: http://www.ghosthuntingtheories.com/2017/07/flooded-cemeteries-terrifying-finds.html

Dr. David Persse, the physician in charge of Houston’s Emergency Medical Services and Public Health Authority stated, “Embalming kills all pathogens in the body, and corpses buried before the practice would be so decomposed in diluted floodwater there would be no danger.”