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Looking a Head

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Who's that one guy? The naked people guy? The photographer who gets big groups of nude people together in stadiums and public streets and arranges them in such a way as to highlight the eerie beauty of the human form when seen en masse? Sort of "Where's Waldo?" for perverts?

Well, anyway, something similar, sort of, is happening here June 1 on Belle Isle. Artist Noah Scalin is inviting anyone and everyone to come to the island, bringing one white and one black T-shirt, so he can assemble the models into the shape of a skull to be photographed from above. It's not art museums in Dusseldorf, but it does have a purpose.

Scalin is (Spencer Tunick! That's the photographer's name! Spencer Tunick!) completing his Skull-a-Day project, an art experiment that started as a weird idea to create a skull, in any medium, every day for a year. "It was a total random thought I had," Scalin says. "It was really the most arbitrary thing I've ever done."

He posted his creations on www.skulladay.com, a blog that chronicles his experimentation with media, and the techniques he picked up from artist friends, to close that 365-day gap. On the site you'll see skulls in paintings and collages, sure, but also skulls rendered in tea leaves and butterflies, hidden in a pattern stenciled on wallpaper, made of Tinkertoys, arranged from scooter gears at Scoot Richmond and on a wall of DVDs at Video Fan and spray-painted on the back wall of Exile.

"You kind of have to just be open to what happens," he says, a one-day-at-a-time, whatever's-at-hand philosophy that became the lesson of the project. "I think it's a pretty good thing to apply not just to my work but to life in general."

The site recently won the People's Voice Award for Personal Web Site in the Webby Awards (the sprawling Oscars of the Internet). Scalin's going to New York for the awards ceremony June 11. There's a book, "Skulls," collecting some of the site's best efforts, due out in October. So as far as random projects go, this one has born a lot of grim fruit.

Scalin says one of the best (and perhaps inevitable) side effects of the project is the community that rallied around it in its nearly yearlong life, the people sending in skulls they'd made or found to fill out his mission. "As an artist," he says, "I think there's nothing better than that you've inspired others to creativity."

To that end, after he creates his big people-skull on Belle Isle, he'll hand over control of Skull-a-Day to its community, posting daily their submissions of lively, unexpected death's-heads.

He'll move on to his next project, "League of Space Pirates." Ask him about it June 1 after becoming a part of his great skull.



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