‘Self, Deceased XLVI,’ 2011 (via Antecedent Death)
I think of myself as a dedicated Celtic Frost fan, but these art objects escaped my notice. Since 2007, Tom G. Warrior has been making these death masks, many of which belong to the series “Self, Deceased.” They’re cast in concrete and decorated with enamel, epoxy, and occasionally semen (BUT WHOSE???). Though much of the work displayed at Warrior’s Antecedent Death blog, last updated in 2011, has long since sold, some pieces are still listed as available; they range in price from $495 to $6,900.
Warrior (born Tom Fischer) was an assistant to HR Giger during the last decade of the artist’s life. The two Swiss surrealists started corresponding in 1984, when Hellhammer sent Giger a demo tape and he recognized the extreme metal band as kindred spirits. Giger let Hellhammer’s successor, Celtic Frost, use the paintings “Satan I” and “Victory III” on their second album To Mega Therion, released the following year, and he didn’t charge them a sou.
During a discussion of Giger and his work in this 2016 interview, Warrior’s interlocutor asked him about his own visual art. Protesting that his work paled into insignificance beside Giger’s, Warrior was self-effacing about his death masks:
I do these death masks because I was always fascinated, ever since I was a child, [by] death masks. And there was a point in my life where I was wondering what my death mask will look like one day, and I realized, when I’m dead, I’m not going to see it. So at the end of the 2007 Celtic Frost U.S. tour, Les Barany, Giger’s agent in America, arranged for me to go to Fangoria magazine’s premises, and they have a workshop there, and a few friends of his took a life cast of me, and enabled me with this life cast to do my own death masks. It was just a curiosity of mine for my own purpose. To my astonishment, somebody wanted to buy a death mask, and then two people wanted to buy a death mask, and then it became “an art project.” But in reality, it was just some spleen of mine to use my face as a canvas, like I do onstage, and to see my death mask while I’m still alive to see it. That’s really all there is to it.
‘Death Mask 3,’ detail from ‘Transmutation I’ (via Antecedent Death)
‘Self, Deceased XXXIX,’ 2011 (via Antecedent Death)
‘Self, Deceased XLIII,’ 2010 (via Antecedent Death)
‘Self, Deceased XLIX,’ 2011 (via Antecedent Death)
‘Self, Deceased LXXXVII,’ 2017 (via Delineation II)
Tom Warrior blogged earlier this very month at Delineation II; his current band, Triptykon, is on tour. Below, Celtic Frost plays “Into the Crypts of Rays” on Swiss TV in ‘85 (skip to the performance at 3:55 unless your German is good).