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Arts Post
Posted at 08:44 AM ET, 10/20/2011

Kevorkian’s macabre paintings caught in auction dispute

Paintings by Jack Kevorkian, a.k.a “Doctor Death,” the physician who advanced the right-to-die movement by assisting terminally ill patients with suicide, are the cause of a legal dispute between his estate and the Armenian Library and Museum of America, reports the Associated Press.
Jack Kevorkian talks to members of the news media about his new painting titled “Genocide” at the opening of his show at Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak, Mich. Kevorkian used some of his own blood to paint the frame red. (Linda Radin - AP)

The museum is refusing to surrender 17 paintings and other artwork by Kevorkian — including a painting that incorporates a pint of his own blood — saying he donated the art and his estate has no right to claim them nearly 12 years later. Kevorkian is of Armenian descent, and loaned the paintings and other items to the museum during his prison term. The paintings are valued between $2.5 million to $3.5 million, museum spokesman Roger Neal said Wednesday.

Kevorkian’s artwork, produced after he enrolled in an adult education oil painting class in Pontiac, Mich., could be described as macabre, surreal, or even disturbing. They address themes of death, pain, and war. He never aspired to become a painter, though: “He does not enjoy the process and does not consider himself an artist. In fact, he disclaims the paintings as art,”said Ann Kuffler, owner of the Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak, Mich., to PBS.
Artwork created by Jack Kevorkian is displayed as part of the exhibit "The Doctor is In: The Art of Dr. Jack Kevorkian," at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Mass. (Lisa Poole - AP)

The painting above, titled “Nearer My God to Thee,” directly addresses Kevorkian’s feelings about death and the afterlife:

Most of us will do anything to thwart the inevitable victory of biological death. We contemplate and face it with great apprehension, profound fear, and terror. Sparing no financial or physical sacrifice, pleading wantonly and unashamedly, clutching any hope of salvation through medicine or prayer. How forbidding that dark abyss!

Other paintings by Kevorkian depict Easter Bunnies holding the lifeless head of Jesus Christ, a man’s head on a dinner platter, and Santa Claus’s boot crushing the baby Jesus in a fireplace. The auction is scheduled for Oct. 28, and will benefit a children’s cancer charity. Some of Kevorkian’s other effects, such as his “death machine” and a bulletproof vest, are scheduled to be auctioned with the paintings.

Not all of Kevorkian’s work was about death, though. The doctor was a jazz musician and composer, and painted this tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach.
In a Jan. 10, 1997, file photo, retired pathologist Jack Kevorkian smiles in his attorney's Southfield, Mich., office while showing off his latest painting. (Jeff Kowalsky - AP)

By  |  08:44 AM ET, 10/20/2011

 
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