Shotgun Review

Skull of Santo Guerro (III)

By Shotgun Reviews March 29, 2012

In Skull of Santo Guerro (III) (2011) by Al Farrow, the first thing that hits you is the dark church divided into two parts—the square nave and the tall, straight, almost breathtaking triangle of a steeple, the sides of which come together under a tall crucifix and figure of Jesus Christ. The steeple is important because of its awe-inspiring height and straightness.

After a while, you look through the looking glass into the nave, where you may expect to see bloodshed, but instead you see a slightly bashful skull resting on a rich but faded, thick carpet. The looking glass manipulates the image of the skull to create the illusion that it is bashful with its large eyes and almost pointed bottom half. The relatively large skull seems to be taking a deep breath and filling up the room. Ironically, it seems like the most innocent thing in the spooky church.

The church itself is made of guns, gun parts, bullets, and metal. The pistols lean against the bottom of the steeple, helping it transition from a square to a triangle. The turrets are literally made from turret extensions and the rest of the material looks like melted gun metal, which helps give the sculpture a mood of darkness, night, and evil. The guns blend so perfectly together and with the church structure that it takes you a second to realize that they are, in fact, gun parts. They tell of a somber battle massacre of which the skull is the last relic.

The sculpture is most remarkable in the fact that it needs and is also a story; without the story, it wouldn’t exist or make sense. Why a church? Perhaps he uses a church because churches are always sanctuary. Perhaps the gun parts show that evil and death pervade everywhere, even in a seemingly restful church. Or maybe the church caused the battle, and the poor skull belongs to someone forced into the war. Either way, the tall awesome, imposing, dark building belongs in one of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepiest stories.

Al Farrow is clearly a brilliant artist who is incredibly original and knows how to manipulate humanity’s fear of death, war, bloodshed, and treason. He makes sculptures into tales of darkness by using material like an author uses words.


Al Farrow. Skull of Santo Guerro (III), 2011; guns, gun parts, bullets, cartridge shells, steel, brass, lead shot, glass, bone, antique textitle (mid-sixteenth century Italian silk with gold and silver embroidery); 52 x 18 x 22 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco.


Portraiture Post Facebook is on view at Catharine Clark Gallery, in San Francisco, through April 7, 2012. This review was produced as part of the Art Smarts workshop held in conjunction with 826 Valencia.


My name is Irene Gerenrot. I am twelve years old and in seventh grade. I enjoy reading and writing fictional stories and poetry. After school and on the weekends, I participate in art lessons, aerobatics, and math club. I live with my mom, brother, and cat.

Comments ShowHide