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Underneath, we all look the same. No matter the color of our flesh or hair, we all have a skull. For artist Butch Locsin, known as the “Skeleton of Color,” this human symbol is the perfect vehicle for showcasing the connection we all share.
Dressed in dapper threads and a rotating collection of beautifully hand-painted skull masks, Locsin uses the iconography of Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday celebrating the lives of the dead, to reflect the splendor of existence. The Los Angeles performance artist uses larger-than-life skull masks and colorful smoke grenades to create powerful imagery set against a multicultural backdrop.
But before he started lighting up the sky and the public’s imagination, Locsin was a personal trainer at an L.A. gym. Wanting to expand his horizons, he enrolled at a community college, where art classes quickly became more enticing than his intended physical therapy studies.
From there, Locsin started discovering his artistic eye and put the sugar skull at the center of his work. His first skull, a simple design in a bronze-gold color, took two weeks to create. Most of his masks have a Styrofoam base and are very light, with the heaviest of them weighing about two pounds.
Locsin crafted and painted skulls, then photographed himself decked out in full costume so he could put the images on canvas; he had no intention of becoming a performance artist. Then a friend invited Locsin to a weekly photography meetup, where no one could get enough shots of his vivid costuming. Someone started posting the photos to Instagram, where the artist says they caught like wildfire.
Locsin quickly fell in love with performing for the camera and strove to create a new mask for every weekly meeting. Eventually, the work caught the attention of fellow artist Maria Perez, who contacted Locsin after seeing photographs of him. Also enamored of the Day of the Dead celebration and aesthetic, she wanted to collaborate with Locsin. Now, Perez and Locsin are partners in both art and love. The couple performs as married skeletons adorned in color, tradition and a quest for beauty.
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