At some point we all question our mortality, but it’s perhaps brushes with death, that can sometimes provoke us to question death more deeply. At the age of fifteen, Rick Genest was diagnosed with a brain tumour. This was turning point in Genest’s life, and after a year of treatment, he had his first tattoo; a pirate’s skull and cross bone. His teenage rebellion escalated, eventually falling out with his father, which resulted in him leaving home to live rough on the streets of Montreal. His fellow street dwellers learnt of his brush with death, after brain surgery, and nicknamed him ‘Zombie’. At 21, he had his first face tattoo, a birthday present to himself, and a symbol of his commitment to his lifestyle on the streets. Gradually he began to cover his body in more and more tattoos, portraying his preoccupation with death. His body became a canvas for projecting images of a rotting corpse.
Nicola Formichetti, the creative director of Thierry Mugler by chance came across Rico on Facebook, and was inspired by his unique look. Formichetti knew instantly that he was the face of the House of Mugler, and invited Rico to star in their show in Paris. ‘I just wanted him to be the face of whatever we were going to create. At that point the clothes were, you know, proper suits and shirts and very clean. I just needed to have some kind of twist to it’, said Formichetti.
Similarly Salvador Dalí , Damien Hirst and even Andy Warhol became obsessed with death, using it often as a theme in their work.