Tom Sanford set out to draw one hundred notable individuals who passed away in 2012 with the idea of “Petite Morte” in mind. Translated literally, this means “little death” but it is often used colloquially to mean orgasm. It is a beautifully romantic notion, that with each orgasm a little part of one’s self dies and is gone forever; each person held particular interest for Sanford. 100 Little Deaths will open on New Year’s Eve. 

In our post-Warholian culture, we celebrate the lives of the famous with a brief ecstatic excitement, a metaphorical cultural media orgasm. We read obituaries and articles about them, post on Facebook and Twitter, listen to their songs on the radio, watch TV specials and YouTube videos about their lives and accomplishments. Inevitably, however, the excitement fades and with each of these deaths, we have lost something forever. 

Sanford, was able to meditate on each individual, as he drew, remembering their unique contributions, and according to Sanford, “As the drawings of those who passed away in 2012 accumulated, I realized that to see them all together would be very powerful. Installed together I hope that my 100 Little Deaths shows the immensity of what we lose every year. The wall of drawings becomes a mausoleum for 2012.” Among the portraits represented are political figures; music legends; cultural icons of our youth such as Davy Jones and Donna Summer; noteworthy artists, Thomas Kinkade, Franz West, and Will Barnet; publishers; religious leaders; comediennes; and news worthy individuals such as Rodney King and Joe Paterno. The list goes on. 

In wishing to bring levity to a very serious and somewhat somber project, Sanford embarked on his most ambitiously scaled painting, measuring 8 feet by 16 feet. Sanford states “The painting is of an airport departures cocktail lounge where each of the 100 Little Deaths are depicted gathering for a last drink before they board flights to oblivion. I executed this painting in a more cartoonish manner and is intended to be a Mad Magazine meets Jorg Immendorff style purgatory scene of the dead before they depart, finally and forever.” 

To further lionize the departed, Sanford invited other artists to make small works of one of the individuals for BravinLee’s project room. The artists include: Graham Preston, Jessica Ellis, Shay Kun, Rudy Shepherd, Les Rogers, Jonathan Allen, Dan Heidkamp, Kelli Williams, Joe Heaps Nelson, Chris Bors, Noah Becker, Eric White, Nic Rad, Daniel Davidson, Taylor McKimens, Kristen Schiele, Ryan Schneider, Aaron Johnson, Michael Hilsman, Sydney Chastain-Chapman, Michael Scoggins, Robin Willimas, Josh Jordan, Ridley Howard, Holly Coulis, Natalie Frank, Paul Brainard, Jeremy Willis, Jeff Beebe, Michael Anderson, Guy Richards Smit, Michael Bevilacqua, Francesca Neiman, Alfred Steiner, Eric Doeringer, Peter Daverington, Thomas Broadbent, Dawn Frasch, Nina Chanel Abney, Kevin Klein, Erin McNalley and Aaron Zimmerman. 

Tom Sanford lives and works in New York and has exhibited internationally. He has enjoyed solo shows at Leo Koenig Gallery in New York, Galleri Farschou in Copenhagen, Galleri Poulson in Copenhagen, and Gallery Zidoun in Luxembourg, and group shows at ACME in Los Angeles and Freight and Volume in New York, among many others. He recently completed a temporary public art project that was curated by Keith Schweitzer, ArtUp, FABnyc, and installed on scaffolding on the Lower East Side in New York.