Houston Matters

Bringing Life To Art: Houstonian Incorporates Human Ashes Into His Paintings

Wayne Gilbert incorporates cremated human remains into his artwork. A new documentary takes a closer look at his work and will be screened during the annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

American Flag Painting
A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains.

Listen

Ash - Documentary Poster

You could say the paintings of Wayne Gilbert have a life of their own. That’s because the Houston-based artist uses the cremated ashes of real people to create them.

Gilbert takes cremated remains that have gone unclaimed for years and incorporates them into his paints. The hues he creates often take on an interesting range of earth tones, and from them he creates images that range from familiar symbols (such as the McDonald’s logo or the American flag) to still life, to abstract images.

Now, Houston filmmaker Wayne Slaten has made a documentary about Gilbert’s work. It’s called Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert, and the film will be screened on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 4 p.m. at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston during the annual Houston Cinema Arts Festival, which runs Nov. 9-13.

Gilbert and Slaten sat down with Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty to talk about Gilbert’s work and Slaten’s film about it. Also, the festival’s creative director Richard Herskowitz talks about why the festival chose to include the film and about what else is planned for this year’s event.

  • Wayne Gilbert is seen with his dog and some of his artwork in the documentary about his work, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert." (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
    Wayne Gilbert is seen with his dog and some of his artwork in the documentary about his work, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert." (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
  • Wayne Gilbert is interviewed in the documentary about his work, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert," an in-depth look at the Houston-based artist whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
    Wayne Gilbert is interviewed in the documentary about his work, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert," an in-depth look at the Houston-based artist whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
  • Wayne Gilbert at work in the documentary about his paintings, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert." The film is an in-depth look at the Houston-based artist whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
    Wayne Gilbert at work in the documentary about his paintings, "Ash: The Art of Wayne Gilbert." The film is an in-depth look at the Houston-based artist whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Courtesy - Wayne Slaten)
  • Filmmaker Wayne Slaten (left) made a documentary about the artwork of Wayne Gilbert (center). Gilbert incorporates cremated human ashes in his paintings. The film is featured in the 2017 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, of which Richard Herskowitz (right) is the artistic director. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
    Filmmaker Wayne Slaten (left) made a documentary about the artwork of Wayne Gilbert (center). Gilbert incorporates cremated human ashes in his paintings. The film is featured in the 2017 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, of which Richard Herskowitz (right) is the artistic director. (Photo Credit: Michael Hagerty)
  • A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
    A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
  • A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
    A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
  • A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
    A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
  • A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)
    A painting by Houston-based artist Wayne Gilbert, whose work is created with cremated human remains. (Photo Credit: Wayne Gilbert)

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required