‘Sacrifice’ as An Inquiry of Life, Death, and the Cycle of Change
What is life after death, if there is one? It’s not necessarily a religious inquiry — even an irreligious person could wonder just as much. Just the word “afterlife” connotes the idea that there is a world separate from ours, that life on earth is not the only life the soul can have.
We treat life and death as two entirely separate forces, perhaps even antithetical to each other. But we can also explore the nuances in between: what if they were in the same space, with the same objects, in the same plane of existence?
This is something Jorge Luis Miraldo tried to express in ‘Sacrifice’, a riveting surreal piece tinted with oranges, yellows, and teals. Like a sunset. The subject is a skull, rising as the sun goes down.
Miraldo, who also goes by his creative pseudonym Shorsh, wanted to emphasize the idea through striking icons and scenery. The details are just as significant, too: where the skull is “death,” the tree is “life.” Something begins when something ends — that’s what he wants to say. ‘Sacrifice’ is the quintessential visual metaphor for it.
Life, Death, and Divinity
Miraldo’s artistic style was influenced by his love for places, cultures, and travels. “I keep my eyes wide open and fill all my senses with new and unknown colors, shapes, aromas, and sounds. Everything about it makes me feel more alive,” he told us.
Like many of his works, ‘Sacrifice’ is a surreal piece as it borrows elements from the supernatural. But these surreal pieces are not just fusions of the extramundane with reality — they’re also embedded with personal insight.
“It seems to me that these series are composed of mental images of all the places that I’ve ever visited in life, mixed with other memories and personal feelings,” he said. “You can tell that they feel familiar, somehow a part of reality, but there is also something about these landscapes that feels strange and new. That aspect is what I like to explore in these bodies of work.”
Miraldo lives in Argentina, which he describes as a place with “diverse climates.” He’s been through warm summers and biting winters around the country; he’s seen breathtaking views of arid deserts, tropical jungles, cascading waterfalls, and towering snowy mountains.
‘Sacrifice’ takes inspiration from all these. The backdrop of the bizarre subject — a skull with the crown of thorns — is reminiscent of all these places he’s visited. Even the tears are an allusion to the bodies of water he sees in his travels.
“My imagination is fueled by the memories of each of these experiences as a traveler,” he explained. “These pieces are not exact reproductions of places — they are more like the product of my imperfect memories and feelings about them.”
But stylistic choices aren’t the only thing Miraldo takes into consideration. He was deliberate in painting each element from the skull to its crown to the tree on its cranium. There’s death, there’s divinity, and there’s life all in the same subject.
The skull, he said, is the memento mori; the tree is its antithesis. “I wanted to confront life and death in the same space, as a way of saying that something needs to be destroyed in order to be regenerated in life, name it what you like: calm, chaos, prejudice, fear,” he told us. It expresses a cycle where “a previous order is broken to give birth to something new.”
The crown of thorns and the waterfalls — which, in the words of Miraldo, are “frozen rivers of tears” — convey the piece’s namesake. It’s a representation of a life that has weathered the worst storms, someone who didn’t come out unscathed.
A Christian Allusion
Perhaps there can still be more to this than meets the eye. The crown of thorns is a recognizable reference to the most notable instance of sacrifice in the world: the passion of Christ.
In this sense, the painting is given another layer of religious depth, and the idea of a “sacrifice” becomes intensely personal to those who identify with the Christian story. Jesus himself was mockingly made to wear a crown of thorns while he was persecuted, and Miraldo already mentioned the waterfalls as a cascade of tears.
‘Sacrifice’ here, more than just death and life, explores suffering, sorrow, pain, grief. But it doesn’t end in anguish — a tree, the sign of life, still grows from the cranium. The hope and chances for life emerge after the great sacrifice.
The death of Christ, as his believers say, was for love and salvation. In Miraldo’s mesmerizing work, the tree is the root of these two poignant ideas.
‘A Continuous Cycle, A Force of Change’
Life and death are not always religious pursuits — they are human. So whether or not Miraldo intended the Christian metaphor to be an overt theme in the piece, ‘Sacrifice’ is still a profound spiritual inquiry.
The idea of death and the afterlife is still frightening to many of us, but Miraldo — at least in creating ‘Sacrifice’ — doesn’t see it that way: “Death here is not just merely an end but a new beginning in a continuous cycle. A force of change,” he emphasized.
And we shouldn’t be all that intimidated by the idea either. Think of it like him: that it’s a part of a cycle, never a means to an end. It's an essential part of change, something the world constantly requires — and it’s what makes life so wonderfully dynamic.
Just like Miraldo's piece.
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