the broader picture: UNDERGROUND ART

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The Independent Culture
THE COFFINS shown here are the creation of two American entrepreneurs, Patrick Fant, 50, and Dennis Sternitzky, 33, former managers at a classic- rock radio station. They set up their coffin company, WhiteLight, in Dallas last October, and started to produce the decorative caskets in January. They expect to sell 4,000 by the end of the year.

The 7ft coffins are made of 20-gauge steel, then laminated with computer- generated images. Above is the first they sold, a work entitled "Fairway to Heaven" designed for a Boston golfing enthusiast. It went for just over pounds 1,000, as do most of the 17 standard models in stock. These include "The Garden" (right), "Aids Awareness Ribbon" (left) and "Irish Flag". The first customer for the latter was James O'Donnell, an Irish- American who had intended to retire to Ireland but suddenly fell ill with cancer; he described his WhiteLight coffin as "the only way to go".

The most popular model is "Angels", which is adorned with the pouting Raphael cherubs favoured by greetings-card manufacturers. Connie Jackson, a Missouri hairdresser, bought this version for her mother's funeral in May. Her mother had collected angel figurines, and after the burial the mourners were able to comfort one another with the thought: "She's in the garden with her angels."

WhiteLight also produces one-off customised coffins, for about twice the price of the standard range - an Elvis fan ordered one that looks like a brown-paper parcel, stamped with the words "Return to Sender".

"As long as it's within the law, you can have it," says Fant. "After all, it's your funeral."

The WhiteLight website is at www.artcaskets.com

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