Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Morbidly Curious Blog

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602

While I was in Chicago for the CNS Meeting, I saw the Morbid Curiosity exhibit:
The exhibition explores the ways in which artists and cultures use skulls, bones and skeletons to explore human experiences and perceptions of mortality. Our awareness of death while we are still alive gives shape and meaning to our existence. Mortality is a universal theme in all arts, found repeatedly throughout time and across many cultures. The human body in skeleton form is a rich source of inspiration for contemporary artists as it was for our ancestors, from ancient civilization to the present.

As it is experienced here, the human skeleton represent more than the death. It reveals our shared identity as a species, our most profound common denominator. Signs of race, gender, status and identity melt away. Comntemporary artists use this aspect of the skeleton as an image to represent the ways in which human beings physically interact with the worlds..

Ancient trephined Skull
Pre-Columbian / 16th century human skull with brown patina

The exhibition also includes an extensive Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) section, a small Rembrandt, Albrech Durer's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1518 woodcut), the humorous My Portrait in 1960 (James Ensor, 1888), Death and the Woman by Käthe Kollwitz [who may have had Alice in Wonderland syndrome], and a very memorable mixed media piece by Steve Dilworth:

Hanging Figure [close-up]
1979 / Human skeleton, heart, liver, meat, horsehair, seagrass

Even more gruesome, however, was this sculpture made entirely of wax (and other artificial materials):

Are You Still Mad at Me? By John Isaacs
2001 / steel, wax, artificial blood, mixed media
John Isaacs is interested in the physical functioning of the human body, and this figure is shocking in its realism. Isaacs studied biology and once created a replica of his own body in the style of a wax anatomical model. This modern reinterpretation of the vanitas theme emphasizes the fragility of the human body.

Check out the great blog for Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection to see more morbid images!

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