Category Archives: Inspiration

Creating Art With Abandon

Guerilla Art Book

Pay It Forward With Creative Love

This is my 17th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge.

I first discovered this movement about five years ago when I came across Keri Smith’s book, The Guerilla Art Kit. I admit, the term ‘guerilla’ hooked me. The premise and execution were both simple: make art, preferably out of recycled materials, and leave it anonymously for others to find and enjoy.

Yesterday, while reading about ‘make-it, leave-it’ artists and projects, I found an article by Drew Trachtenburg on the Daily Finance website entitled “The Art of Letting Go: Trend Sets Paintings Free, Randomly.” Trachtenburg recounts the story of Eleni Zatz Litt’s experience with abandoning art. She inherited almost 600 paintings from her father’s estate, and couldn’t keep them all, so she decided to give them away.

Also in his article, Trachtenburg included a link to Michael deMeng’s very active FB group, Art Abandonment, with over 20,000 members. Its description reads:

“Art Abandonment is a group designed to encourage random acts of art, left in various locations around the globe. The idea is that folks can make something and leave it for a lucky unsuspecting person to find. Artists can then post locations and photos of abandoned goodies…and finders can let everyone know that they are the lucky finder! O’ sweet abandon!”

For October, deMeng’s challenge is to create calaveras, in honor of The Day of the Dead. Interesting.

As my 30 Day Blog Challenge is coming to a close, I am in the process of thinking about the next 30 Day challenge. Making and abandoning art, and creating blog posts around the process, is a strong possibility.

Have any of you made and then abandoned art?

Thanks for reading!

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Collage Perspectives at Swarthmore College

day 16

Five Collagists Showcased in Video

This is my 16th post for my 30 Day Blog Challenge, and I have approximately one week left to go.

Last night, I was meandering through YouTube, and did a search for “collage art.” I luckily found an inspiring, 10 minute video film by John Thornton entitled “Collage Perspectives at Swarthmore College.”

Collage Perspectives is the title of an exhibit held in the List Gallery at Swarthmore College in the fall of 2011. Although the exhibit was four years ago, the video is new to me and hyper-relevant as a beginner using this medium. Thornton’s film was narrated by the gallery’s director, Andrea Packard.

Five collagists are showcased: Njideka Akunyili, Arden Bendler Browning, Chie Fukei, Ken Kewley, and Elizabeth O’Reilly. All five collagists have five very different, yet equally powerful, styles and ‘voices.’  I would’ve liked to have viewed the exhibit to see the collages first hand. I am grateful to Thornton for filming the exhibit.

This is my first learning experience involving embedding video in a blog post. Please contact me if there is no video above.

Again, thanks for reading!

Mütter Madness: a Museum of Medical Oddities

30 Days To A Blog Challenge–Day 10

mutter museum front 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dare to Be Disturbingly Informed!

361 days a year, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia opens the doors to The Mütter Museum for those with a morbid curiosity for medical oddities. According to the museum’s website:

America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a nineteenth-century “cabinet museum” setting. 

The goal of the Museum is to help visitors understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Fortunately for me, the museum is only about two hours away, so a day trip was in order. Since the museum’s exhibits are mostly displayed in Victorian ‘cabinet’ style, my traveling companion and I chose to travel Victorian style, too, via train.

As soon as I walked up the marbled steps to the huge wood doors, I was hooked. Not an entrance, but an edifice. Form and function. I passed through the doors, and was not disappointed. Display cases of wood and glass, dimly lit. There was a remnant of a warm odor, like ‘old book smell.’ It must be the lignins. Quintessentially Victorian with exacting detail, it was perfect for curating and cataloguing. And for an old-school Hammer Horror film. Onward!

Must-See Exhibits at the Mütter

1. Einstein’s Brain

Einstein's Brains

When Albert Einstein died in 1955, Dr. Thomas Harvey autopsied, removed, and kept the physicist’s brain. Eventually, Dr. Harvey dissected the revered brain into hundreds of slices, and dispersed the slides to many different pathologists all over the world.

The specimens on display at The Mütter Museum were received from Dr. Lucy B. Rorke-Adams, a Fellow at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

2. Hyrtl Skull Collection

hyrtl skull collection

Anatomist Joseph Hyrtl donated his collection of 139 skulls to  The Mütter Museum in 1874. His purpose in collecting the skulls was to debunk the then-popular ‘science’ of phrenology, which claimed to determine an individual’s character traits from the size and shape of their skull. Hyrtl’s collection aimed to show anatomical variations in Caucasian Europeans of the time.

3. Chang and Eng Bunker Death Cast

  chang eng bunker death cast

Chang and Eng Bunker, arguably the most famous set of conjoined twins, inspired the term “Siamese Twins.” After touring extensively, Chang and Eng moved to North Carolina, became farmers, married sisters, and fathered 21 children between them.

When they died in 1874, Fellows from The College of Physicians conducted an autopsy and the specimens were sent to the museum. The Bunkers’ Death Cast and fused liver are on display.

4. Megacolon

megacolon

This is big. I cannot even imagine how this patient looked, let alone walked upright, with extreme abdominal distension. So many questions: When the colon was extracted, how hard was it? Was the patient a man or a woman? How functional was the patient? How long did they have this condition? Did they get to the point where they just did not want to eat?

Again, difficult to imagine. My apologies for the lack of facts here, but in my zeal I neglected to take notes.

5. Babies and Fetuses

Sorry, no picture for this one, my fine readers; I’m drawing the good taste line here. If you must, Google it.

Jars and jars of babies and fetuses. My hardened sensibilities, built up from years of teaching in a public high school, were up to the challenge.  My friend, a deep-feeling and hypersensitive soul, was done after the first display case in this section of the museum. No wanting to deal with a potential fainting scene, although it would have been an apropos Victorian cliché, we cut our visit short. Another day.

Why Mütter in an ‘art blog’?

Way before this point in the post, you may have been thinking: “This museum is fascinating and all, in a morbid sort of way, Kelly, but what’s the tie-in to art?”

For one, art and anatomy are inextricably intertwined, thanks to da Vinci. All of these suffering souls on display have been examined, observed, studied, analyzed, autopsied, collected, preserved, catalogued, curated and conserved. In a word, objectified. In a way, both the artist and the anatomist objectify their subjects in their work.

Two, physical suffering is a universal experience. Suffering, and the pain is causes, is something we all try to either alleviate or avoid altogether, sometimes at great cost. Many of the skulls in the Hyrtl collection belonged to individuals who were victims of suicide.

For me, The Mütter Museum is a mirror. As I pass display after display of their remains, I am simultaneously fascinated and repulsed. I have questions. How did some of these poor people make it through one day, let alone live their lives? How did they eat? How did they sleep? How did they earn a living? Did they ever laugh? And the final question: How much could I endure if I were in their circumstance?

Like powerful art, the Mütter is a direct hit to the solar plexus.

Need More Mütter?

  1. Just visit already! And what better time of year than creepily close to Halloween?
  2. View the museum’s YouTube Channel. Better yet, subscribe!

 

Day 10 down, 20 more to go!