Saturday, October 14, 2017

Morbid Anatomy News and Happenings: Book, Events, Utopia / Dystopia Series with Hauser and Wirth, and More!


We have lots of exciting news and events to announce today.

First up is the new book Death: A Graveside Companion, edited by Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein. This nearly 400 page book is packed with over 1,000 images (many never before published!) and 19 essays exploring the intersections of art and death. You can find out more about the book--or pre-order a copy--by clicking here.

We have organized a number of events to celebrate the book's release. The first will take place at London's Horse Hospital next Wednesday, October 18. This will consists of short talks by a number of contributors including John Troyer, Eleanor Crook and Mark Pilkington. Books will also be available at a discounted rate. Find out more--and get tickets--here.

We also have three book-related events taking place in New York City. The first is our official book release, taking the form of an all day symposium exploring the intersection of death and beauty with nearly a dozen short talks, screenings, and show and tells. It will take place in the historic chapel of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery on Saturday, October 28. Ticket price includes lunch, and books will be available at a special discounted rate. Green-Wood Cemetery. More (and tickets) here.

A few days later, on Wednesday, November 1 (Day of the dead!) the book's editor will present a selection of images relating to art and death followed by a conversation with Jennifer Wright, author of Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them at New York Public Library. This event is free, but advance registration is recommended; You can find out more (and reserve a ticket) here. The final event will be a a highly illustrated introduction to the ways in which humankind has imagined, come to terms with and even celebrated death at The Brooklyn Historical Society on Thursday, November 2; You can find out more (and get tickets) here.

Ebenstein will also be speaking at Maine's Bowdoin College Museum of Art on the topic of Death, Beauty and Metaphysics: Art, Science and Memento Mori in Early Anatomical Representation
on Thursday, November 9. This event is free and open to the public, and is produced in tandem with the current exhibition The Ivory Mirror: The Art of Mortality in Renaissance Europe. You can find out more here.

And finally, Morbid Anatomy is teaming up with Hauser and Wirth gallery in New York City for an event series entitled Utopia / Dystopia in which we will attempt to investigate, over 7 nights, the following questions, via a series of screenings, talks and presentations:
Is the yearning for a lost paradise a human universal? And is it always doomed to failure? In what ways do our attempts to create a paradise on earth backfire? Is there always, truly, a serpent in the garden?
The first night of this series will explore the seemingly paradoxical idea of Dystopian Amusements; it will take place on Wednesday October 25 and will feature short talks and screenings by writer Jane Rose, Morbid Anatomy founder (and former Coney Island Museum artist-in-residence) Joanna Ebenstein and filmmaker Ronni Thomas. The event is free, but must RSVP; You can find out more (and get tickets) here. 

Future events in the series will include a night devoted to Sexual Utopias with writer Asti Hustvedt, alchemist Brian Cotnoir, and sociologist Massimo Introvigne on Wednesday November 15, and Accidental Dystopia: El Helicoide – From Mall to Prison with Celeste Olalquiaga--author of The Artificial Kingdom--on Wednesday, December 6. More on those events when they go live.

Thanks for your support, and we hope very much to see you at one or more of these great events!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

As Far as the Eye Can Travel : A Miniature Photographic Cabinet of Curiosities by Chiara Ambrosio

Chiara Ambrosio--a good friend of Morbid Anatomy and a contributor to our recent Morbid Anatomy Anthology--has created a charming, miniature series of zines she describes as a "paper Wunderkammer."

More on this project, in her own words, below. For more information--or to get a copy for yourself-- click here. Questions or comments can be emailed to Chiara Ambrosio at chiaraambrosio [at] gmail [dot] com.
As Far As The Eye Can Travel is a paper Wunderkammer that gathers together geographies of the mind, topographies of the soul and physical excavations: curious chance encounters, moments of discovery, unexpected revelations that will surprise, enchant and spark uncharted flights of the imagination as far as the eye can--and will--travel. It is a magnifying glass through which to look at the real world anew and reveal all the magic and wonder that lies within it.

Published monthly, entirely handmade, and distributed through the post, these zines are a celebration of the small and near invisible: an archive of the incongruities, gestures and poetic collisions that illuminate and transform our reality, captured through the medium of photography and rendered as small pocket books that fit in the palm of your hand.

They are handmade talismans, amulets and portals: the captured images are given to the paper, transformed into charged objects that assist in an act of conjuring. They offer a way to challenge mainstream narratives, suggesting that meaningful and transformative events happen often unnoticed, and that through the act of paying attention to what is seemingly marginal, real change and revelation can occur. They are an act of commitment to the mystery of presence, a search for continuity within the cracks and the margins. 
As Far As The Eye Can Travel is an investigation into the medium of photography and its power to capture, translate and preserve a transient moment, a thought, an epiphany. They are an answer to the overwhelming daily deluge of digital images that often blinds us, and an attempt to re-engage with the act of looking as a radical form of commitment: each book, like a precious bottle of perfume, is a distilled essence of life, and it is the product of a patient, generous and hopeful form of engagement with the world.
Photography and the printed matter together can make us see and touch the world again, dispelling our feelings of loss and loneliness at the thought of a distant, removed and alienating reality. Watch it all bloom again, from seed into vigorous tree- an image, a single seed that yields endless stories, and invites you to contribute to the never-ending journey.

Seeing as a revolutionary act of resistance!

As Far As The Eye Can Travel is published monthly and sent in the post worldwide and is available through a yearly subscription. It is also available as yearly boxed sets that come in a handmade cardboard suitcase.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Day Long Symposium on Art and Death at Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, October 28

Attention New Yorkers: On Saturday, October 28, we will be hosting a day-long symposium dedicated to the intersections of art and death at Green-Wood Cemetery to celebrate the publication of Death: A Graveside Companion, edited by Morbid Anatomy creator Joanna Ebenstein. Tickets and more can be found here.

This book, published by Thames and Hudson, features over 1,000 images exploring humankind's imaginings of death, many largely unseen and drawn from The Richard Harris death collection. It also contains 19 essays by a variety of Morbid Anatomy regulars on a variety of art and death related topics.

Presenters--most of whom also contributed to the book--include medical historian Michael Sappol; Evan Michelson of Obscura Antiques and Oddities and TV's Oddities; hair artist and art historian Karen Bachmannn; filmmaker Eva Aridjis Porter; Ronni Thomas of the The Midnight Archive; photographer Shannon Taggart; Bruce Goldfarb of Baltimore’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer; Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier; and more. Talks, screenings, and show-and-tells will span the allure of Victorian hair art made to mourn the dead, Géricault's morgue paintings used as studies for the Raft of the Medusa, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, death in Mexico, photography of spirits after death, the surprising history of the guillotine, anatomical self identity, and much more.

Books will be available at a special discounted rate, lunch will be provided, and many contributors will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

There will also be an after party with music by Friese Undine and magic lantern projections by Joel Schlemowitz.

More and tickets here! Hope very much to see you there.

Above images: Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini, Cycle of Scenes of Living Skeletons, early 19th century. Painted for the Church of Santa Grata Inter Vites, Bergamo, Italy, for the Triduum of the dead. More in Death: A Graveside Companion, which can be preordered here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Huehue Dance of Puebla, Mexico

I stumbled across this dance--called The Huehue (or so a bemused resident explained)--on a recent trip to Puebla, Mexico. It said that one of the main characters of this dance is always the devil, as seen here. It is also said that the tradition has its roots in Day of The Dead, and depicts the wise old men--or huehues--who would help the newly widowed women find shelter.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Niño del Consuelo, Figurine, Mexico City

This wonderful figurine, from Mexico City and sourced by our friend Daisy Tainton, depicts the miraculous Niño del Consuelo, or The Holy Child of Consolation. It is a copy of a miraculous 18th century statue in Chalma, Mexico.

This figure is best known as an advocate for children; when he grants a miracle on behalf of the child, offerings of toys or baby clothes are left in thanks.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Death: A Graveside Companion" New Art Book Exploring the Intersections of Death and Beauty

My new book Death: A Graveside Companion will be published by Thames and Hudson this October. A large scale picture book of nearly 400 pages, it contains over 1,000 images--many never before published, and largely drawn from the Richard Harris Art Collection--tracing humankind's attempts to imagine and that great, inevitable unknown mystery of human life: namely, death.

The book features 19 essays by a broad variety of thinkers that will be familar to readers of this blog, including Mel Gordon (author of Voluptuous Panic and Grand Guiginol), Michael Sappol (formerly of the National Library of Medicine), Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor, cultural critic Mark Dery, and John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society. Essays cover topics ranging from paintings created via channeling the spirits of the dead to eros and thanatos (sex and death) to 19th century horror theater to anatomized figures of Jesus Christ crafted for unknown purposes in 17th century Europe; See below for a full list of contributors and sessays.

To celebrate the book's release, wewill be two events, both of which will have copies of the book available at a special reduced rate, and many contributors on hand to deliver short talks and sign copies of the book.

In Brooklyn, New York on October 28, we hope you'll join us for a symposium devoted to the intersections of beauty and death at historic Green-Wood Cemetery. This day-long event will feature talks by Michael Sappol of the National Library of Medicine, Evan Michelson of The Morbid Anatomy Library and Obscura Antiques, filmmaker Eva Aridjis, photographer Shannon Taggart, Bruce Goldfarb of Baltimore’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, medical illustrator Marie Dauenheimer, Morbid Anatomy’s Joanna Ebenstein and Laetitia Barbier and more. Topics covered will include Victorian hair art and mourning culture, death in Mexico, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, spiritualism, medical models, and the history of the guillotine. Tickets--and more--here.

For those in the UK, we'll be hosting a night of short talks based on the essays in the book on October 18 at London's Horse Hospital. This event will feature talks by contributors such as Mark Pilkington of Strange Attractor, anatomical sculptor Eleanor Crook, John Troyer of the Centre for Death and Society, University of Birmingham's Lisa Downing, art historian Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca and Morbid Anatomy creator Joanna Ebenstein, and will span topics including as the intersections of eros and thanatos (sex and death), art channeled via the spirits of the dead, "anatomical expressionism," and enigmatic 17th century anatomized figures of Christ. Tickets--and more--can be foundhere.

More information about the book--which can now be pre-ordered here--follows below. You can also see a full list of upcoming events by clicking here.
Edited by Joanna Ebenstein, Foreword by Will Self
Featuring the Richard Harris Art Collection
Thames and Hudson, October 24, 2017
368 pages, 1,000 illustrations in color and black and white

The ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality, together with text by expert contributors
Coming October 24, the ultimate death compendium, featuring the world’s most extraordinary artistic objects concerned with mortality along with insightful essays from expert contributors

A one-of-a-kind art history, DEATH: A Graveside Companion (Thames & Hudson, October 24, 2017) is a captivating treasury of images that serves as a testament to humanity’s quests—metaphysical, mythological, scientific, and popular—to imagine, respond to, and come to terms with our own inescapable end.

From the hour of death to the afterlife, seven themed chapters exhibit a staggering range of artworks, artifacts, trophies, and keepsakes from around the world and throughout the ages, counterbalanced by nineteen insightful essays, accessible yet scholarly, from contributors across a broad arc of disciplines and perspectives.

In catacombs, crypts, and bone-pits, readers will find reliquaries, embalmings, and mummies; see somber rites and customs morph into the celebrations of Halloween and Day of the Dead; and behold the great artistic traditions—Memento Mori, Vanitas, Danse Macabre—juxtaposed with vernacular tokens, found photography, and curios from bygone rituals in exotic lands. The majority of the images—which range from fine art to scientific illustration to pop culture ephemera—are drawn from the largely unseen collection of Richard Harris, who has amassed over 3,000 objects related to death.

“Today, it is deemed morbid to view images related to death or contemplate death,” says Joanna Ebenstein, founder of Morbid Anatomy, who edited DEATH: A Graveside Companion. “The abundance of images in this book proves that this attitude is by far the exception rather than the rule. This book, I hope, will help provide a balance in our one-sided view of death, in which we tend to avoid it or consider it impolite to speak about despite the fact that it will inevitably happen to each of us, and will restore these forgotten and reviled images to a place of dignity and appreciation as important artifacts of humankind’s attempts to make sense of its most profound mystery.”

Rich in never-before-published material, DEATH: A Graveside Companion is a book like no other, brimming with morbid inspiration and macabre insights to take to the grave.

About the Editor
Joanna Ebenstein is the founder of Morbid Anatomy and author of The Anatomical Venus.
EssaysDeath in Ancient and Present-Day Mexico, Eva Aridjis
The Power of Hair as Human Relic in Mourning Jewelry, Karen Bachmann
Medusa and the Power of the Severed Head, Laetitia Barbier
Anatomical Expressionism, Eleanor Crook
Poe and the Pathological Sublime, Mark Dery
Eros and Thanatos, Lisa Downing
Death-Themed Amusements, Joanna Ebenstein
The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, Bruce Goldfarb
Theatre, Death and the Grand Guignol, Mel Gordon
Holy Spiritualism, Elizabeth Harper
Playing Dead – A Gruesome  Form of Amusement, Mervyn Heard
The Anatomy of Holy Transformation, Liselotte Hermes da Fonseca
Collecting Death, Evan Michelson
Art and Afterlife: Ethel le Rossignol and Georgiana Houghton, Mark Pilkington
The Dance of Death, Kevin Pyle
Art, Science and the Changing Conventions of Anatomical Representation, Michael Sappol
Spiritualism and Photography, Shannon Taggart
Playing with Dead Faces, John Troyer
Anatomy Embellished in the Cabinet of Frederik Ruysch, Bert van de Roemer

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friendly Demons Frolic in a Satanic Farandole: Book Review of "Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut," by Jon Crabb for British Library Publishing

Below is a book review by Morbid Anatomy's Laetitia Barbier for the soon to be released Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut. All above images are drawn from the book; you can find out more about it--and order a copy of your own!--by clicking here.
- A donkey with binoculars reads the Bible to a crowd of tamed animals.
- Two bishops casually converse as hundreds of rats climb over them, some emerging from their sleeves.
- A coy sphinx pounces, bare breast first.
- Friendly demons frolic in a satanic farandole.
- A rat studies alchemical grimoires in the quiet study of a library.
- Drunk lions fist fight at the table of a tavern.

Although this aberrant enumeration could pass for, as the song goes, "a few of my favorite things," these visions are a few colorful examples drawn from Jon Crabb's incredible new book Graven Images: The Art of Woodcut, to be launched August 1by British Library Publishing.

Hundreds of woodcuts, which pages after pages let us time travel through the 16th and 17th century, when the printing process democratized, allowing knowledge, folklore and superstitions to circulate in every hands. These exquisite woodcuts exist in a grey area where dreams and nightmare mingle, a place in which humour, fear and mysticism seems to coexist without paradox. It's been a while I've not be stunned by so much fantasy, so much depravity. The book seems to be a series of flyers inviting you to "Party like its 1666". My only wish might be to have every single images of this book tattooed on my body, so if luck turned sour and I loose all by belonging, the tremendous joy I had to meet these creatures will be with me for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Eulogy to The Morbid Anatomy Museum: Guest Post by Scholar in Residence Evan Michelson

Below is a lovely eulogy to the now sadly defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum by good friend, scholar in residence, collaborator, co-curator, partner in crime and board member Evan Michelson. It really captures the essence of what we were, from someone who was there from our inception as a tiny space at the no longer extant Proteus Gowanus to our grand Museum on the corner. The Museum could never have happened without her. RIP MAM!
The Morbid Anatomy Museum was a modest place. It was thrown together in a matter of months, on a shoestring budget, in a flurry of generous, well-meaning chaos. It all started with a spark between people who love ideas, and people who wanted to make those ideas manifest. From the little library in Proteus Gowanus to the big black box on the corner of Third Avenue, The Morbid Anatomy Museum was both inevitable and ephemeral.

The Museum rode the crest of a cultural wave - we were a part of the ascendence of weirdness, and the mainstream embrace of the culture of curiosity. Morbid Anatomy was a community that gathered regularly to celebrate those strange, liminal ideas that led to the unexpected places where death, beauty, science and spirit meet. We were a museum with a tiny permanent collection - our space was always meant to highlight the collections and obsessions of others. Artists, academics, rogue intellectuals, writers, thinkers, doers, collectors; all were welcome. Wanderers, fetishists, makers and itinerate thinkers (many impeccably dressed) found a home there as well. Plots were hatched, connections were made, classes were taught, lessons were learned. Most importantly, inspiration was generated and passed on from one synapse to another; we kept the collective mind humming. It was incredibly exciting to be a part of all that, and to watch it all unfold.

We were a somewhat ramshackle cultural institution. Our furniture was borrowed and snapped up as it was needed. We had a tiny staff who worked wonders and volunteers who kept us together. Aside from the lovely bare bones of the space (conceived of by architects generous with their time) the Museum was cobbled together by whatever means we had at our disposal at that moment. Morbid Anatomy was neither designed nor “envisioned." Our black box was not pre-planned, market-tested or audience-approved. There was no tasteful lighting, no wallpaper or carpeting. There was not a speck of luxury. The lecture space was a basement with a low ceiling where the rain sometimes crept in between the steel doors. It was cramped, and it overheated easily. It was anything but comfortable. But we gathered there for years, trudging through every kind of weather to hear what each other had to say. We stuffed animals in that room. We had flea markets and watched films. We had festivals, short lectures, mini concerts, readings and demonstrations. In that dark little basement we lighted each other’s way.

The Museum proper was one room and a tiny hallway. Our community filled it with strange and wonderful taxidermied beasts, antique anatomical waxes and Victorian hairwork. Rare books, magical contraptions, memorial objects, old photographs, ethnographic wonders and displays of unexpected and arcane objects - we made a place for them all. Curious items came, were admired, then made their way back to private places. The real beauty in that room happened when someone fell in love with something. The looks of wonder, delight, bafflement and surprise were themselves a wonder to behold. You could see the gears turning, you could watch ideas being generated and connections being made. It was exciting, it was an honor and a privilege to be a part of that, to help reveal what was formerly hidden.

And what people came! The famous, the celebrated, the relentlessly dedicated, the intrepid, the curious: everyone brought something to the table. People came from all over the world to our little museum because they’d heard that wonders resided there. Some were disappointed, it’s true, at the small scale of the place. Some were taken aback by how roug-hewn we were. The Morbid Anatomy Museum was neither slick nor cosmopolitan. That was never a part of the plan: we had the feel of a regional museum, presenting and protecting the legacy of obscure obsessives everywhere. Most visitors, however, came away with something they hadn’t expected: a newly-found appreciation for the decorative possibilities of human hair, or the perverse splendor of a kittens’ wedding. Most people got it.

Museums are places of inspiration - they are arks containing objects, ideas and cultures. Even the most humble roadside museum is a place of love, obsession and a desire to share and protect. The Morbid Anatomy Museum sought to preserve and nurture those objects, people and ideas that fell through the cracks of other museum collections. We sought to nurture something liminal and elusive. We curated the collective unconscious. It made for a tough tagline, it was difficult to define, it wasn’t pithy or easily-understood, but that was our mission and we stuck to it. In the end that was probably part of our undoing, but we succeeded in so many ways, and beyond all reason.

Ultimately, the Morbid Anatomy Museum was a community, international in scope. It was everyone who came through our doors, everyone who took classes, attended lectures and visited exhibitions. It was everyone who traveled with us overseas as well. It was everyone who generously gave of their time and expertise, who shared something invaluable, scarce and unfamiliar. It was a combined energy and passion, a love of the arcane and all the things that flutter around the edges. It was a love for and fascination with an unspoken and elusive commonality, tied up in strange objects and brilliant insights. Morbid Anatomy was all of us, together, endlessly fascinated.

Monday, December 19, 2016


We regret very much to inform you that our most recent project--the Morbid Anatomy Museum--has ceased operations.

We are incredibly grateful to the many people--presenters, enthusiasts, teachers, visitors, contributors, collectors, donors, board members and more--who made up this wonderful community dedicated to the celebration of artifacts, histories and ideas that fall between the cracks of high and low culture. We look forward to seeing how our many friends and collaborators will continue to explore their interests now that the Museum has closed.

Over the past two and a half years, we have worked hard to create a museum unlike any other, and to support a community that values our distinctive exhibitions, lecture series, and workshops. We are proud of the unique, award winning and critically acclaimed work we have done. Good press, however--as we have learned--does not pay the rent. Our institution was made possible by an incredible investment from our co-founder and a dedicated group of early supporters, but we were sadly unable to develop the broad support from our audience and from grants, gifts, and other sponsorship that is necessary for sustainability.

So again, many, many thanks to all of you--our friends, collaborators, and stakeholders--for believing in us, and for your support of so many kinds. 

More to come!
Your friends at Morbid Anatomy

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Help The Morbid Anatomy Museum Keep its Doors Open

Why support Morbid Anatomy? Click the play button above or this link to see our filmmaker in residence Ronni Thomas' take on that question.

Dear Friends,

We are writing to ask for your support in keeping the Morbid Anatomy Museum open. If we cannot raise $75,000 with this year’s annual appeal, we face the very real prospect that the Museum will close in the coming months. Our institution was made possible by the generous investment of private donors along with a dedicated group of early supporters, but we are at the limit of what we can ask them to give. We need your support to carry the Museum into 2017.

You can make a tax deductible donation now by clicking here.

Over the past two years, we have worked hard to create a museum unlike any other, and to support a community that values our distinctive exhibitions, lecture series, and workshops. We’re proud of the award winning and critically acclaimed work we have done, and we are striving to keep the Morbid Anatomy Museum affordable and accessible to our passionate community and the general public. Good press doesn’t pay the rent, however.

We need to expand our membership base and the financial support from our community if the Museum is to continue operations. If you have not joined as a member, please do. We are only 2,000 members away from breaking even in the coming year. We need your financial support if you want the Morbid Anatomy Museum to be an enduring part of the cultural fabric.

In addition to your support, we are working hard to ensure that we develop a broad base of funders so that we can be a sustainable institution. Those efforts take time, and by becoming a member today or making a tax-deductible contribution now, you help us have the time we need. With two years of successful programming behind us, we are just becoming eligible for federal and state grant programs, but these funds are increasingly difficult to acquire, even for the most established of museums.

And let's face facts: there are not a lot of grant programs for “death and beauty,” and there is no major philanthropic foundation dedicated to “the celebration of artifacts, histories and ideas that fall between the cracks of high and low culture.” Our founders have been exceptionally generous in seeing us through the launch of this incredible experiment, but we need to build a stronger base of support from our community to continue our efforts.

If you love what we do; if you want to support the kind of unique programming and educational opportunities we provide; if you enjoy the boundary-pushing exhibitions we produce, then please consider making a donation today so that our work can continue.

Happily, the one category the Morbid Anatomy Museum does fit is a 501(c)3 charitable non profit, so all donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law! We are a chartered museum registered with the New York State Charities Bureau, and further information may be obtained by visiting our website at or by calling 347-799-1017.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Curious Intersections of Death And Beauty: Taped Tedx Talk by Morbid Anatomy Creator Joanna Ebenstein

Above you will find a video of a recent Tedx talk by Morbid Anatomy's creator Joanna Ebenstein. You can also watch it here. Text below from Tedx website. Hope you enjoy!
When you think of death, what comes to mind? Fear? Anxiety? Loss? Have you ever thought of death as something...beautiful? In this photography-filled talk, artist and museum curator Joanna Ebenstein explores the ways death is celebrated around the world—from a cause for festivities and wonder, to a mysterious, marvelous moment that should be honored and preserved. Joanna Ebenstein is a multidisciplinary artist, death enthusiast, and cofounder of Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Manuel Manilla, Mexican Engraver: Guest Post by Morbid Anatomy Museum's Cristina Preda

To celebrate day of the dead, following is a guest post by Morbid Anatomy Museum's Cristina Preda devoted to Mexican artist Manuel Manilla, a contemporary of the much better known José Guadalupe Posada

Enjoy, and Happy Dia de Los Muertos!
Little is known about 19th century Mexican artist Manuel Manilla. His birth, marriage, and death certificates do not survive. A handful of brief testimonies tell us only that he had a son who was also an engraver. A timeline of his life and work was put forth in 1926 by the French painter and critic Jean Charlot and included only three dates. He was born in 1830, began working with prolific Mexican publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo in 1892, retired that same year, and died of typhoid fever in 1895. There is no documentation to corroborate Charlot’s information, though illustrated publications from that time seem to support it.
José Guadalupe Posada remains a singular, dominating figure in Mexican printmaking and engraving of the 19th century. A contemporary of Posada, Manilla specialized in religious and popular subjects featured in the numerous broadsides of the time. It is Posada, however, through a combination of incisive political commentary, a departure from established traditions, and sheer volume of work, who is remembered as Mexico’s most influential printmaker. Still, as Charlot points out, it is worthwhile to know who exactly established this tradition. Even the calavera, a symbol of Mexico’s Day of the Dead and Posada’s most recurring theme—one which he popularized as a national icon—is believed to have been created by Manilla.
All images from Manuel Manilla: Grabador Mexicano by Mercurio López Casillas.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Morbid Anatomy is Coming to Los Angeles with a Symposium, Temple Tour, and Anatomical Venus Book Event

We are delighted to announce our first ever California popup, taking place in Los Angeles this October 29th and 30th! It will consist of a day long symposium at La Luz de Jesus Gallery, a tour of the Templo Mayor de la Santa Muerte with its High Priestess, and a free book event for our new book The Anatomical Venus, also at La Luz de Jesus!

Full schedule below. Hope to see you at one or more of these great events!

Saturday, October 29th
12-6 pm
Day Long Symposium at La Luz de Jesus; Tickets and more can be found here.

12.00 Tracy Hurley Martin: Introductory remarks
12.15 Richard Faulk: Witches, Weavers, Pimps, and Whores: Curse Tablets and the Rarely Seen Working Class in Ancient Rome
12.45 Megan Rosenbloom: Anthropodermic Bibliopegy: Books Bound in Human Skin
1.15 Elizabeth Harper: The Miraculous Relics of "Uncle Vincent"
1.45 Joanna Ebenstein: The Morbid Anatomy Museum
2.15 Stephen Vesesky: Kraftwerk: Sex, Lies and Audiotape
2.45 Tonya Hurley & Tracy Hurley Martin: Solo-Me-O
3.15 - Break
3.45 Louis Sahagun: Master of Mysteries: The Life and Death of Manly Palmer Hall
4.15 Daniel Paul: Dr. Jaggers, Miss Velma, the Universal World Church, and Christmas
5.00 Ronni Thomas: Screening of The Man Who Married Kitten: Documentary on the Victorian Taxidermist Walter Potter
5.30 Tomas Prower: The Cult of Santa Muerte

Sunday, October 30
1:00 PM
Tour of the Templo Mayor de la Santa Muerte with High Priestess and Tomas Prower
Templo Mayor de la Santa Muerte (7602 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park, CA 90255)
Tickets and more here.

Tour of Los Angeles' Templo Mayor de la Santa Muerte with the temple's high priestess and Tomas Prower, author of the book La Santa Muerte: Unearthing the Magic and Mysticism of Death. Attendees will get a tour of the temple, and have an opportunity learn all about Santa Muerte--literally "saint" or "holy" death, a female manifestation of death whose devotion originated in Mexico but has spread throughout the diaspora.

Sunday, October 30

4:00 PM
The Anatomical Venus Book Event
La Luz de Jesus
FREE and non-ticketed (just show up)

Join us to celebrate the new Morbid Anatomy book The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death and The Ecstatic with its author, The Morbid Anatomy Museum's co-founder and creative director Joanna Ebenstein. The book was the product of ten years of research, image collection and photography.

Learn all about the fascinating life and afterlives of The Anatomical Venus -- a life-sized dissectible wax woman with Venetian glass eyes, real human hair and strings of pearls created in late eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum. Once seen as an ideal way to entice a general public into the study of human anatomy, today, she also confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

Post Mortem Portraiture at the American Folk Art Museum and Related Events

 The Farwell Children, Deacon Robert Peckham (1785-1877), Fitchburg, Massachusetts, c. 1841. Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 40 1/2″; 62 1/2 x 48″ (framed). Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Raph Esmerian, 2005.8.11. Photo © 2000 John Bigelow Taylor.
Following is a guest post from our friends at The American Folk Art Museum about some exciting events related to their wonderful new exhibition on post-mortem portraiture. One of the events--a symposium entitled How We Remember: Death in American Art and Culture, taking place on January 28--will be moderated by Morbid Anatomy's creator Joanna Ebenstein.
Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America, on view at the American Folk Art Museum through February 26, 2017, is a contemplation of American self-taught portraiture through the lens of memory and loss. Curated by Stacy C. Hollander, the exhibition traces the derivation of posthumous portraiture from literal shadows traced on a wall to the metaphorical shadow secured by the photographer through postmortem daguerreotypes.

During the run of the exhibition, several public programs have been organized to reflect the scope of cultural expressions of death in the United States. These include a concert by Eli Smith, the Four O’Clock Flowers, and Mamie Minch exploring death and mourning in American folk music; a screening of Elizabeth Westrate’s 2004 documentary, A Family Undertaking, which explores the home burial movement; and a discussion with authors Meghan O’Rourke and Deborah Landau about the process of writing about grief and loss. Hands-on workshops are also part of the line-up, including a Day of the Dead papel picado demonstration and a mourning jewelry workshop.

The culmination of these programs will be How We Remember: Death in American Art and Culture, a half-day symposium in which scholars and artists come together to examine the iconography and symbolism of death in America. Participants include curator Stacy C. Hollander; Gary M. Laderman, author of The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883; Dr. Stanley B. Burns, historian, collector, and author; Jessica Regan, assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute; Kate Sweeney, author of American Afterlife; and Joyce Burstein, creator of the epitaph project. Morbid Anatomy Museum’s cofounder and creative director, Joanna Ebenstein, will moderate the symposium. 

Morbid Anatomy Members are invited to purchase public program tickets at the American Folk Art Museum’s membership price during the run of the Securing the Shadow exhibition.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Anatomical Tattoo Call for Works

Do you have an anatomical themed tattoo, or do you create your own? If so, might you be interested in being part of a new book? In that case, please read the call for submissions below from our artist and anatomist Emily Evans; she can be contacted at contact [at] anatomyboutiquebooks [dot] com.
We are looking for examples of anatomy related tattoos to include in our latest publication.

If you are an artist who has created an anatomical tattoo and would like to see your work published or if you have an anatomical tattoo yourself, we would love to hear from you!

• Skull and Skeleton
• Muscles
• Human hearts
• Organs
• Cyber anatomy
• Torn / sutured
Also, if you are based in the UK and interested in getting an anatomical tattoo for free or reduced rate for use as a possible cover image, send an email to the same address, contact [at] anatomyboutiquebooks [dot] com.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Join Us as a Docent at the Morbid Anatomy Museum!

Interested in being a part of the Morbid Anatomy Museum? If not, why not consider becoming a volunteer docent? 

Although this is an unpaid position, being a museum docent is an excellent addition to your resume, and the museum is happy to provide references for regular docents. Shifts run from 11:45-6:00 all days except Tuesdays, and there is no minimum requirement. 

Volunteer docents also receive special perks:
  • Free admission to museum exclusive opening parties 
  • An atmospheric, quiet place to work with free wifi and unlimited access to the Morbid Anatomy Library collection of books and artifacts
  • One free event (under $10) for each shift worked
  • $20 off book purchases in the gift store for every five shifts you work, per exhibition
  • Preview of upcoming exhibitions for docent training
  • Docent party for each exhibit in which you volunteer three or more times
If you are interested in becoming a docent or finding out more, please e-mail our new docent coordinator at cristina [at] morbidanatomymuseum [dot] org. Either way, hope to see you around the museum soon!

Photo from our new Morbid Anatomy Museum installation.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Help us Bring Victorian Taxidermist Walter Potter’s 1890s Kittens' Wedding to New York!

Greetings! This is a letter from Joanna Ebenstein, co-founder and creative director of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Some of you might recall a book I authored a few years ago with Dr Pat Morris called Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy. While working the book, I was lucky enough to see and photograph many of famous tableaux of eccentric Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter, which had been divided at auction about 10 years ago before.

One of his most iconic pieces, The Kittens' Wedding (see above) has entered our community of collectors. Its new owner, Mrs. Sabrina N. Hansen, has very generously agreed to allow us to exhibit it, so long as we can pay for safe and professional transportation and insurance.

We have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to do so, on which more here. We have made available lots of perks, including custom limited-edition Potter photos and postcards of photos from my own collection; tickets to the exhibit and opening party; downloads of Filmmaker in Residence Ronni Thomas' award winning Potter documentary The Man Who Married Kittens; AND most excitingly, tours of the homes of private homes of collectors of Potteralia around the world where you can see pieces in their native habitat!

Following is information on some of the collectors who have kindly agreed to open their homes. Again, you can find out more here. Thanks for considering lending your support to this project!

The Home Collection of Dr Pat Morris, co-author of Walter Potter's Curious World of Taxidermy , who holds the argest collection of Potter pieces and ephemera including The Death and Burial of Cock Robin, A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed, an eight legged kitten, and Potter’s pet cat and dog.

The home of collection of Errol Fuller (author of Voodoo Salon) featuring Walter Potter’s Athletic Toads, his only mechanized tableau; Fencing mice with mole undertakers by Hermann Plouquet (above; circa 1850); a passenger pigeon; and, in his worlds, a Charles Waterton Saki Monkey "deformed to look like a little hairy man" (circa 1825).

The home of John Whitenight (author of Under Glass: A Victorian Obsession) and Fred LaValley, containing a collection of extraordinary 19th century taxidermy including Potters Monkey and Goat, along with rare French automatons (one that smokes a cigarette!), plus period rooms containing an array of Victorian furniture and decorative objects all of which are contained in a circa 1865 Philadelphia townhouse.

The home collection of Carol Holzer's collection, featuring Walter Potter’s two-faced kitten, a taxidermied lion, and many more pieces of taxidermy and assorted curiosities.

Find out more here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Seeking Walter Potter's Kitten Tea and Croquet Party!

Do any Morbid Anatomy readers happen to know the new whereabouts of this most wonderful piece of late 19th century taxidermy, Walter Potter's Kittens’ Tea and Croquet Party?

Any leads suggested; Please send to joanna [at] morbidanatomymuseum [dot] org!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Flying Saucers and Hidden Worlds: A Brief History of Extraterrestrial Pulp: Guest Post by Jack Womack

Next Thursday, July 7th, we hope you'll join us for a night of extraterrestrial pulp with author and journalist Mark Jacobson as he welcomes world's greatest collector of flying saucer memorabilia Jack Womack. Womack's collection stretches back to the original 1947 sighting by Kenneth Arnold and continues through the paperback heyday of the 1950's and 60's. Kept on file at Georgetown University, it has been compiled into the forthcoming book Flying Saucers Are Real! featuring an introduction by Science Fiction immortal William Gibson.

Following is a guest post by Jack Womack, which will provide a foretaste of the evening's festivities. The above images are also sourced from his collection. Hope to see you there!
In the past seventy years we saw an enormous increase worldwide of the fear of government, the fear of science, and the fear of experts, for multiple reasons. As is now clear, one of the most effective means of initially spreading such paranoia worldwide, and especially in the United States, turned out to be by flying saucer.

Two men--one by pure happenstance, the other by pure deliberation--brought flying saucers into the world as we know them today. In 1943 Richard Shaver, a welder by trade, sent a 10,000 word rant entitled "A Warning to Future Man" to Ray Palmer, editor of the pulp magazine *Amazing Stories*, and the paterfamilias of much that is 20th century woo-woo.

Shaver's narrative told of the Dero, who are survivors of the Old Ones who used to inhabit earth -- the Dero live inside the earth, understand -- and who are responsible for all bad things that happen, everywhere. The Dero are also prone to kidnapping surface women when they press the wrong button on elevators, or go into the wrong subway tunnel afterward subjecting them to unimaginable horrors. Palmer, naturally, immediately rewrote it into a story, "I Remember Lemuris" that he naturally presented as non-fiction. The response was enormous, and sales of the magazine shot up even as science fiction fans complained bitterly that such nonsense was being published as non-fiction.

Later, Shaver told Palmer that he knew of the Dero because he had heard the screams through his welding machine.

Palmer's experience with what came to be known as the Shaver Mystery prepared him to be ready to move when, on June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold--a pilot in Washington state--reported seeing nine silver discs flying over the Cascades. He told reporters on the ground when he landed. By June 26, the phrase "flying saucers" was being used worldwide.

Palmer, seeing a new opportunity, moved quickly. While he stayed in touch with Shaver over the years, he refocused on Things in the Sky: and the result was not unlike the appearance of a Celestial Elvis.

Mark and I will be talking about these two characters, without whom we would not have had the X-Files--nor, possibly, some branches of the militia. I'll be drawing upon the information and illustrations on my forthcoming book Flying Saucers Are Real! as we reexamine the beginnings of a belief which, in unexpected ways and unexpected places, wound up in some ways, as was warned, conquering the world.