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

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