MORBID ANATOMY - JOANNA EBENSTEIN
"Ecstatic Raptures and Immaculate Corpses: Visions of Death Made Beautiful in Italy"
An exhibition of photographs by Joanna Ebenstein of the Morbid Anatomy Blog, The Morbid Anatomy Library and Observatory Gallery, Brooklyn.
Also featuring waxworks by artists Eleanor Crook and Sigrid Sarda.
In her many projects, ranging from photography to curation to writing, New York based Joanna Ebenstein utilizes a combination of art and scholarship to tease out the ways in which the pre-rational roots of modernity are sublimated into ostensibly "purely rational" cultural activities such as science and medicine.
Much of her work uses this approach to investigate historical moments or artifacts where art and science, death and beauty, spectacle and edification, faith and empiricism meet in ways that trouble contemporary categorical expectations.
In the exhibition "Ecstatic Raptures and Immaculate Corpses" Ebenstein turns this approach to an examination of the uncanny and powerfully resonant representations of the dead, martyred, and anatomized body in Italy, monuments to humankind's quest to eternally preserve the corporeal body and defeat death in arenas sacred and profane.
The artifacts she finds in both the churches, charnel houeses and anatomical museums of Italy complicate our ideas of the proper roles of--and divisions between--science and religion, death and beauty; art and science; eros and thanatos; sacred and profane; body and soul.
In this exhibition, you will be introduced to tantalizing visions of death made beautiful, uncanny monuments to the human dream of life eternal. You will meet "Blessed Ismelda Lambertini," an adolescent who fell into a fatal swoon of overwhelming joy at the moment of her first communion with Jesus Christ, now commemorated in a chillingly beautiful wax effigy in a Bolognese church; The Slashed Beauty, swooning with a grace at once spiritual and worldly as she makes a solemn offering of her immaculate viscera; Saint Vittoria, with slashed neck and golden ringlets, her waxen form reliquary to her own powerful bones; and the magnificent and troubling Anatomical Venuses, rapturously ecstatic life-sized wax women reclining voluptuously on silk and velvet cushions, asleep in their crystal coffins, awaiting animation by inquisitive hands eager to dissect them into their dozens of demountable, exactingly anatomically correct, wax parts.
New York based visual artist and independent scholar Joanna Ebenstein runs the popular Morbid Anatomy Blog and the related Morbid Anatomy Library, where her privately held collection of books, art, artifacts, and curiosities are made available by appointment.
For the past 5 years, she has traveled the world, seeking out the most curious, obscure and macabre collections, public and private, front stage and back, and sharing her findings via her the Morbid Anatomy Blog as well as a variety of exhibitions including Anatomical Theatre, a photographic survey of artifacts of great medical museums of the Western World; The Secret Museum, a photographic exhibition exploring the poetics of collections private and public, front stage and back.
Other exhibitions using history as their muse include Savior of Mothers: The Forgotten Ballet of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis at the Center for Disease Control Museum and The Great Coney Island Spectacularium, an immersive investigation into the often bizarre spectacles of turn of the 20th century Coney Island at The Coney Island Museum.
She is the founding member of Observatory--a gallery and lecture space in Brooklyn, New York--and annual co-curator of The Congress for Curious Peoples, a 10-day series of lectures and performances investigating curiosity and curiosities, broadly considered and taking place at the Coney Island Museum.
Her work has been shown and published internationally, and she has lectured at museums and conferences around the world.