Human Remains and Wax - A Morbid Mixture for Art
The artist, American Sigrid Sarda, constructs life-size human figures made of wax incorporating human remains. The artist explains, “…The figures become talismans, reliquaries housing human bones. Each tableaux, in tradition of the diorama, is peppered with the grotesque, comic and at times empathetic life-size characters along with backdrops of popular cultural and biblical icons, engaging in what our culture deems acceptable by today’s standards…”
The Eccentric Life and Illustration of Edward Gorey
From 1953 to 1960, Edward Gorey lived in New York City and worked for the Art Department of Doubleday Anchor, illustrating book covers and in some cases, adding illustrations to the text. He illustrated works as diverse as Dracula by Bram Stoker, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. In later years he produced cover illustrations and interior artwork for many children’s books by John Bellairs.
His first independent work, The Unstrung Harp, was published in 1953. He also published under pen names that were anagrams of his first and last names, such as Ogdred Weary, Dogear Wryde, Ms. Regera Dowdy, and dozens more.
The New York Times credits bookstore owner Andreas Brown and his store, the Gotham Book Mart with launching Gorey’s career: “it became the central clearing house for Mr. Gorey, presenting exhibitions of his work in the store’s gallery and eventually turning him into an international celebrity.”
Gorey’s illustrated (and sometimes wordless) books, with their vaguely ominous air and ostensibly Victorian and Edwardian settings, have long had a cult following. Gorey became particularly well-known through his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! in 1980, as well as his designs for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Costume Design. He also was nominated for Best Scenic Design. In the introduction of each episode of Mystery!, Vincent Price would welcome viewers to “Gorey Mansion”.
Although Gorey’s books were popular with children, he did not associate with children much and had no particular fondness for them. Gorey never married, professed to have little interest in romance, and never discussed any specific romantic relationships in interviews. In the book The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, published after Gorey’s death, his friend reported that when Gorey was pressed on the matter of his sexual orientation, he said that even he was not sure whether he was gay or straight. When asked what his sexual orientation was in an interview, he said,
“I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something … I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t … what I’m trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else …”
Edward Gorey agreed in an interview that the “sexlessness” of his works was a product of his asexuality.
The Gruesome History of Shrunken Heads
The ancient indigenous tribes of Ecuador and Peru were the people that transformed history with the practice of making shrunken heads. The heads were called tsantas.
The victim was often alive, in the midst of a bloody battle, when he lost his head. As much flesh from the back and chest as possible was carefully preserved when the head was chopped off. This way, the head would not resemble a withered, contorted raisin later on. If no flesh was recovered, then a vine was used to stretch the skin.
Once the battle was over, the tribesmen would take their bloody, severed heads down to the creek. There, they would make slits up the back of the head and remove the skin from the skull. Once the skull was freed from the skin, it was discarded in the river.
True shrunken heads are scarce and many simply did not survive the natural elements and passing of time. However, trade interests in shrunken heads spiked violence in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian areas at the end of the 19th century. People were beheaded simply for their attackers to make money.
Victorian Post-Mortem Photography
Of all the shocking images available online, one of the strangest and most unsettling phenomena dates back to Victorian times. In the 19th century, post-mortem photography thrived when families who could not afford a painted portrait of a lost loved one could opt for a quicker and less expensive option. The images helped families immortalize the dearly departed in a number of ways.
The poses of the deceased depend on the subject’s age and the family’s personal preference. For instance, younger children were often portrayed in a deep sleep in a crib or on a couch while adults were propped up as if alive with their eyes open or sometimes captured inside their coffins.
Human Corpses as Art
The infamous German anatomist, Gunther von Hagens, is the man who has earned himself a rather weird reputation of ‘Mr. Death’ by turning corpses alive. He is the developer and promoter of the Body World exhibit which features dead people engaged in a variety of everyday activities from playing chess to dancing. The skin and several layers of body tissues are peeled in order to give the audience a closer look at the secrets of human life and death.
The Curious History of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
Madame Tussaud’s is the globally acclaimed wax museum situated in Marylebone Street, London. Its history is fascinating and its exhibitions haunting in their accurate likeness to well-known figures, living and dead. In addition to historical figures, such as Benjamin Franklin, Madame Tussaud’s has also been the home to wax replicas of sports stars, musicians, political leaders, actors, actresses, and even the original Mrs Tussaud herself, who was the namesake and founder of this modern-day tourist hotspot.
Anna Maria (Marie) Grosholtz was born in France in 1761. Her mother was employed by Dr. Curtius as a housekeeper in Switzerland. Dr Curtius was particularly adept at wax modelling and soon taught young Marie his skills, forming a close bond with the child. At just 16 years of age, she created her first work of art out of wax – a figure of Voltaire. She developed a love for the art and would even search the decapitated heads of citizens that had been executed for models. The wax forms were frequently paraded through the streets, gaining the recognition and respect of local onlookers. When Dr Curtius died (1794), he left his collection of wax figures to Marie. She soon traveled Europe, showing off the impressive wax displays.
Marie married François Tussaud in 1795 and had two sons. In 1835, at 74 years of age, Marie Tussaud established her first museum in Baker Street. This gallery contained the Chamber of Horrors (comprising those that had died in the French Revolution, murderers and criminals), as well as about 400 different figures from various backgrounds. Unfortunately, most of these were lost in a fire in 1925, an earthquake in 1931, and bombing during the Second World War. Some casts did survive, though, and the modern Tussauds boasts remakes of the old originals.
Marie Tussaud made a wax model of herself in 1842, just eight years before passing away in her sleep. This impressive figure remains on display. She died in her sleep in London in 1850 at the age of 88. There is a memorial tablet to Madame Marie Tussaud on the right side of the nave of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, London.
Today, there are Madame Tussaud’s franchises in Hollywood, Hamburg, Bangkok, Moscow, Las Vegas, New York City, Washington DC, and Dubai, amongst other destinations.
Curious History: “Satan, Sin and Death”; William Hogarth, 1740
Deadly Sins and The New Divinity
His propensity for the unusual has been a constant since childhood, a lifelong fascination that lent itself to his macabre art later in life. The grotesque to him, as it seemed, was beautiful. Kris Kuksi garners recognition and acclaim for the intricate sculptures that result from his unique and meticulous technique. A process that requires countless hours to assemble, collect, manipulate, cut, and re-shape thousands of individual parts, finally uniting them into an orchestral-like seamless cohesion that defines the historical rise and fall of civilization and envisions the possible future(s) of humanity. Each sculpture embodies the trademarks of his philosophy and practice, while serving as a testament to the multifaceted nature of perception – From timeless iconic references of Gods and Goddess, to challenging ideas of organized religion and morality, to the struggle to understand, and bend, the limits of mortality.
Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy
Anthropomorphic taxidermy–the practice of mounting and displaying taxidermied animals as if they were humans or engaged in human activities–was a popular art form during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The best known practitioner of the art form is British taxidermist Walter Potter who displayed his pieces–which included such elaborate tableaux as The Death of Cock Robin, The Kitten Wedding, and The Kitten Tea Party–in his own museum of curiosities.