"Miracles & Charms," Exhibition, The Wellcome Collection

I am very very excited about the new exhibition "Miracles & Charms" opening next Thursday at the always amazing Wellcome Collection in London. The exhibition will feature Mexican votive paintings borrowed from Mexican museums and sanctuaries as well as votives, amulets and charms drawn from the Pitt Rivers-housed collection of "obsessive folklorist Edward Lovett [1852-1933], who scoured the city by night, buying curious objects from London's mudlarks, barrow men and sailors, which he sold on to Wellcome." There will also be original artworks.

Full details follow, and above are images of just a few of the pieces you will find in the exhibition (credits at end of post). If you are based in the London area, be sure to check it out! I know I would if I could....
Miracles & Charms at Wellcome Collection
Wellcome Collection | 6 October 2011 – 26 February 2012

Miracles & Charms, Wellcome Collection's autumn exhibition programme, explores the extraordinary in the everyday with two shows: Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings, the first major display of Mexican votive paintings outside Mexico; and Felicity Powell: Charmed life, an exhibition of unseen London amulets from Henry Wellcome's collection, curated by the artist Felicity Powell. Drawing lines between faith, mortality and healing, Miracles & Charms will offer a poignant insight into the tribulations of daily life and human responses to chance and suffering.

Infinitas Gracias: Mexican miracle paintings
Mexican votives are small paintings, usually executed on tin roof tiles or small plaques, depicting the moment of personal humility when an individual asks a saint for help and is delivered from disaster and sometimes death. Infinitas Gracias will feature over 100 votive paintings drawn from five collections held by museums in and around Mexico City and two sanctuaries located in mining communities in the Bajío region to the North: the city of Guanajuato and the distant mountain town of Real de Catorce. Together with images, news reports, photographs, devotional artefacts, film and interviews, the exhibition will illustrate the depth of the votive tradition in Mexico.

Usually commissioned from local artists by the petitioner, votive paintings tell immediate and intensely personal stories, from domestic dramas to revolutionary violence, through which a markedly human history of communities and their culture can be read. Votives to be displayed in Infinitas Gracias date from the 18th century to the present day. Over this period, thousands of small paintings came to line the walls of Mexican churches as gestures of thanksgiving, replacing powerful doctrine-driven images of the saints with personal and direct pleas for help. The votives are intimate records of the tumultuous dramas of everyday life: lightning strikes, gun fights, motor accidents, ill health and false imprisonment; in which saintly intervention was believed to have led to survival and reprieve.

Infinitas Gracias will explore the reaction of individuals at the moment of crisis in which their strength of faith comes into play. The profound influence of these vernacular paintings, and the artists and individuals who painted them, can be seen in the work of such figures as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who were avid collectors. The contemporary legacy of the votive ritual will be present in the exhibition through a wall covered with modern day offerings from one church in Guanajuato: a paper shower of letters, certificates, photographs, clothing and flowers, through which the tradition of votive offering continues today. The sanctuaries at Guanajuato and Real de Catorce remain centres of annual pilgrimage, attracting thousands of people to thank and celebrate their chosen saints.

Felicity Powell: Charmed life
A please to the votives' thank you, Charmed life, curated by Felicity Powell, features some four hundred amulets from Henry Wellcome's vast collection, which will be exhibited encircled with works, including new pieces and videos, by the artist. The amulets, ranging from simple coins to meticulously carved shells, dead animals to elaborately fashioned notes, are from a collection within a collection, amassed by the banker and obsessive folklorist Edward Lovett, who scoured the city by night, buying curious objects from London's mudlarks, barrow men and sailors, which he sold on to Wellcome.

The amulets are objects of solace. Intended to be held, touched, and kept close to the body, they are by turns designed and found, peculiar and familiar. The potency of the charms is invested through rituals of hope and habit. Each amulet on display has long been separated from its wearer, but collectively they form a repository for the anxieties, reassurances and superstitions of the city and its occupants. Lovett's amulets are held at the Pitt-Rivers Museum where they have remained archived and largely unseen. The amulets selected by Powell are uncanny: they are secrets brought to light.

Powell's own works address the strange allure of objects which are a source of comfort and compensation. Intricate miniatures, with white wax reliefs on black mirror slate, they carry the same intimacy of size as the amulets, and are meticulously crafted. Her portraits, which appear as inverted silhouettes, white on black, are all in a process of change, metamorphosing into other selves and creatures. Like Lovett's amulets, they seem to be more than themselves, hinting at a hidden magic at work, as they dip between real and imagined worlds. Using the reverse side of a mirror, Powell hides away literal reflection but leaves the viewer wondering at their playful and compelling strangeness.

Film works projected in the gallery see the wax reliefs in animation, featuring the hands of the artist as she works, alongside medical scans of her body overlaid with drawn images of amulets from the Lovett collection. These films, with music by William Basinski, create imagery and forms that relate directly to the objects on display and to the artist’s own desire for wellbeing.

Ken Arnold, Head of Public Programmes at Wellcome Collection, says: "These two exhibitions explore rich traditions of everyday faith and health, presenting us with objects from across cultures, all invested with extraordinary personal potency. Sometimes comforting, other times strange, both simply made and exquisitely wrought: these exhibits give us insight into centuries of charmed lives and miraculous events."

A full programme of events will accompany the exhibition.

Miracles & Charms runs from 6 October 2011 to 26 February 2012.
You can find out more about this exhibition--which runs from October 6th 2011 to February 26 2012--by clicking here.

Image credits:
  1. Amulet from the Lovett Collection Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. (L0069108)
  2. Amulet from the Lovett Collection Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. (L0069107)
  3. Amulet from the Lovett Collection Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. (L0069255)
  4. Amulet from the Lovett Collection Credit: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (L0069216)
  5. Votive on tin, 1840 Credit: Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones / INAH (L0069314)
  6. Votive on tin, 1856 Credit: Museo Nacional de Historia - INAH (L0069326)
  7. Votive on tin, 1861 Credit: Museo Nacional de Historia - INAH (L0069334)
  8. Votive on tin, 1940 Credit: Santuario de San Francisco de Asis de la Diócesis de Matehuala / INAH (L0069348)
  9. Extruding coral Credit: Felicity Powell (L0069400)

Nurse and Child

Today's picture was taken in 1905, and it shows a nurse caring for a baby. The picture was taken at the Junior Sea Breeze hospital in New York City. The hospital was supported by Rockefeller, and was dedicated to helping children.

The Temple of Muses

Mythological Figures and Fables

engraving of astrological zodiac figures emerging from conflagration at the beginning of the universe
The Chaos or the Origin of the World

human trees in back of reclining chimeric beast-humans : 17th c. engraving
Transformation of Cyguns into a Swan and Phaeton's Sisters into poplar trees

engraved battle between swordsman on flying horse and chimeric lion - book illustration
Bellerophon fights the Chimaera

engraved mythological person holds bull's head to the ground
Achelous in the shape of a Bull is vanquished by Hercules

Bernard Picart engraving of seated person playing violin (+ ornate baroque border)
Amphion builds the walls of Thebes by the Music of his Lyre

lyre-playing person rides on stylised fish in the ocean (engraving)
Arion preserved by a Dolphin

book illustration engraving by Bernard Picart of the mythological figure Atlas supporting the starry heavens on his shoulders
Atlas supports the Heavens on his shoulders

b&w figure of winged icarus from mythology plummets out of control to earth
The Fall of Icarus

18th c engraving of bearded merman in the ocean
Glaucus changed into a Sea-God

book illustration of human seated in moonlit clouds above a sleeping human on land
The Moon and Endymion

illustration of stylised ancient sailboat in trouble in big seas
The Dioscuri or Castor and Pollux the Guardians of Mariners

engraving of mythical Ulysses in a ship passes the sirens calling from the shallows
Ulysses and his companions avoid the charms of the Sirens

mythical Hercules wields club against 7-headed hydra beast
Hercules' Combat with the Hydra

man pushes rock up hill while winged monsters impedes the progress (mythological engraving)
Sisyphus's stone

In mythical hell scene, human is bound and rotated on a punishment wheel
Ixion's wheel

Bernard Picart's engraved mythological scene of hell with human misery all around

Bernard Picart (or Picard) (1673-1733) was a French book illustrator and one of the outstanding engravers from the first decades of the 18th century. His most famous work - see: Designer Religion - was an enormous compendium of the world's religions.

In 'Neueröffneter Musen-Tempel', a collection of mythological fables and stories (most notably from Ovid's 'Metamorphoses') is presented, accompanied by sixty copperplate engravings by Picart. The illustrations are superior in quality, even as they appeared in 1733 in the fading light of the Baroque tradition. The fabulous ornate border patterns lend the compositions something of a formal quality like framed paintings; indeed, Picart drew inspiration for a number of his engravings from mid-17th century works by the Rubens student, Abraham van Diepenbeeck. But the majority of the designs are by Picart himself.

Motives listed for Picart's illustration include: Alcyone, Alpheus, Andromeda, Apollo, Arethusa, Argonauts, Argus, Aristaeus, Artemis, Calais, Cassandra, Castor, Ceyx, Cycnus, Deucalion, Dioscuri, Echo, Enceladus, Endymion, Eos, Eurynome, Giants, Glaucus, Harpies, Heliades, Hera, Hermaphroditus, Hermes, House of Hypnos, Io, Iphis, Leander, Leucothoe, Lycaon, Memnon, Niobe, Niobids, Oeneus, Palladium, Pan, Perseus, Phaethon, Phineus, Polydeuces, Proteus, Pygmalion, Pyrrha, River Gods, Salmacis, Selene, Semele, Syrinx, Tantalus, The Flood, Tithonus, Trojan War, Troy, Underworld, Zetes, Zeus [source]

'The Temple of Muses' was published in France and Germany simultaneously in 1733 and includes captions in English, French, German and Dutch below each illustration. The images above are from a 1754 edition published in Amsterdam.

Anthropomorphic Taxidermy with Sue Jeiven: New Episode of The Midnight Archive

The Midnight Archive is a web-based video documentary series "centered around the esoteric and always exotic personalities that spring from Observatory," the Brooklyn-based event/gallery space I founded a few years ago. A new episode--this one based on the lovely and inspiring Sue Jeiven, who taught a beloved and continuously sold-out class on anthropomorphic taxidermy at Observatory--has just been released; you can view it above by clicking play.

Here is what Ronni Thomas, the man behind the series, has to say about this particular episode:
From the occult streets of midtown manhattan to a tattoo parlor in Brooklyn where Sue Jeiven is breathing new life into dead animals. We sat with Sue who teaches classes on Anthropomorphic Taxidermy at the Brooklyn Observatory to get some info on this unique and interesting art form.

EPISODE 03 : Anthropomorphic Taxidermy -- This episode brings us the cutest little thing ever to rip the guts out of a dead cadaver. I was very grateful when Sue Jeiven, a tattoo artist of East River Tattoo in brooklyn agreed to let me film her to chat about turning mice into little men. Here we discuss the history and process and facination behind a very old and very odd artform; anthropomorphic taxidermy. As Sue will explain, its the process of taking an animal's skin, preparing it, and putting it in a human-like setting. It sounds much more charming coming from sue. So have a look and if you are interested, she is planning a book on taxidermy in addition to occasionally teaching students how to 'DIY' their own little mouse or squirrel. Check in at the Brooklyn Observatory in hopes she adds another class in the future!
For more on the series, to see former episodes, or to sign up for the mailing list so as to be alerted to future uploads, visit The Midnight Archive website by clicking here. You can also "like" it on Facebook--and thus be alerted--by clicking here. To find out more about Observatory, click here. To be alerted to future classes taught by Sue Jeiven, click here to sign up for the Observatory mailing list.

Also, to see brand new episodes in person and meet the filmmaker, please come to the Observatory Halloween/Day of the Dead/Screening party! Click here for more on that.

Collection of 29 Horses Teeth, Louis Auzoux (1797-1880), Papier Mache

This collection of 29 horses' teeth was assembled by Louis Auzoux (1797-1880), a French doctor who made models of humans, animals and plants for use in teaching medicine and anatomy.

They demonstrate how horses' teeth age, the effects of wind-sucking and crib-biting, and the fraudulent methods employed to make horses seem older or younger than their true age.

While traditional anatomical models used wax, Dr Auzoux's then-secret mixture of papier mache, cork, clay, paper and glue proved far sturdier, as well as cheaper.

Many of his models of fungi, foetuses, mulberries and May beetles, as well as a complete human body that opens to reveal the skull and internal organs, are held by the University of Cambridge's Whipple Museum of the History of Science.

Part of the department of history and philosophy of science, the museum also houses a large collection of early scientific books and instruments dating from the Middle Ages to the present, including telescopes, sundials, early slide rules, pocket electronic calculators and laboratory apparatus.
Text and image found here.

Old Time Nurse

Good Thursday Morning to you all. Nursing Week continues with this picture of a nurse from 1900. I find it interesting how nursing uniforms have changed over the years. I can remember in elementary school that school had a nurse, and she wore white dress, white stockings, white nursing shoes, and then the old style nurses cap. The nurses office smelled of some sort of strong disinfectant. I hated that smell and still can not get the smell out of my head. I associate that smell with being sick.

I beg you all to not bring up that other topic today. Henceforth it shall be referred to as the "Topic Which Shall Not Be Mentioned".

Rom pompompom - 60's charm

Il faut impérativement, absolument, rééditer la revue Romp dans son intégralité!

Que fait Taschen bon sang? Que de telles merveilles décrépissent sur du papier jauni est inadmissible... Et puis c'est plein de Bill Ward! Rhaaaaaa!
D'autres scans de ce numéro 38 de novembre 1966 sont prévus alors restez dans le coin...

Job Opening: Assistant Conservator, The Royal College of Surgeons of England

Fascinating job alert! Full details below.
Assistant Conservator
The Royal College of Surgeons of England

£20,000 pa (36 month contract starting 4 January 2012)
Central London

With a worldwide reputation for educational excellence and state-of-the art teaching facilities, the Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Our Museums and archives, including the renowned Hunterian Museum, offer a fascinating and vital insight into medical history and are an invaluable teaching aid that need constant care and attention.

As part of the Museums and Archives team, in this training post you will learn the skills involved in caring for comparative and human anatomy across the RCS collections. As well as auditing, monitoring and recording the integrity of our collections, you'll clean and maintain items, monitor the environmental conditions in the museums and stores and dispose of conservation waste material safely. Remedial conservation such as preserving, mounting and refurbishing will also be an important part of the role, as will ordering the necessary materials and equipment and working with the Head of Conservation to refine and develop efficient and safe conservation techniques. Last but not least, you'll recruit, induct and supervise the volunteers working on zoological materials within the museums.

Ideally with a relevant degree or museum qualification, but definitely holding a level 3 vocational qualification or equivalent, you also have practical experience of working in a museum or similar environment. A sound understanding of safe practice in the workplace is also essential, including awareness of Health & Safety issues. Reliable, consistent and with a 'can-do' approach, you're adept with Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Outlook and Excel. What's more, you have clear communication skills, an openness to new ideas and the ability to follow technical instructions. The post involves coming into contact with heavy objects and some hazardous chemicals for which full training will be given. Any experience of handling human or animal tissues in a museum or laboratory context would also be an advantage.

Benefits include:

25 days' holiday (plus 4 closure days)
Defined Benefit pension scheme
Subsidised restaurant
In-house gym and squash court
For further information on this role and to apply please visit www.rcseng.ac.uk/about/working using reference 25/11.

Closing date: 2nd October 2011

We are an employer fully committed to our equality and diversity policies. We will judge you on your abilities and nothing else.
More on the job can be found here.

Photos of specimens from the Hunterian Museum of The Royal College of Surgeons of England by Elaine Duigenan; more here.

Japanese Nurses

Today's picture is from 1905, and it shows Japanese Nurses. The nurses were attending wounded soldiers. I am putting up this picture in the hopes that we can get off the topic of "The Pain of Childbirth". It appears that no matter what I do the subject keeps coming back to that. It is like it is the ultimate "Trump" card women carry around. No matter where the conversation starts, it always ends with the Pain of Childbirth. 

Consider this example . . . have you ever noticed when men and women go to a restaurant, when men need to use the restroom they go one at a time, but when the women go, they all leave the table at once. That is because they are not really going to use the restroom, but they are going to talk. My theory is that they get together in there and remind each other that somehow they must get the conversation back to the pain of childbirth. All babies have heads the size of watermellons, and weight 23 pounds, that sort of thing.

Well, some day there is going to be a man come along with the courage to speak up and ask the question, is child birth really that painful? Today is not that day.

Old Midwife

Today's picture shows an old midwife in Greene County, Georgia. The picture was taken in 1941. 

Wow, we had lots of interesting comments yesterday. It seems like the conversation got around to the "Pain of Childbirth". I can remember the birth of our daughter. We had taken that class on how to breathe in natural childbirth. What they don't tell you is that the role of the man in the Natural Childbirth is to be the Whipping Boy. Yep, Mrs. PJM cursed the day of my birth as our daughter was born. Eighteen hours of  Mr. PJM not doing anything right. It was a Saturday, and there was a TV in the room. It was in about the 14th hour of labor, and I was exhausted, so I turned the TV on to watch an old rerun of Bonanza. It was the episode where Hoss and Little Joe bought an old mule without telling Ben Cartright. Well, anyway, Mrs. PJM did not want the TV on and she was not even polite in the manner in which she instructed me that there would be no Bonanza watching in the labor room. I throw that out there just in case any young men end up in a similar situation . . . during labor, women appear to not be favorably inclined to have Hoss and Little Joe on the TV.

Sensations n°13 (1949)

La revue Sensations incarne à elle toute seule la modeste ambition de ce blog: montrer à quel point sont reliés la culture populaire et les mouvements artistiques d'avant-garde. En l'occurence ici, la petite revue de cul et le surréalisme. Car qui niera que les photos scannées ci-dessous ont un lien direct avec le surréalisme? On croirait du Hugnet, du Bellmer à chaque page.
Un strip-tease de momie, un photomontage de jambes titré "Introspection", une femme nue dans le sable qui semble morte, une sirène éventrée aux ciseaux (!!!)... Chacune de ces photos mériterait une publication sur papier glacé et pourtant tout le monde semble s'en balancer comme de la culotte de Christine Boutin dans une vente aux enchères d'antiquités gréco-romaines.
On imagine mal les acheteurs des années 40 ramenant chez eux un exemplaire de ce magazine pour se procurer quelque frisson érotique et pourtant, cette revue comporte un nombre de numéros assez élevé (même si les bizarreries de ce genre ne se trouvaient pas dans tous les numéros). Comme quoi il a bien du trouver son public...
De même que le lettriste Isidore Isou prêtait sa plume à des revues populaires comme V magazine, il semblerait que des photographes et des dessinateurs à l'imaginaire foudroyant ait trouvé une place à leur art dans les poubelles de la culture, à savoir les revues légères. Eh bien, vive ces anonymes qui nous enchantent encore, plus de 60 ans plus tard!

Sensations n°13. Gérante: Mme Azarian, Imprimerie spéciale Sensations, semptembre 1949