11 October 2005

Fine Art and Death

I've been re-acquainting myself lately with the work of Sally Mann. The more I read about her most recent exhibit (the series What Remains) the more interested I have become in the ideas it is built upon. This series of photos has to do with death and the aftermath of it. Death, dying, and the dead have been around as fine art subject matter for a long time. I’ve compiled the following short list of common death themes in art history:

a. Religious—death and resurrection
b. Memento mori (and all the morbid stuff it entails)
c. Noble death— death of Socrates, Marat, other heroes
d. Death of the enemy—dying Gaul (which is also symbolic death)
e. Romanticized death—depiction of dying beauties/lovers
f. Struggle between life and death—war scenes, mythological, historical, etc.
g. Scenes of murder (Judith & Holofernes)
h. Horrors of dying, Munch’s Sickbed, others like it

Mann’s use of, or response to death seems to represent a major departure from the foregoing list of way artists have dealt with it as subject matter. Particularly in the past (I am still exploring this point) death seems to have always been employed in some kind of massive statement about life, society, history, religion, etc. It is my opinion that Mann’s work doesn’t do any of this. What Remains seems to address death without putting it to any moralizing task.


suz said...

hey, since when did you have a blog? i like your odd mixture of art history and recipes so far.

Mary Ann said...

I had to create a password/user profile to comment on a friend's blog, so ta-da, here it is.

Blogging is fun.