Hair Art

by Anna Leahy

At the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia, I am disappointed that I cannot take photographs of the specimens on display. At first, I think it is out of respect for the dead that photography is prohibited, for many of the artifacts are human bodies or body parts. But you can see the Soap Lady, the Hyrtl Skull Collection, and the case of slides of Albert Einstein’s brain on the museum’s website. The museum’s Instagram is brimming with unnerving images. I end up taking notes on the contents of the cabinets. After meandering the permanent collection, which the museum has called “disturbingly informative,” I wander into the room that’s used for temporary exhibits and find Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hairwork, a gathering from private collections of bouquets, wreaths, jewelry, and other keepsakes made of human hair, glass beads, and wire. As opposed to our flesh, our hair doesn’t decay, so hair is good material for sculpture. In the nineteenth century, this type of domestic artwork became a popular form of mourning, a physical part of themselves that women left behind and other women reshaped. Continue reading “Hair Art”

Katrina and I

by Ashten Shope

It feels like my body is spinning, barreling toward no destination in particular, as I walk. My thoughts are flung out by the centripetal force of my spin as my sympathetic nervous system takes over and guides my footfalls. I grasp the door handle of the East Carolina University Art Gallery and step inside. On my right are ceramics and resin pieces. My eyes land on two resin vaginas, one red and one gold. I look into their labia as if they are the eyes of great hurricanes. I turn away and look at the piece I came to see; I make landfall. The white curls and swirls and twirls of garbage capture the rhythm of my mind as I stare into the eye of the sculpture Remember Me, Katrina. Continue reading “Katrina and I”

Points of Reference: I Am Here

by Corinna Cook

The mountain doesn’t know you’re an expert.

This is how my family reminds each other that life alongside mountains must by necessity be humble. By necessity alert. The tear-shaped island in Alaska on which I grew up has steep, rainforested mountainsides. It has dark, rocky shores. And it has a two-lane bridge to the mainland, where the rest of town is a capital city busy with state politics but rimmed by an icefield so that no road links our community to any other community. Because of this, we have a special responsibility to take care of each other.

Continue reading “Points of Reference: I Am Here”

Girl on the Beach

by Nora-Lyn Veevers

Joaquin Sorolla painted this sun-soaked oil in 1910 on the coast in Valencia, Spain. I discovered Sorolla in the Carmen Thyssen Museum in Malaga, Spain two years ago.  I love the luminosity of his paintings. A young girl stands on the shore and looks out; the waves fold in on each other; her body toasts in the heat of the day and her gaze rests on a horizon. Continue reading “Girl on the Beach”

The Chapel of Man and All That Endures

by Daryl Farmer

Bookstores, for me, are sacred spaces and it’s my practice to visit them wherever I go, even in countries where I don’t speak the language. I hold the books in my hands, open them, look at words I don’t understand. In Quito, Ecuador, we – my wife Joan and I – discovered just such a place, connected to a coffee shop half a block from our hotel in the quiet neighborhood where we were staying. The shop owner was very kind, and in him I found a kindred spirit, a fellow lover of books, and astronomy, and travel. I told him we had two days to spend in Quito, and asked what we should see. He pulled a book from the shelf, and handed it to me Continue reading “The Chapel of Man and All That Endures”

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