Extraordinary Bodies: Photographs from the Mütter Museum
September 8 - November 27, 2005
One of the most thought provoking and viscerally powerful shows that the Crocker Art Museum has ever offered, this exhibition is composed of photographs from Philadelphia's Mütter Museum, one of the last museums of 19th-century medical history. Featuring images of the human body and its anatomy, works by premier contemporary photographers Olivia Parker, William Wegman, Joel-Peter Witkin and others are juxtaposed with the Mütter's renowned historical photography collection.
Both beautiful and horrific, this exhibit offers a rare glimpse into the singular mysteries of the human body and an opportunity to encounter firsthand the powerful, inspiring, and enthralling images of nature's challenges to human life. Newsweek magazine recently described: "The Mütter Museum teaches you indelibly how strange life can be, how unpredictable and various. The [photographs], sometimes ghastly, sometimes heartbreaking, are mysteriously mesmerizing [and] will revise and enlarge your idea of what it is to be human."
Photographers and medicine are no strangers. The photographic representation of anatomy and pathology as viewed by the camera dates back to the advent of the daguerreotype. Early photography was used by doctors and scientists to create anatomical atlases as well as document disease and trauma. Photographs also allowed physicians to keep exact visual records of cases long after patients died.
Utilizing the Mütter Museum's collections as subject matter, contemporary photographers have explored medical manipulation of the body as a visual metaphor for the human condition. Some have experimented with the juxtaposition of real or artificial body parts and the public and private spaces within the Mütter Museum itself. Together, images old and new extend the boundaries of traditional photographic subject matter, finding beauty not in conventional forms, but in internal marvels and in the enigma of those whose bodies-deformed, broken, and disfigured-have suffered physical abnormality, trauma, or destructive disease.