the body in contemporary art in relation to Ed Gein Study-part I

I have been reading a book brought from the Welcome collection bookshop whilst visiting the ‘Skin’ exhibition last month.
Its written by Sally O’Reilly and talks about the human figure represented in art today. Looking at various artists reason why the figure is so integral in their artworks, and how conceptually the representation of a figure has is seen changed in modern art and progressed from that of the traditional.

I have read the various chapters relating to the theory’s to my own work that of the body of Ed Gein’s final victim represented by myself from a small crime scene jpeg photo.

In the opening of the book O’Reilly talks of how we view the human body in todays art world; ‘The boundary between the human and the world at large is blurred and shifting and often difficult to identify. It is not simply the physical barrier of the skin, since this world overlook both the psychological sphere that exists beyond our basic corporal boundaries and the reciprocal relationships between self and context’

The image of the hollow body in the photograph and indeed my painting is of a deceased woman. ‘Before the Renaissance the exploration of human insides were taboo; then following scientific revolution and the establishment of empirical scientific methods, flayed corpses, anatomical drawing and models based on autopsy and dissection became acceptable’.
Science and art merge, capturing someones likeness in life and now death. recording before photographs the technical process of what happens to us when we die. Capturing someones likeness is capturing a moment in time, Recording forever the stage in time that the person looked like before they grow old, die and decay.
I have presented this body as an ‘object’ a shell of something that was once living and now no longer exists within it. Atheists and people who believe in life after death will argue the importance of our earthly bodies casings for our soul, to then decent into heaven when we die. The Latin term for an object, something that reminds us of our own mortality ‘memento mori’ which literally means ‘remember that we all must die’.

The brutal massacre of Gein has made it into the American history books and into the outside world through media and penetrating some of the most terrifying horror films. this has propelled Gein into the realms of Hollywood and in a way into the world of celebrity. Gein now dead, in effect through these acts of violence will himself live on. Many serial killers are known to admit to their killings before they have been discovered due to craving the celebrity status, with these painting studies, i now too contribute to the Gein legacy spreading further his Infamous trail of horror.

i feel the art world is its own celebrity breeding ground, creating art for the aim to seek fame and fortune. Artists like Damien Hurst who use dead bodies (although animal)  i see some similarities to Geins creations, producing ‘art’ to be admired and adored and understood from being an outsider away from mainstream humdrum of normality.

Gein playing in the female ‘body suit’ i imagine being like a little girl playing with dolls, a small child would dress it up and through play understand the somewhat stereotypical role of a woman, Gein i feel took this concept into the morbidly extreme. The repulsion and curiosity of women drove him to explore the opposite sex, as a girl playing with their dolls would learn about their gender role  The transference of Gein’s troubled upbringing and understanding of women misdirected into a confusion of his own and could be the reason behind the years of murders.
this article looks at the parents influence to a child as he/she discovers his/her own gender role. The murder of Bernice Warden, was one of many outlets and self discovery of his own sexuality and gender. The act of wearing the skin of a woman Gein could begin through, learn through play technique, used in young children, to deal with his gender confusion. Many people with mental health conditions find solace in their suffering through art and art therapy, maybe Gein also found creating his furniture and other artifacts comforting in a big empty house. I will continue to talk about art therapy and my ideas of Gein using murder as media to expel some of his demons in the next blog entry.

Listning to – the Misfits

Reading- The Body in Contemporary art-Sally O\’Reilly


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