States of Metamorphosis

Photographer David Maisel will be celebrating the opening of his show “Library of Dust” tonight, Thursday, January 21, at New York’s Von Lintel Gallery.

[Image: From Library of Dust by David Maisel].

Chronicle Books put out an absolutely gorgeous book documenting Maisel’s work last year. From the project’s own description:

David Maisel’s Library of Dust features copper canisters in varying states of metamorphosis. The containers are photographed individually, black backdrop in place, each posed like a subject sitting for a portrait. Maisel’s treatment of these objects is apropos. The canisters, once stored in a dilapidated outbuilding of a state-run psychiatric hospital, hold the cremated remains of people—more specifically, the unclaimed ashes of the asylum’s patients. The Oregon State Hospital, inaugurated as the Oregon State Insane Asylum in 1883, interred the canisters in an underground vault in the mid-1970s. As the vault flooded repeatedly, the canisters—some containing remains more than a century old—underwent potent transformations. The chemical composition of each cremated body’s ashes has caused unique and colorful mineralogical blooms to form on its individual copper surface.

The gallery opens at 6pm—roughly one hour from now—and the show will stay up until February 27, 2010. Be sure to stop by if you are near; here is a map.

For those of you already familiar with this project, meanwhile, Maisel has been working on a new, long-term series called “History’s Shadow.” This consists entirely of “re-photographed x-rays of art objects from antiquity,” and the results offer eerily delicate views inside objects thousands of years old. An example appears below, but the whole series is well-worth checking out in full.

[Image: “GM12,” from History’s Shadow by David Maisel].

I would love to see an architectural version of this project, with Maisel somehow re-photographing large-scale x-rays of cathedrals and temple walls, peering inside columns, arches, and ruins, with buttresses doubled and tripled with the grain of their rock revealed, stuttering into the silent core of an object not ever meant to be seen this way.

(I was fortunate enough to have an essay included in Maisel’s Library of Dust; you can read that essay in its entirety on BLDGBLOG).

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