collaboration with Ralph Helmick
dimenensions: 8' h 5.5' w 26' d
materials: steel, aluminum, stained glass
site: Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
commissioned by: Minnesota Percent for Art Program
Issues of analysis, synthesis and mortality are central to this artwork created for the new state forensics laboratory of Minnesota. Exquisite Corpse is comprised of nineteen giant aluminum “magnifying glasses”, each housing two distinct layers of imagery.
The first are colorful stained-glass panels depicting twice-life-size cross-sections of human anatomy. Collectively, they indicate the form of a dissected, recumbent, elongated male figure. (Helmick and Schechter excerpted these interior bodily views from the National Library of Medicine’s Visible Human Project, an exceptionally detailed medical database.)
The mechanisms that suspend the stained-glass sections also function as a second layer of imagery. Welded metal filigrees hold the glass panels in place, each steel “drawing” referring to a different analytical technique employed at the lab. Allusions to specific disciplines include molecular diagrams of heroin and ethanol, representations of bullet holes and blunt objects, and raw data from dental records and gas chromatography. The familiar DNA double helix appears twice, at the head and foot of the figure, framing the entire artwork as an acknowledgment of the centrality of genetics to contemporary forensic investigation.
Seen as a whole, the scientific specialties embedded in Exquisite Corpse merge into a dense web of interconnected information, creating a metaphor for how various departments at the BCA often unite to forge a nuanced understanding of complex crimes.
Stained glass is an art form historically associated with spiritual settings and concerns. Exquisite Corpse employs the power of the medium in a setting where reverence for the human body coexists with analysis of our most basic corporeality.
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