First steps into Corpus Illuminata Exposition of Anatomic Interpretation were made in a partial trance as eyes peered with curiosity upon sinuous lines, bold colors and intriguing subject matter. Anthony DVS, organizer of the two-day affair, shed light on what started as a showcase of visual art, with interpretations for all things anatomic. Over five years, the event quickly expanded. This year included collectors of antique medical utensils, student and doctor presentations, as well as musical experiences; but the cohesive thread among all work on display remained fixed in references to anatomy, biology or medicine.
A few pieces on the entry walls were no larger than two square inches, but held delicate portrayals of vital organs on each mini canvas. To the left hung a mixed media anatomy-based illustration of Adam and the fall of man by Michael Reedy, titled “Malum A”. The artist’s narrative of mortality, physical limits as living creatures, and death was executed with exposed vital organs, bones and abnormal creatures as manifestations of their fall into pain and death. The complimentary illustration of Eve titled “Malum E” hung on the wall leading to the larger exhibition space.
Glossy ceramic and weathered metal sculptures were as bold and mysterious as large canvases of placenta, skeletons and fetuses. Rehearsal of vocal arrangements and piano by storyteller and “musical evocateur” Jill Tracy created a soothing melodic energy. In between songs, she revealed she was the first musician to achieve a grant to craft original compositions in the nation’s foremost collection of medical oddities at the Mütter Museum. Through her journey as a clairaudient and within the walls of the gallery, Jill, not merely treating spiritual eccentricities as a subject matter in her songs, shared lively engagement with artifacts and energy through music.
Jill continued rehearsing songs from her Mütter experience and additional work, which guided wandering eyes to paintings and photography near the stage’s corner. In that vicinity, a photograph by Anthony DVS titled “Soma Dorsum” held a peculiar energy. After projecting an MRI scan on a model’s body, the former electrician and self-taught artist manipulated lighting to create an eerie yet elegant snapshot.
As Anthony returned to his organizing responsibilities, the adjoining bazaar held in its center a unique pairing of post mortem photography, surgical images, entrapped tarantulas, and octopi. David Chow, director of Galerie Camille, spread his personal inventory of circus freak deaths, lithographs of medical procedures on the body, and massive leather resources for students of medicine. The reconstructed and inflated tarantula skins inside square frames were mounted and pinned by DJ Zaccariah Messiah. The nightlife enchanter’s display area also sported carbon fiber and clay skulls alongside octopus vials from North Africa.
Creating a border for the bazaar was a lengthy table – half of it the vending area of Heather Rhea-Wright of Painted Lady Trashions. On display: vintage taxidermy, human bones, and glass trinkets. Originally from Corpus Christi, Heather’s popularity was a bit of a surprise when she sold her first set of fetal pigs at the Rustbelt in Ferndale. She has since continued finding objects and improving her vast collection. Not only was it the fourth time she shared her collection at Corpus Illuminata, it was the first time she collaborated with Todd W. LaRosa, owner of Michigan’s Mortuary Museum.
On Todd’s side, there were cadaver prosthetic forms for open casket ceremonies, thin polished embalming equipment, and funeral home memorabilia. The backdrop for his space was a crushed velvet backdrop with Victorian jack-in-the-box frame made of wood. It was a grand stage set for the keeper of fourteen hearses and the largest funeral home antiquities collection in the United States. As guests arrived, the visual anatomic feast carried them through the night with educative and melodic sensations in honor of life and death.
By Alejandro Valtierra
Photos by Taijah Johnson