Thursday, September 3, 2015

Artists explore Mummies of the World.


Mummies of the World is now at the Orlando Science Center (777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL).
Weeks before I had met a little girl who had been on a field trip to the Mummies exhibit. I asked her if any of the mummies were wrapped in bandages with their arms raised like in the movies. She explained that only one mummy was wrapped. Having seen the real thing, she thought it silly to think that mummies should roam the earth. From the gift shop she had purchased little pills that would turn into dinosaurs when moistened. I warned her that she should make sure she was outside when she dropped the pills into water since dinosaurs can be huge.

A mummy is the dead body of an animal or a human that been preserved after death so that it does not decompose. To be considered a mummy and not just a skeleton, the body must keep some of its soft tissue, such as its hair, skin or muscles. The exhibit had shrunken heads, Egyptian mummies, Peruvian mummies, medical specimens and many mummies that were preserved naturally.

I walked the exhibit quickly in search of my sketch opportunities. Science Center staff who were also artists had been invited to sketch mummies on this day. They were in strategic locations throughout the exhibit and each of them was sketching a different specimen. Their creations will ultimately become an original work of art that will be displayed in the exhibit once it’s completed. In the Burns Collection room, I was fascinated by David Matteson who was hunched over his book doing erasure poetry inspired by the screaming mummy. He said that Edmund Munch created Der Schrei der Natur ("The Scream of Nature") after observing a mummy similar to this one. I don't know if this is fact or fiction, but this mummy with its bony fingers raised up to its face does indeed look like it is screaming. He was working in a book about mortality rather than a sketchbook. He darkened lines of copy or individual words to find hidden poems within the books copy. His piece will address our morbid fascination with death and how we all fear and then must ultimately accept this inescapable truth.

Adam Wade Lavigne, the Science Center's facility assistant, introduced himself. I'm always surprised and pleased when another artist knows about my sketching obsession.He was doing an amazing sketch of a mummies upper torso that was very accurate and expressive. I admired how large he was working.

A third artist, Jake White, the development director for the Science Center, was sketching the prone mummy behind David, but he lost interest and decided to sketch a Peruvian child that had been found in a basket naturally preserved by the dry heat. The child's skull had been elongated by being pressed between two boards. These elongated skulls were considered beautiful at the time. Royalty would employ a third board which would create a pointed skull. The brain ultimately adapts expanding into the heightened skull with no ill effects to reasoning or intelligence. The mummy had been CT scanned and a computer created the skeleton and the skull as 3D computer prints. The bones had markings that hinted that the child had experienced malnutrition and stress.

Don't miss this rare opportunity to stare death in the face and learn about ancient cultures. Mummies will be at the Science Center with a limited time engagement through the fall.

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