Sunday, November 23, 2008

100 Heads: Head #26

This portrait was inspired by a photograph in Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy. Wisconsin Death Trip, published in 1973, is a very, very strange book. I love it. The book provides a pseudo-scholarly look at the dark side of 19th century American life. It is a collection of Wisconsin photographs and newspaper articles from the late 1800's that chronicle suicide, disease, death, murder, and insanity. The book is divided by year, but beyond that, photographs and newspaper articles are random. The reader has no idea what photo goes with what article or exactly what the photos are depicting. Here are a few articles, to give you a taste of the book:
"Judge Perry sentenced Mrs. Ira C. Miller of the town of Irving to the Mendota insane asylum ..."

"The body of Mrs. Ira Miller was brought here from Mendota asylum on the early train Sunday morning ..."

"At Ahnappe 5 new cases of diphtheria were reported, and every precaution is being taken to prevent the spread of the disease. No deaths have occurred and the schools are still open."

I quickly tired of the articles, but I love the black and white photographs. There are family portraits, funeral scenes, advertisements, and individual portraits. Here is the photograph I used for my drawing. I was struck by the graphic quality of the image. Who is this young man? I can see his image as a basis for a Greek statute or for a 1960's pop star.

Here is one more photo from the book. In many of the photos, the humans are separate from one another. They remind me of Hopper paintings.

I have the book out from the library but will have to return it because another patron wants it. I don't know if I will be able to part with it.