Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mental Stamina

David Maisel, Library of Dust 387, 2005, C-print, 64 x 48 inches

Alright, this feels a little heavy as a first post after missing a day, but since I'm coming off of one of the most horrendous (if thankfully short-lived) colds I've had in awhile, I'm just going to run into the darkness and call it good.

David Maisel, Library of Dust 1470, 2005, C-print, 64 x 48 inches

A few years ago I clipped some of San Francisco-based photographer David Maisel's photos out of Harper's magazine, and now I'm pleased to see that Design Observer has a feature and slide show on the whole back story. In short:
From 1913 to 1971 five thousand one hundred and twenty one mentally ill patients were cremated on the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital. Their remains were sealed in copper canisters. The canisters were stored in the hospital’s basement until the 1970s when they were moved to a memorial vault underground. The vault was subjected to periodic floods. In 2000 they were removed from their institutional crypt, placed on plain pine shelves in a storeroom, and were left virtually forgotten until David Maisel heard of their existence and photographed them.
The color is stunning and wildly unpredictable – it reminds me of the photos of the Moscow sewer system I posted about awhile back. There is something both melancholy and beautiful about these objects, which are so much more than objects.

David Maisel, Library of Dust 1834, 2005, C-print, 64 x 48 inches

An exhibition of Maisel's large-scale prints was held earlier this year at Von Lintel Gallery and a book, Libraries of Dust, was published by Chronicle. Visit Design Observer for Adam Harrison Levy's excellent article on the series, and see more of David Maisel's work at davidmaisel.com.


Lee said...

WOW! It reminds me of some of the glazes that came out of the use of Mt. St Helen ashes.

Strath said...

It's funny you should say that because he also has a series of Mt. St. Helens photos on his site.