Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Heavenly Bodies" - Catholic relics

Pat Macpherson, Xochitl, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly
( Q&A with LA-based art historian Dr. Koudounaris, expert and author on European ossuaries and charnel houses for both academic and popular journals. Now he is bringing these saints out of the darkness for the first time.
Dr. Paul Koudounaris* signed Heavenly Bodies earlier this month at La Luz de Jesus art gallery. Koudounaris gained unprecedented access to the relics of Catholic "catacomb saints," a rare set of historical artifacts. They were hidden for over a century because Western attitudes toward the worship of holy relics and death itself changed. Some of the ornamented skeletons appear in publication in his book for the first time (105 illustrations, 90 in color). Where did they come from? 
Pope and boy (TIME)
The 17th- and 18th-century jeweled skeletons photographed for Heavenly Bodies are the finest works of art in bone ever created -- with the exception of Tibetan bone works in Nepalese lamaseries. Unlike the anonymous bone piles photographed for The Empire of Death, these holy skeletons are meant to have distinct identities -- as magnificently glorified holy people. In each case, constructing them from skulls, femurs, ribs, jewels, gold, and silver creating a kind of personality. Sometimes these skeletons are touching and poignant, sometimes bizarre and surreal, even grotesque.
*Dr. Koudounaris explains: “The closest I can come to bringing the actual Heavenly Bodies to my viewers and readers is this photo show, which presents them in up to live-sized reproductions. This show also provides me with another opportunity: a chance to cull my own personal favorites from among the thousands of photos I took. These are not always the same images shown in the book; rather, it is my own personal selection of what I consider the finest and most expressive decorated skeletons.”

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