Monday, July 28, 2014

New York Ramblings - Wet Specimens.

Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, Brooklyn, NY.
What: Wet Specimen class.

I've seen wet specimens at a few Halloween Conventions and not only do they appeal to my taste in the unusual and slightly wicked, but also I just think they're cool.  Maybe a bit too macabre for most of the population, I find a wet specimen gives an interesting view from anything to plant life to medical specimens. 

I travelled via car, train and subway on a hot day, but the all black building on the corner of Third and Seventh was an escape from the mundane.  It houses a coffeeshop, giftshop with lots of interesting books plus some novels that fit right in, as well as a museum (which I didn't get to visit on this trip), plus the large classroom space downstairs.

Our instructor Mark, started out with an informative presentation into the history of wet specimens focusing on   Dutch Scientist Frederik Ruysch, who presented his specimens as an artform, blending science and the beauty he found in the subject.  The art style of Vanitas and Memento Mori, which focus on the fleeting nature of life was also discussed. "For as long as people have been thinking, they've been thinking about death." Mark told us.  Although in today's society this topic is not readily discussed and then unsually only in the most despairing of terms (myself included), this is cultural.  Other cultures and (I believe) in past eras, the population had a different, and some would argue, healthier and more positive outlook towards death.  I took a Native American class on death and dying and I learned that in their native tradition, someone who has passed is simply on a different wheel of existence, different from what we know, but not necessarily gone or to be mourned. 

Anyway, back to the class...We went over tools to use in preparing wet specimens, the proper way to use and store wet these tools, options on how to display a wet specimen and how to actually handle a wet specimen.  Then we dove in.

We had a choice between frogs and gophers.  I chose a frog because that is more in keeping with my interest in Halloween and Witchcraft folklore.  And before you get too squeamish, no, these creatures were not gathered in Central Park or the sewer.  They were obtained from scientific and legal sources.  

The creativity of the other students was very inspiring.  The gentleman next to me, created a Frog Prince theme and another student made a beautiful display with her frog using a pomegranite.  Gophers were displayed with everything from what they eat to eggs. 

The class went above and beyond exposing me not only to the (art) of wet specimens, which I could see getting a bit addictive, but the history and theory behind the subject as well as other related art forms to explore. 

If you're ever in the neighborhood, check out Morbid Anatomy.  You never know what you might find.

Mark with his prize winning Gopher wet specimen.

Seahorse wet specimen by Mark.

Gopher being prepared for specimen display.

Gopher wet specimen.  Check out those teeth!

Frog with pomegranite.


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