Sunday, January 12, 2014

More Human Skulls

One of the main foci of the LYRIC CRANIUM is its natural history and biological specimens. Since childhood, I've been fascinated by skulls and bones, animals and remains, so it is only natural that these items form the core of the exhibits on display. A human cranium and mandible, various animal skulls, antlers, and a cat mummy were the impetus for a much larger collection, one that is still growing.

In April, the skeleton vitrine began to fill with more skulls....

In April 2013, the vitrine contents grew.

By December 2013, two more human skulls were added thereby bringing the total to five individual skulls plus an articulated leg with foot.

More animals skulls can be seen in the background vitrine, too.

My favourite new skull is a geriatric skull with a set of dentures from a collection in England. I also received some real glass eye prostheses as well.

Another arrived shortly after, this time from a medical collection in the USA.

Along with these, I continue to find amazing animal skulls such as this peculiar little item, looking like a young dragon, but actually a Reeve's muntjac. Read more about them here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Installation Begins

Let the hanging begin. I scoured the second-hand shops last summer for odd items and ornate old frames for some images from my post mortem portrait collection. The first to be hung were the framed hair wreaths. They looked great against the casket wallpaper.

Victorian Hair Wreath (bottom) Curled paper Memorial Wreath (top)

I built a shadow box frame for my fully articulated spitting cobra skeleton....

Javan Spitting Cobra

....and I built a display box for my little calf foetus, a vitrine for the piglet, and glass domes for the Pope mouse and the Hamlet mouse I found at Paxton Gate in San Fransisco.

Some skulls were still strewn on the floor for now. Soon, I will build either stands or brackets for most of them. 
The smaller skulls will go in a glass fronted cabinet.

Sheep (left), and two deer (mule and white-tailed)

Arctic muskox and gargoyle souvenirs from St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.

 Meanwhile, in the tall see-through cabinet built into the wall, some artifacts were forming nice little still lifes already.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Walls and Shelves

Before the museum installation can begin, the first requirement was to finish the walls. Then I needed shelves and cabinets to display and protect fragile items. I liked the look of 19th C. oak cabinetry normally found in old museums so I used stained oak for all woodworking. With my carpentry background, I was able to make vitrines and a bookcase that will hopefully pass muster. These photos from 26 March 2013 show how it looked with mainly bare walls at that time.

Wallpaper almost done with see-through cabinet finished.

Bookcase almost finished. Collection starting to appear.

Skeleton vitrine completed and occupied.
I was impatient to see objects installed. Before I finished construction, there was a lot of dusting required. That was another good reason for glass vitrines whenever possible. It is amazing to see long-hidden items come out into the light again. I missed them. For example, the ostrich and emu eggs were in storage for over two decades. Recently acquired items like the memory jug on the next-to-top shelf were later relocated into new cabinetry. And the skeleton I bought a couple of years ago is finally out of its box and upright in his (?) personal vitrine.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Constucting the Space

This is the start of a new blog about THE LYRIC CRANIUM. This is my Wunderkammer, my museum of oddities, my collection of all things morbid and dark. As a visual artist, I plan to use this space as a reference for other artwork; works on paper, film, video and more; and to provide a unique first-hand experience to visitors and invited guests.

The construction of the space began 12 December 2012 just before the start of a four-month sabbatical leave. At first, I needed to build walls to divide the existing space which was originally the waiting room in a medical clinic called THE MURRAY CLINIC. I plan to re-use the aluminum letters from its sign, so the palindrome THE LYRIC CRANIUM was painstakingly worked out.

New wall and wallpaper go up.
After framing and putting up sheet rock (drywall), I pasted up sheets of custom printed wallpaper using a pattern I designed and had printed at Colombia College of the Arts in Chicago by amazing artist and pressman, Clifton Meador. It was slow going but the result is great. It is subtle enough to not be too obvious until one accidentally discovers what the walls are covered with. I assume that the more picture frames I hang on the walls, the more subtle it will be. One pattern seen being installed above was created by layering scans of a 19th C. manuscript Last Will and Testament written on vellum. (see samples below)

Manuscript scanned from a Victorian Last Will and Testament on vellum.
Same pattern as above with added over-script in brown.
Antique Caskets from the early 20th C. photographs.
This last wallpaper sample was made from actual salesman photographs of the caskets in stock at The American Casket Company; photographs that were used to produce their ca. 1920 catalog.

By 08 February 2013, I was already placing pieces from my collection in situ, all the while continuing the construction of auxiliary spaces and display furnishings. More to come in future blog entries.