Portraits of the

Human Artifact

Portraits of the Human Artifact explores the transformation of energy as it leaves the human body after death and the physical embodiment of memory. Through photography, I seek to preserve the humanity and the memory of the individual as a precious artifact that is left behind. The pre-photographic practice of creating death masks as mementos provided a foundation for this body of work. While death masks where created by taking a mold directly from the face of the deceased, I have used the castings as representations of the living person’s memory. These castings are revealed to the viewer as entropy strips away the sediment concealing their identity. Symbolism throughout the exhibition references spiritual, religious, and mythological accounts of the transference of energy at the time of death, as well as the passage of the spirit between our world and the afterlife.

The soft glow of a slow burn

Energy abandons the flesh

The specter rises saturated with life

Hanging in the air like wet laundry on a clothesline

Unable to dry on a humid night

Floating, searching, dissipating 

Bereaved of humanity 

A host discarded

Individual’s artifact

A bleached vessel returning home through entropy

With identity fading below the surface

Fossilized in the minds of the ones who remember

The end of the beginning

 © Brian Cole

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