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“The Old Maid and the Dead Man,” 1996/ 2017, graphite on paper and text from Violette Leduc, La vieille fille et le mort, Gallimard (1958)

Judie Bamber
The Old Maid and the Dead Man

MARCH 16 - APRIL 23, 2017
Opening Reception: March 16, 6-9pm

Bamber’s drawing of an unknown dead man’s foot was actually made while the cadaver was lying on a morgue table. Among many other things, here Bamber  humorously destroys the categorical division between Life Drawing (usually the living nude) and Still Life or Nature Morte (traditionally objects, plants, and/or dead animals arranged on a table). Moreover, Bamber pegs the drawing and her experience of the act of drawing, to a 1965 short story by Violette Leduc in which Clarisse, the heroine, lovingly attends to the body of an unknown dead man in her café.


 The drawing is remarkable for its perspective of seeing a foot from underneath. Though “realistic,” it fades to nothing as it goes toward the heel and ankle, hinting at loss and grief, mixed with desire. Bamber experienced this work as intensely personal, relating to her own loss of her father at a young age. Marcel Proust (and Sigmund Freud) have taught us that the truly personal can only be expressed in a roundabout way: Here the truth of grief is indirectly conveyed through a work of fiction; a detailed drawing of the foot of an unknown cadaver is a way for the artist to negotiate the accumulation of loss that is the very prerequisite for desire. Mediation and im-mediacy lose their oppositional force and become tools for knowledge.

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