The Anatomy of Angels
A Work In Progress
The Anatomy of Angels is a series of lifesize images of people with physical deformities, embroidered in white yarn on a black background and lit with UV-light. I began creating this series in 2005.
The images will eventually be displayed inside a small, dark circus tent (4 meters Ø, 4 meters high), and the UV-light causes the images to glow against an invisible background, so that they are more or less floating in darkness.
The project is inspired by the travelling side-shows of the past, when people would pay a quarter and see ten attractions in one place. If you went in, ten people would show you their strangeness, and you could marvel or shiver in horror. Or feel pity - after all, some of the disfigurements are pretty painful. But getting to know these people? Hey, they're circus folk, we don't mingle with those, right?
I feel somehow connected to these people and their stories, some happy, some tragic, and I wanted to pay homage to them, and to their unusual life paths. We don't see them so much in daily life anymore; when they're on TV it's for entertainment purposes yet again (although sometimes the show is disguised as an informative medical programme), but we hardly encounter them on the streets, much less in travelling shows, thanks to our advanced medical technology.
This project is not about the medical condition of these people, although hard to ignore. For me, it's mostly about beauty, about how it's a quality that has not so much to do with having two arms, two legs, and everything in the right proportions, as it has with our perception of what is beautiful.
With this project I question our modern day Western, rather limited standards of physical beauty. I would like to expand this perception, as for me there is also so much beauty in strangeness, in unusual things, in abnormality. There's an attractive mysteriousness about things that aren't standard.
I invite you to look, and look again.
Materials: white cotton, black cotton, black yarn, white yarn, metal frame, uv-lamps. Size tent: 4m tall, 4m diameter. The images vary in height between approximately 1.00 m. (dwarf) and 2.50m. (giant).
This video shows of a few of the "Angels" on display in Mon Capitaine,
Middelburg, The Netherlands, 2016
Although the series "The Anatomy of Angels" has not yet been completed, the images have been shown on multiple occasions.
A selection of these works were on display most recently during the Veste Verlicht festival in Goes, The Netherlands, 3,4,5 and 6 October 2019.
The video on this page was made during my show in Exhibition Space Mon Capitaine in Middelburg, The Netherlands, February 2016. A review of this show was published in the local newspaper and can be found here (only in Dutch).