TABLEAUX VIVANTS ARE GIVING US LIFE DURING THE PANDEMIC

In Ben Shahn’s grisly painting The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti (1931–32), a trio of stone-faced Massachusetts bureaucrats stands over the corpses of two Italian-American anarchists recently executed on dubious murder charges. For a friend of mine, the deathly history painting suggested the opportunity for some lively quarantine family fun. She restaged the composition as a tableau vivant. In an image of the result she posted online, she and her young daughter (joined by their cat in the tell-tale red collar of Shahn’s central figure) don mustaches and dark clothes while presiding over stuffed animals–cum–martyred radicals in storage boxes repurposed as coffins.

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