Recently opened at The Menil Collection, Objects of Devotion examines the power of objects and our relationship to them. Not just objects in general, of course. We're talking rare, priceless objects that currently-dead people thought were blessed by supernatural forces--things that kill people in horror movies. The intimate group, selected from the permanent collection, spans continents, cultures, and centuries. Many of the pieces on display have never been seen on exhibit until now.
Kristina Van Dyke, brave curator for collections and research at the Menil, began assembling the show a year ago. Her initial inspiration came from a 16th-century European rosary currently featured in the show.
Van Dyke extrapolated at a recent lecture:
"I was walking through [the Menil Collection's storage] one day,"
We love the casual way Van Dyke says that. Like, "I was walking through one of the most valuable collections of ... things ... in the world one day ..." It's only every art-lover in the world's fantasy. Jealous.
" ... and found this strand of beads tucked away in an ordinary film box and I assumed they were simple colored glass. Because the collection encompasses over 16,000 objects, I wrote down the identification number to return the rosary again another day. When I came back for a second look, I was surprised to find an intricate, individual portrait of a different Saint within each bead."
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See? We would've barely noticed some boring old rosary beads, but for Van Dyke, who obviously has one of the coolest jobs in the world, the notion of this precious object sparked her interest to comb further through these 16,000 potentially demon-possessed works for artifacts that embody our connection to the divine. What she found was not only representative of the humanistic approach of the collection, but also a testament to the bravery of John and Dominique de Menil as collectors (neither ever endured an exorcism). The de Menil's expansive interest included religious objects from Mali, Japan, and ancient Latin America.
"Objects of Devotion gives insight into our own search for meaning. The exhibit also speaks to our devotion to these objects, which allows them to survive and call on people over time."
"Call on people." Right. Is that a euphemism for "possess their souls?" We just hope Van Dyke has some major karmic mojo on her side.
Objects of Devotion is on view through October 31st, 2010.