On the occasion of the exhibition Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America, thinkers from a variety of disciplines will gather to share perspectives on topics related to the art and culture of death in America. The exhibition, curated by Stacy C. Hollander, deputy director for curatorial affairs, chief curator, and director of exhibitions, explores the tradition of preserving the likeness of a loved one as he or she appeared in life, particularly children whose short lives might otherwise be undocumented. Examining the legacy of iconography and symbolism of death in art, Hollander effectively traces the derivation of posthumous portraiture from shadows traced on a wall to the shadow secured by the photographer through postmortem daguerreotypes.
The morning panel will focus on the posthumous image in early America, discussing the cultural precedents for the tradition, as well as the way in which painted portraits and postmortem photographs cheated death to provide a “living” image of a loved one. The afternoon panel offers a broader perspective on the culture of death in the United States—both past and present. From the evolution of funerary customs to contemporary expressions of memory, the panel explores how Americans grieve(d). Together, the symposium asks us to consider the visual and theoretical implications of the shadow and the role of art in remembrance.
10:30 AM: Welcome
10:40-12 PM: Panel 1: The Posthumous Image in Nineteenth Century America
12-1 PM: Break for Lunch
1:00-2:30 PM: Panel 2: Death and Mourning in American Culture
2:30-3:00 PM: Reception
Speakers include Gary M. Laderman, Stacy C. Hollander, Dr. Stanley B. Burns, Jessica Regan, Kate Sweeney, and Joyce Burstein. Moderated by Joanna Ebenstein. For full bios, please visit our website.
A detailed schedule and speaker abstracts will be announced closer to the date.
Image credit: The Farwell Children, Deacon Robert Peckham (1785-1877), Fitchburg, Massachusetts, c. 1841. Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 40 1/2"; 62 1/2 x 48" (framed). Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Raph Esmerian, 2005.8.11. Photo © 2000 John Bigelow Taylor.
For questions please call Rachel Heidenry, Coordinator of Public Programs, at 212.595.9533 Ext. 382. The ticket price includes light breakfast and lunch.