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  • Writer's pictureJudith Barry Studio

About Face

Updated: Apr 1

About Face, 1993

Parrish Art Museum, 1993


A Somewhat Suggestive Guide and Recent Reminiscences of my Return After a Long Absence to the Art Museum of Southampton, by Thomas Eammes Heartcrest is a Miniature book displayed on 5 viewing stands with a magnifying glass. Produced on the occasion of the exhibition “A Museum Looks at Itself”, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY 1993. Subsequently it was included in the 1993 exhibition, “Seven Room/Seven Shows”, at PS1 MoMA in the miniature 4 Walls model, designed by Mike Ballou.



Miniature books, part of the wardrobe of well-to-do Victorians, were often physiognomy or phrenology manuals. They allowed for an on-the-spot assessment of character by charting facial features, a precursor to today’ s self-help books. Physiognomy and phrenology, both pseudo-sciences, were two ways to come to terms with a rapidly transforming culture. While their biases inscribed race, ethnic and class prejudices across all representational systems –genre painting, the novel, anthropology and ethnography– they did aid in the development of legitimate sciences. This book, written humorously in the voice of a 19thc gentleman, discusses the collection of the Parrish Art Museum.


Miniature book

7 cm x 8 cm 

49 pages

Parrish Art Museum,

Southampton, New York

1993





AUTHOR'S NOTE


The miniature book was often a part of the wardrobe of the well-to-do Victorian, tucking neatly into a breast pocket or handbag. Many were actually physiognomy or phrenology manuals that allowed the user to make on-the-spot assessments of an acquaintance's character by charting facial features - perhaps a precursor to today's 'self-help' books. Physiognomy and phrenology were two of the primary ways in which the 18th and 19th centuries came to terms with a rapidly transforming culture.


By examining the shape of the skull and its indentations or by analyzing facial features, it was thought that a person's inner nature and motivations would be revealed. Physiognomy and phrenology were pseudo-sciences, and while many of their formulations proved to be an aid in the development of legitimate sciences, their biases also served to inscribe race and class prejudices across all representational systems - several obvious examples include genre painting,. the novel, anthropology and ethnography. By invoking the form of a miniature book, and adopting the voice of a 19th-century upper-class gentleman, it is my hope that you will be able to enter into the late Victorian period that forms a part of the exhibition, A MUSEUM LOOKS AT ITSELF. This book, including the comments on contemporary portraits, is a compilation of quotations drawn from 18th and 19th century sources.


–Judith Barry

1992




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