Swallowed and Saved: The Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection and the Art it Has Inspired

case-no_smallAn illustrated reading by artist Lisa Wood and author Mary Cappello

Date: Saturday, October 16th
Time: 7:00 PM
Admission: $5

An American half-dollar. An unspent matchstick. A beloved miniature swan stowed in a biscuit tin. A beaded crucifix. Tooth roots shaped like a tiny pair of pants. A padlock. Scads of peanut kernels and scores of safety pins. A porcelain doll prised from a throat. A metallic letter Z. A toy goat and tin steering wheel. Frozen twigs. Penny wafers. A Perfect Attendance Pin.

One of the most popular attractions in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum is the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection: a beguiling set of drawers filled with thousands of items that had been swallowed or inhaled, then extracted nonsurgically by a pioneering laryngologist using rigid instruments of his own design. How do people’s mouths, lungs, and stomachs end up filled with inedible things, and what do they become once arranged in Dr. Chevalier Jackson’s aura-laden cabinet? Animating the space between interest and terror, curiosity and dread, author Mary Cappello and artist Lisa Wood will stage an illustrated reading based on two distinct but companionate projects to have emerged from Jackson’s foreign body display: Wood’s thirty-three original assemblages (The Swallowing Plates) and Cappello’s nonfiction book, Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them (The New Press). Like Jackson’s design and deft manipulation of endoscopic instruments, like his endoscopic illustrations and his scrupulous attention to the nature of each foreign body caught, Cappello and Wood’s work excavates the relationship between corporeality, desire, and the object world. Their dossier of images and of incantatory texts promises to combine the uncanny, the beautiful, and the informative.

Note: Several of Lisa Wood’s plates will be on sale and on view, and attendees will be treated to a sneak preview of Cappello’s book which appears this January 2011, as well as details regarding the re-design and grand re-opening of the Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Exhibit in the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Does every human being have one of these Things to show for himself in his life’s hereafter?: as if to say, here is what is left of me: what’s left of me is that-which-was-once-within-me.


Mary Cappello’s books include Night Bloom; Awkward: A Detour (a booklength essay on awkwardness that was a Los Angeles Times bestseller), and Called Back (a critical cancer memoir that won a ForeWord Book of the Year Award and an Independent Publishers Prize). Some of Cappello’s recent essaying addresses Gunther von Hagens’ bodyworlds exhibits (in Salmagundi); sleep, sound and the silence of silent cinema (in Michigan Quarterly Review); the psychology of tears (in Water~stone Review); and the uncanny dimensions of parapraxis and metalepsis (in Interim). A recipient of the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize from Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and the Bectel Prize for Educating the Imagination from Teachers and Writers Collaborative, Cappello is a former Fulbright lecturer at the Gorky Literary Institute (Moscow) and a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Rhode Island where she also teaches courses in Literature and Medicine. Swallow will appear in January from the New Press. Her latest book-length project on a single theme is a foray into sound and mood, tentatively titled In the Mood. For more information: www.awkwardness.org

Lisa Wood is a San Francisco based artist specializing in Victorian arts and crafts. Incorporating Victorian sensibilities into shadowboxes that memorialize the dead, dioramas that explore the hidden world of insects, mourning jewelry that captures the essence of the human spirit, and other curiosities that were inspired by what was collected, constructed and treasured at the time. This was an era when lingering disease and sudden death were inexplicable and everyday perils; an era when the very concepts of art and nature were challenged by technological innovations such as photography and medicine.

These fascinations join her work to the list of artists known as Victorian Revivalists.

Lisa sells her work to smaller boutiques and galleries as well as private collectors around the country. Her Swallowing Plate collection as well as her insect dioramas can be viewed at Gold Bug in Pasadena, the catalog is available at the Mutter Museum Store in Philadelphia.

For more information please visit: Lisa Wood Curiosities and Gold Bug.

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