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When your head is made of glass

By Jack Ashby, on 2 December 2015

This is a guest post from our artist in residence Eleanor Morgan. It is part of a series exploring the exhibition Glass Delusions at the Grant Museum of  Zoology.

The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF. (C) Eleanor Morgan

The sponge man, 2015. Print on Ilford Galerie FB digital, mounted on MDF.
(C) Eleanor Morgan

My current exhibition ‘Glass Delusions’ is about things transformed from living to non-living materials and back again. One of the ideas that particularly interested me was the history of humans believing that they were made of glass, a disorder known as the ‘glass delusion’ that I describe in a previous blog post. Those suffering from glass delusion believed that their heads were made of glass and could shatter at the slightest touch.

In the exhibition are various heads, glassy or shattered. On one wall is an antique fragment of leaded glass of a figure bending down. His hand is outstretched and he seems to stroke at the ground beneath his feet. The stained glass panel where his head should be is missing, only the lead outline remains.

Laying on (detail), 2015. Stained glass fragment, wax, MDF, light box. (C) Eleanor Morgan

Laying on (detail), 2015. Stained glass fragment, wax, MDF, light box.
(C) Eleanor Morgan

On the opposite wall is ‘The sponge man,’ a black and white photograph from the turn of the twentieth century (the image at the top of this post). It shows a figure on the deck of a ship, his head a bulbous glass sponge and at his feet sit two more.

Sponge head, NHMUK 94.10.10.1-2. Item on loan courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Sponge head, NHMUK 94.10.10.1-2. Item on loan courtesy of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London.

Positioned in front of this photograph is ‘The sponge head.’ This mysterious object was lurking in the collection of the Natural History Museum. Only nine centimetres in diameter, it is made from the threads of a glass sponge. Each glassy strand has been unwoven from the animal and bound together in a mound. Little is known about the object or who made it.

To the right of this is a series of direct prints of my own head. I inked up my ears and hair and repeatedly pressed my head to the wooden panel. Shattered hairy and heady forms float across a space.

Growing on the bodies of their ancestors, 2015. Ear and hair body prints on MDF. (C) Eleanor Morgan

Growing on the bodies of their ancestors, 2015. Ear and hair body prints on MDF. (C) Eleanor Morgan

Glass Delusions is an exhibition at the Grant Museum of  Zoology, it is the end result of a year-long residency by artist Eleanor Morgan. It is open until 19th December 2015.

Eleanor Morgan is Artist in Residence at the Grant Museum of Zoology, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

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