In 1993, construction for a new wing of the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo led to the startling discovery of a mass grave. Nearly 100 bodies from a century ago were buried there, deceased patients unclaimed by family or friends. Philadelphia artist Andrea Modica
was intrigued by the finding, and subsequently spent a year photographing the remains for a series called Human Being
. Her efforts premiered in 2001 in New York.
Next month, the Art Gallery at University of Colorado Anschutz
Medical Campus in Aurora will display a portion of these works — on loan from the Denver Art Museum
— as part of Denver's Month of Photography.
“We hope that this exhibit will encourage a conversation about historical and aesthetic dimensions of the photograph as evidence and elegy, within the context of Modica’s ‘Human Being’ — a tragic story of the forgotten lives and the deaths of people who lived in Colorado over a century ago," says Simon Zalkind
, curator for the gallery at CU Anschutz, in the press release.
Elsewhere, Therese Jones
, director of the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program, says, “Our hope is that it will engage health professionals and the greater community in a dialogue about the ethical issues in contemporary health care, and piece together the story of what happened in our own history — right here in Colorado.”
The release continues:
The reasons for a secret burial in a mass grave remain a mystery. The individuals buried at the facility were those whose bodies had gone unclaimed and their burials unrecorded. However, the study of the skeletons reveals that most of them were men and there are traces of illnesses and damage which help reconstruct a form of personal history.
For an article
in Canadian Medical Association Journal
, Jonah Samson
writes this of Modica's Human Being
series: "This is a portrait, not a record of physical remains. Repeatedly we see that while medical examination attempts to reconstruct some aspect of physicality, Modica's examination manages to reestablish the presence of a soul."
opens Thurs., March 5 from 4-7 p.m. and runs through May 23. It's free and open to the public.
Denver Art Museum: A. E. Manley Photography Collection, 2014.264
Denver Art Museum: A. E. Manley Photography Collection, 2014.255
Denver Art Museum: A. E. Manley Photography Collection, 2014.242
Denver Art Museum: A. E. Manley Photography Collection, 2014.232
As the University of Colorado and Anschutz influences are right here on our own doorstep, it's exciting to think that in the next few years, UCCS' own visual and performing arts building, alongside the forthcoming medical school, will foster such crossover as this.