Wunderkammer, literally “wonder room” but what now is commonly called a cabinet of curiosities, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as a way for naturalists, scientists, the rising merchant class, and aristocrats to show off their ever expanding collections. These collections contained drawings of foreign creatures, diagrams of impossible machines, and objects of the exotic, both real and artificial. The collections spanned and often defied categorization though were typically displayed together by likeness: art, zoology, spiritualism, medical anomalies, fable, myth, and monsters all made up a typical Wunderkammer. These rooms were repositories not only of objects, but also of memories.
Artist and writer Lauren Levato Coyne is a collector of exotic and unusual specimens with a focus on the entomological and anatomical. Levato Coyne’s work comes from the intersection of wonder and memory addressing how the body itself becomes a Wunderkammer, amassing all manner of mysterious and confounding issues, dramas, revelations, and dilemmas that either touch us as a fleeting corporeal moment or take up permanent residence in the body’s collection.
Levato Coyne uses various levels of realism to create an expanding series of “Self Portraits as…” featuring these elements of the natural, spiritual, and anatomical world that reside in and collide with a female protagonist based on the artist’s own body and experiences.