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  • Dutch specimen no. MT1639, 2013, Photo courtesy of Michael Mapes

  • Dutch female specimen J, 2013, Photo courtesy of Michael Mapes

  • Dutch female specimen J, 2013, Photo courtesy of Michael Mapes


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The sculptural collages of Michael Mapes

Michael Mapes is a New York based artist that uses an impressive variety of materials, including photographic prints, glass vials, insect pins, gelatin capsules, plastic specimen bags and pinning foam, for his three dimensional, sculptural collages. Mapes draws inspiration from entomology, biology and forensic science in order to explore and portray the complexity of the human condition. His reconstructed interpretations, apart from his trademark dissected photographs, also include genetic information about his subjects, the so called biographical DNA, in the form of hair, fingernails, scent, eyelashes, fingerprints, makeup, handwriting and even breath. The artist begins his portraits by downloading numerous copyright-free images from various museum websites that he later reworks with the spirit of a painter. Each final piece is made out of hundreds of collected specimens that merge to form a unique whole.

Mapes normally uses his friends as models, but for his latest project, called Dutch Masters, he decided to use famous 17th century portraits, including Bartholomeus van der Helst’s painting of Geertruida den Dubbelde (1668) or Rembrandt’s portrait of Maria Trip (1639) “In this work, I deconstruct the original subject, in both a figurative and literal sense by dissecting photos of a painting and considering ways in which the parts might serve to inspire new parts within the reconstruction to suggest unique and complex meanings” he explains. The result is a breath-taking installation that establishes a new dialogue with the original pieces, full of hidden details that are waiting to be revealed to the eyes of the careful observer. “My hope is that it encourages different ways of processing and interpreting what and how we look at things—art, science or anything.” Mapes revealed recently to Wired. Three of his amazing works will be included in the upcoming March 2014 “Face to Face” show at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, Montana.