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James G. Mundie

Page 1 | Biography

My on-going series of drawings called Prodigies features portraits of 'anomalous humans' - sometimes called ‘monstrosities’ or ‘freaks’ - in contexts borrowed from artworks of centuries past. In the spirit of the circus or carnival sideshow, where even a three-legged man would be re-invented to appear more interesting, I have created new 'histories' for my subjects in which fact and fancy are liberally mingled. The resulting images confront the viewer with something that at once seems familiar, humorous and startling.

The freakshow, with its quasi-religious overtones, has a theatrical heritage of stylized performance and presentation that dates back many centuries. Very often, a great deal of fraud was involved, but this seemed only to delight patrons all the more. Art history, like sideshow, has its own formal conventions and traditions; so it seems to me this blending of the aesthetic and the macabre is a natural pairing of 'high' and 'low' culture - especially since both appeal to one's voyeuristic inclinations. It is my hope that these images compel the viewer to linger and consider their own inhibitions and conceptions in relation to a subject which many consider taboo. These images grew out of several interests: an affinity for portraiture, a passion for art history, and a natural curiosity for pathology. The first pieces in the series came about through playing in my sketchbook with some curious and obscure Renaissance compositions which seemed to provide fertile ground for revision. Soon I found that favorite paintings - whether through narrative motif, setting or gesture - suggested parallels to certain sideshow performers' stage identities or conditions. One drawing led to another, and the series continues to evolve.

Drawings from Prodigies have been exhibited at Creative Artists Network, Redux Contemporary Art Center, Philadelphia Foundation, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, MF Gallery (New York) and The Free Library of Philadelphia, among others. They have also been featured as part of the Delaware Art Museum's invitational Biennial 2000: Art at the New Millennium, and were the subject of two solo shows: a Challenge Exhibition at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, and the third exhibition in the Emerging Artist Series at the Woodmere Art Museum - for which the artist was graciously allowed to borrow supplementary ephemera from the collections of the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed! On & Off the Midway. Mundie has received numerous awards for his work, including a Creative Artists Network service grant, the Simone C. Titone Memorial Award, the Joseph Domjon Memorial Award, and others. Mundie's work appears in the collections of The Book Arts Press, The New York Public Library, The Print Club of Albany, Spencer Museum of Art, The Kyoto International Woodprint Association, and others, including numerous private collections.

James G. Mundie
1420 South 12th Street
PA 19147-4936
Philadelphia, PA
North America


Web Links
Prodigies: Drawings of Anomalous Humans by James G. Mundie - Artwork by James G. Mundie and Kate Kern Mundie
The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
University of Pennsylvania
"Freak Love" by Samuel Hughes
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