Books, Strange Beauty

Yesterday there was a small article in the guardian newspaper about an extraordinary woman named Frances Glessner Lee, born into a wealthy Chicago family in 1878, she was forced by social convention to follow the expected path for young women, marriage and motherhood. Although separated after just four years of marriage she lived with her two children under the complete control of her father. It was not until his death in 1936 that she came into her inheritance and had the freedom to do as she wished.

It is slightly unclear what her motives were or indeed how useful her work was but utterly fascinating it certainly is. She funded the project herself with the view to help police detectives solve murders through the use of these little scenes, meticulously reconstructed from crime scene details. Corinne May Botz published a wonderful book with her photographs of the miniatures, The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, what a great title. I have owned a copy of this book for a while and keep meaning to post about it. So here I have some images to share.

They are macabre and disturbing, I think largly because of the doll’s house format which we associate with chidren and childhood. It is very unsettling to see smears of blood across a tiny carpet or a little doll with it’s throat slit.

There is also the disturbing fact that most of these unsolved crimes are in domestic settings, the victims nearly all women.

Whilst looking for this book I came across another of my favourites, Paul Klee Hand Puppets. He made these for his son Felix after the boy saw Punch & Judy figures in a Munich flea market. He created fifty puppets between 1916 and 1925, of which thirty survive. I just think they are completely amazing.

I just find these characters so inspirational, and I love that their artistry, craft, materials are expressed so freely.

The combination of materials and found objects to express each character is really great.

some of them seem quite crude which I think is also wonderful and only adds to their strange beauty.

Sorry this last image is not so good, I’m rushing a bit as I have lots of work to do! but how amazing, a face made up of painted cardboard boxes.

4 thoughts on “Books, Strange Beauty

  1. extraordinary! really interesting stuff, Jess – saw the Peter Blake exhibition at the Hobourne in Bath today- you’d like it- collections and puppets.

  2. I’m glad you both like these, I’m going to try and share a couple of books every week or so. The exhibition sounds great Penny, I’ve read about Peter Blakes collection of things before, but to my shame I’ve never heard of the Hobourne Museum!

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