Joel-Peter Witkin

About Artist: Joel-Peter Witkin received a camera at the age of 15 after taking an introductory class in photography. After high school and jobs in New York color labs, he joined the military. Witkin studied at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, where he earned his BA and the University of New Mexico, where he earned his MFA in 1986. Witkin’s dark world view is expressed through painstakingly constructed photographs, alluding to the work of Henry Peach Robinson and Oscar Gustave Rejlander, who created the elaborately staged morality tale, The Two Ways of Life (1857). However, Witkin’s tableaux are dense with literary, art historical and religious references that pose moral challenges to the viewer. His images are inhabited by social outcasts, including dwarves, hermaphrodites, people with unusual physical capabilities or deformities, and mutilated corpses and amputated body parts from the dead, obtained from medical schools, insane asylums and morgues. The resulting photographs are simultaneously hauntingly beautiful and grotesque.

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