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“Anatomy of the Muse” solo exhibition by Michael Mapes

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
18 June, 2015
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Closing / End Date:
9 July, 2015
Event Category:

This summer, Opera Gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition of contemporary American artist Michael Mapes, featuring his newest collection of works Anatomy of the Muse. This will be the artist’s debut in Asia.

Nothing is quite as it seems in Mapes’ work. Intricately detailed representations of familiar faces are arranged into a portrait using countless fragments: photographs of family members, fabric samples, rope, coffee, tobacco, gunpowder, hair – painstakingly researched, collected and placed in entomological boxes, breathing life into historical figures that have been long forgotten.

In what resembles a laboratory archive, Mapes collects, dissects and assembles distinctive qualities of his ‘specimens’, subverting the very practice he elicits. Rather than distancing the viewer from his subjects like the entomological findings of a scientist, Mapes’s “biographical DNA” reveals a depth of character and personal history that challenges the tradition of portraiture and urges us to examine the individual as more than the sum of its parts.

From his newest series Anatomy of the Muse, Mapes explores the portrayal of women through art history. Reclining nudes and pin-up girls conjure a vision of voluptuous femininity constructed and marketed to the masses, a concept that originated with the voyeur of the 16th century and developed into modern arguments of the male gaze. Greek mythology saw muses as the goddesses of inspiration, and evolved later in Western art history to portray the feminine equivalent of the predominantly male artist. In a surprising reversal of gender roles, the muse exists to penetrate the man’s soul in order for him to give birth to a creation, an act that elevates her to the status of the mythological idol and yet consigns her to a theory, an impression. A portrait. Mapes’ forensic collections of these women serve as a documentation of their human existence, tracing the personal stories behind their typically impersonal and ideological roles in history.



Michael Mapes is a Kentucky-born artist based in New York. His highly meticulous work includes collecting hundreds of photographs and diligently gathered “biological DNA” – anything from genealogical information, personal statistics, cosmetic samples, fingernail clippings, handwriting samples and hair strands – which he then layers and compiles to construct his works. Signifying entomological, biological and forensic science, Mapes’s method includes deconstructing his original subjects both literally and figuratively. He then re-organizes his ‘DNA’ in tiny shapes and glass vials, tediously layering and composing until it forms a whole. Mapes’s work challenges the way in which scientific information is assimilated into culture, conveying the inherent tension between methodological objectivity and psychological subjectivity.

Mapes graduated in 1992 with a BFA and MFA from the University of Illinois. He spent the next fifteen years producing and developing creative products for his own product development company before returning to art full time in 2005. Today he lives and works in New York. Since returning to art Mapes has held numerous solo exhibitions throughout the United States, London and the Netherlands, with his most recently solo exhibition at the Yellowstone Art Museum in the United States.


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