Day Away

March 6, 2010

Fleming Museum features Warhol, Egyptian mummy, 'Barn Ball'

Warhol, Egyptian mummy, 'Barn Ball' among showings


There's another unusual collection now on exhibit.

"Views and Re-Views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons" shows graphic art "in the service of political belief and subject to state regulation." Early drawings, from the time of the Russian Revolution, emulate folk art. Later ones featuring larger-than-life Stalin images are anything but.

No Manichaean from the early days of Christianity could have better separated friend and enemy, hero and villain or good and evil than these works do. In depictions of capitalism, Nazism and eventually Americanism, the artists make quite clear what one is to believe. I liked some bold graphics depicting everyday work, like that of women at textile looms in "International Working Women's Day" from 1930, and soldiers in "1905: The Road to October." "Comrade! We want you" offers a Soviet equivalent of the Uncle Sam images commonplace in America.


I guess no matter how often we go to the Fleming, the mummy will always end up being a favorite attraction. Other cultures besides those of ancient Egypt preserved bodies, but Egyptian mummification was unique for its painstaking process. The 70-day preparation aimed to provide sustenance for the spirit in afterlife.

The sixth-century B.C. body under all that wrapping would have had its internal organs removed (and preserved in specific vessels), then be packed in natron (a salt substance) for a period of weeks. Then the corpse would have been anointed with fragrant oils and resins, and packed with resin-impregnated cloth. Then hundreds of yards of linen strips provided the final wrapping.

Other less-ancient African artifacts include elaborately carved wood headrests for use in tombs and vibrantly colored silk and cotton Kente cloth from Ghana. There's a detailed scene of a king and his retinue crafted in brass. Analogous to some Native American craftwork, this was fashioned as a tourist souvenir in Dahomey after French colonization in the late 19th century.

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