Much of my art investigates the fragmentary and elusive nature of individual identity. The “Perfect Specimens” series, from which the images in this exhibition are selected, considers a far more fundamental identity – the source from which every individual develops – the identity of our species. As we make the universal journey from embryo to cadaver, each of us contributes to the incredible diversity and complexity of humanity. The project intends to stimulate dialogue about every aspect of this odyssey.
“Perfect Specimens” examines what we share with, and how we differ from, other species. It is a “species portrait” exploring the identity of Homo Sapiens and what it means to be human. The series includes images of: fetal specimens, which highlight the process of “becoming human”; healthy newborn infants who have just arrived at this state; people approaching death which highlight the process of “unbecoming human”; and post-mortem specimens considering the anatomical structures that make us unique.
But the physical hallmarks of our species are not all that make us human. The ways we develop an individual identity and form relationships – the interval between healthy newborns and people approaching death – are also unique. The “Perfect Specimens” series is a (necessarily selective) visual representation of the whimsical, inescapable algebra that makes us human. Like our species, it continues to evolve.
Mark Kessell received his MD from the University of Western Australia in Perth in 1980 before moving to NYC and earning his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1997. He has shown his work internationally at venues including Ricco/Maresca Gallery in NYC, the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto, the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco, Boston University Art Gallery, Camerawork in San Francisco, and the International Center for Photography in NYC. His work is included in collections of the Los Angeles County Museum, the George Eastman House, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Hallmark Collection, the University of Texas at Austin, and private collections worldwide. Additionally Kessell’s imagery has appeared in 21st: The Journal of Contemporary Photography, Art and Auction, Black and White Magazine, Fortune, Delve, and Australian Art Collector.