I love the work of Stephen Shanabrook a conceptual artist living and working in New York and Moscow. I have also been talking to him over the past few years about various projects and you couldn’t ask to Skype with a nicer man. His work provokes such a strong reaction, even disgust, in me and shows what art can do at it’s most powerful; I adore it even though it scares and repulses me.
The pieces of his work which unsettle me in particular are his chocolate sculptures which have been cast from the fatal wounds of people lying dead in morgues presented as wedding favours (below), and in one case the life sized cast of the remnants of an 18 year old suicide bomber cast in chocolate (above & video).
It’s hard to think of someone more perfect to work with on Eat Your Heart Out: The Morgue Years than Stephen but what I need to ask myself is if people would buy chocolate bars with such a gruesome & sad story to tell? Eating these chocolates would provide an enjoyable taste sensation and disgust you at the same time – creating a unique experience which has the ability to drastically change our perceptions of what we’re about to eat. So in short the very essence of what Eat Your Heart Out, and indeed our Edible Autopsy is all about. Is there anything so disturbing it becomes unpalatable despite being delicious? Well this October we are set to find this out.
Son of an obstetrician and the town coroner, as a child Shanabrook worked at a chocolate factory in a small town in Ohio. Overlapping these oppositional influences the artist created a unique vision of beauty, one on the threshold of death, pain and disaster. Shanabrook gives a new and often disturbing meaning to substances and forms otherwise associated with comfort, happiness and banality. By molding chocolates on the wounds on the corpses, Shanabrook tries to supplement the horrific image of the wounds with the seductive smell of the chocolates. And from the responses he gets from the public, it seems that the more people observe the pralinés, the more they forget about the fact that they are molded on the corpses, and give in to the enjoyment of the smell.
He also sells some of his pieces as chocolate which can be eaten or saved as a work of art – much like our concept for Cake Britain. Street Anatomy recently offered this chocolate heart for sale via their shop priced at $119 – it belonged to the teen victim of a police suicide and you can clearly see where the bullet both entered and left their heart. It is cast from a specimen which been kept by a pathologist since 1960 and I don’t think there is a darker chocolate design to be found.