“Shadows” of the deceased

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An awing silence exists inside the California Museum of Photography (CMP) as David Maisal’s photography exhibit, entitled “History’s Shadows and Library of Dust” was displayed.

The exhibit on the first floor of the CMP is “History’s Shadows.” The photographs are of X-rays of classical Western or Asian sculptures, originally made for conservational purposes.

Historically, the X-rays were used for a structural examination of the art and artifacts to reveal what may not have been visible to the naked eye.

Maisal photographs X-rays by simply putting them on top of a light box. Each photograph is taken in a straightforward full-frame view. Each image depicts a brain scan portrait that gives a ghostly look into the past, and allows the viewer to decipher their own opinion.

“While photographing the Getty Museum’s conservation departments, I became captivated by X-rays of art objects from the museum’s permanent collections,” Maisal said. “The ghostly images of these X-rays seem to surpass the power of the original objects of art. These spectral renderings seemed like transmissions from the distant past, conveying messages across time.”

The second floor of the CMP holds the “Library of Dust” exhibit. This collection depicts images of copper canisters, each containing the cremated remains of patients from the psychiatric ward at the Oregon State Hospital, formerly known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum, accumulated between 1883 and the 1970s.

After years of corrosion from a chemical reaction between the metal and the ashes, all 3,500 canisters began to display swirls of vivid blues, turquoises, reds and oranges and white fur. The blooming mineral on each canister gives each photograph its own personality.

The idea behind the photographs meditates on the living and the dead, spirit and matter. It is meant to reflect and encourage one to consider what happens to our own bodies and the soul that inhabits them. Maisal says it is his way of “giving form to the forgotten.”

The CMP will proudly display that artwork until Friday Dec. 21, Tues. through Sat. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.