Third Exhibition in Frist Center Series on the Human Body in Contemporary Art Explores Themes of Loss, Memory and Spirituality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (September 10, 2015)—The third in a series of exhibitions about the human body in contemporary art organized by Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala, Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art includes provocative artworks that address themes of trauma, loss, and transformation, while considering the possibility of an animating spirit that can exist independently of the body. The exhibition includes a selection of paintings, photography, videos, sculpture and installations by a noteworthy roster of contemporary international artists and will be on view in the Upper-Level Galleries from October 30, 2015, through February 14, 2016.

“The artworks in this exhibition are meant to inspire reflection about the relationship between body, mind, and soul, while triggering feelings of empathy, remembrance and compassion,” says Mr. Scala. The exhibition title alludes to the phenomenon known as the phantom limb syndrome, when an individual perceives sensation in a lost body part. Mr. Scala notes, “While it is frequently a source of pain, the phantom limb here symbolizes the memory of wholeness and a longing for a return of what has been lost.”

Phantom Bodies is organized thematically into four sections. “Objects and Absences” includes works by Christian Boltanski, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Adam Fuss, Alicia Henry, and Shirin Neshat, who use photographs as well as found and depicted objects to create symbolic connections to the missing and the dead. These memento mori stand in for those who are absent, providing either phantom comfort or pangs of loss and remembrance.

The next section, “Violence, Empathy, and Erasure,” proposes that an artwork’s aura is intensified when it is connected to crime, war, or social injustice. Haunting sculptures, videos, and photographs by artists in this section, including Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ken Gonzales-Day, Deborah Luster, and Doris Salcedo, relate the emotional fallout from the disappearance and presumed murder of individuals and entire groups of people.

In the third section, “Sublimation,” Ross Bleckner, Anish Kapoor, Sally Mann, Teresa Margolles and Ana Mendieta explore themes of transition from human form into primal matter such as stone or ash or into the pure energy of flame or light, all serving as reminders of our ultimate return to the elements.

The exhibition concludes with “The Mind-Body Problem,” featuring artworks by Barry X Ball, Damien Hirst, Shirazeh Houshiary, Elizabeth King, Gerhard Richter, Annelies Štrba and Bill Viola that consider an enduring religious and metaphysical question: Can a spirit or life force exist outside a biological host?

Related Exhibitions
The first exhibition of this series was Paint Made Flesh (2009), which featured artists from Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, and Lucian Freud to Jenny Saville and Daniel Richter, for whom paint is a palpable corollary of psychological conditions. Paint Made Flesh traveled to The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York. It was accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Emily Braun, Susan H. Edwards, Mark Scala, and Richard Shiff, which was published by Vanderbilt University Press and is currently in its second edition.

The second exhibition, Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination (2012), connected the symbolism of fantastical beings in mythology, folklore, and science fiction to the real hybrid bodies that might soon be generated through genetic manipulation. The exhibition included works by Kiki Smith, Patricia Piccinini, Inka Essenhigh, Marcel Dzama and others. Fairy Tales, Monsters, and the Genetic Imagination traveled to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. It was accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Suzanne Anker, Mark Scala, Marina Warner, and Jack Zipes, also published by Vanderbilt University Press. This exhibition was among the Association of Art Museum Curators’ five finalists for “Best Thematic Exhibition of 2012.”

Exhibition Catalogue
This exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introduction by Chief Curator Mark Scala and includes essays by Martha Buskirk, professor of art history and criticism at Montserrat College of Art and recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship; Eleanor Heartney, contributing editor to Art in America, who has written extensively on religion in contemporary art; and Lisa Saltzman, professor and chair of history of art at Bryn Mawr.

Exhibition Tour
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art: June 17–September 11, 2016

Exhibition Credit
Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.

Sponsor Acknowledgment
The exhibition is funded in part by a grant from the Dedalus Foundation, Inc., and the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Frist Center gratefully acknowledges the Friends of Contemporary Art.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Public Programs

Friday, October 30
Curator’s Perspective “Phantoms and Auras” Presented by Mark Scala, chief curator
6:30 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free

Loss, remembrance, and the hope for a spiritual essence that transcends the body have been subjects of art throughout history. Chief Curator Mark Scala will discuss ways that artists in Phantom Bodies depict human presence-in-absence through shadows or masks, through photographs and objects associated with the missing person, or by alchemically transforming the physical body into another form of matter or energy.

Thursday, November 5
Lecture “Crime and Remembrance: Stories from Mexico’s Druglands” Presented by Sam Quinones
6:30–7:30 p.m.
Frist Center Auditorium

The human cost of the drug trade in Latin America has inspired some of the most haunting artwork in the exhibition Phantom Bodies, particularly by Mexican artist Teresa Margolles. The Frist Center and the Center for Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University present a talk by Sam Quinones, a journalist, storyteller, and author of narrative nonfiction, that will provide context to the themes of loss explored in Phantom Bodies. Join Quinones for his insights on “drug violence in Mexico, cadavers in Juárez, dope-trafficking Mennonites, the Frank Sinatra of the Mexican cartels, what the Mexican rancho has to do with the fast life,” and other compelling observations. Learn more about Quinones and this program by visiting

Thursday, January 15
Connecting Disciplines Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art Presented by Lutz Koepnick and Mark Scala
6:30 p.m.

Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required; members free

In conjunction with Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art, the Frist Center is proud to present Connecting Disciplines, in-gallery conversations that explore key exhibition themes. Phantom Bodies features contemporary artists exploring the absent or transformed body and how this often connects to emotion and to universal experiences. Join Dr. Koepnick, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of German, Cinema and Media Arts at Vanderbilt University, and Chief Curator Scala as they discuss the role of media and technology in both capturing and producing aura.

Friday, January 29, 2016
Dance Performance That You Have Choreographed by Marsha Barsky and performed by Company Rose and the Middle Tennessee State University Dance Program
7:00 p.m.

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
Seating is first come, first seated

Nashville-based Company Rose, in partnership with the Middle Tennessee State University Dance Program and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, is pleased to present That You Have, a contemporary dance performance that explores themes and images conjured up by the exhibition Phantom Bodies: The Human Aura in Art. Learn more about this special performance at

Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”

High-Resolution Images Available

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About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Information on accessibility may be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and to members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, Café, and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling 615.244.3340 or by visiting

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