Self Interest

Photograph of <i>Self Interest</i>, Dove Bradshaw, New York, New York.

Self Interest, Dove Bradshaw, New York, New York. Image courtesy the artist and Larry Becker Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.

In Self Interest, an installation currently on display at CHF as part of the exhibit Elemental Matters: Artists Imagine Chemistry, Dove Bradshaw presents the 59 elements that make up the human body. Each element is contained within an individual Pyrex flask, sized proportionally to the presence of that element in a person. The piece (shown here close-up and cropped) displays the basic ingredients that, alone or joined together, coalesce to create our remarkably complicated selves. Oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, of course, take center stage, while less bountiful—but no less important—elements like potassium and calcium form a glass halo around the larger flasks.

Self Interest can be thought of as a three-dimensional companion to Bradshaw’s photographic work, also on display in Elemental Matters. These images feature the same 59 elements, the names of which are written in order of decreasing concentration on nude models. Together, the pieces create an emotional connection between the elements and the bodies they help form.

As Bradshaw explains, “The human body, paired to its elements, mimics the earth and its enveloping atmosphere. Our bodies over time drew in elements that were present on or near the surface of the earth. We are but the expression of matter and energy.” This matter and energy becomes tangible in her stark and lovely work.