Samira Abbassy: Out of Body

March 16 - June 16, 2024 

Locating the Soul in the Specimen

The reliquary, associated with the medieval Christian church, is a peculiar category of artifacts that present body fragments and specimens of holy saints to inspire faith. They are displayed as a form of proof of life and proof of the Divine. Human remains, including hair, bones, and teeth, are also presented as ritual objects in sacred traditions such as Santeria, Voodoo, and Animism.

Samira Abbassy’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures examine the body as a psychological and spiritual vehicle as well as a scientific organism. The drawings and paintings were inspired by ideas of faith healing. The titles of the works—“Transfiguration,” “Shadow,” and “Borderline Personality Disorder,” for example—suggest the overlaying of different periods of history and philosophies, such as religion, Jungian psychology, and contemporary psychiatry.

Abbassy mines ideas and images from centuries-old Islamic medical manuscripts, European anatomical diagrams, and alchemical iconography. Images from the Galenic medical system were rooted in philosophy and cosmology. Rather than mere biological diagrams, Abbassy considers them to be art objects that transcend the corporeal and hint at attempts to locate the soul. In these images, the body becomes a vehicle for psychological metaphors, portraying various embodied conflicts and dilemmas.