The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Richard Harris And Audrey Niffenegger Talk About Death

By Maggie Hellwig in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 5, 2012 6:00PM

On June 15, author and artist Audery Niffenegger will join art collector Richard Harris in a discussion concerning death in art and literature. Throughout history the theme of mortality has remained nuclear in all forms of art, with the modus operandi for its expression is in perpetual flux. While the topic is unabashedly somber, death has been the subject of intrigue since the beginning of civilization.

Harris should have a fascinating angle on the subject. He began collecting antique illustrated books about 40 years ago, and over time has developed the breadth of knowledge to give birth to a collection free of expert consultants. His current collection consists solely of objects related to death. He has amassed approximately 1500 objects in the process. The Morbid Curiosity collection will remain in the Chicago Cultural Center until June 8.

Niffenegger has been making a sundry of appearances as of late. She was one of the authors featured in Columbia College Chicago's Story Week this year, and was part of the Guild Literary Complex Annual Benefit recently. While we highly recommend her newest novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, she has received the most acknowledgment for her first book: The Time Traveler's Wife. Literary accomplishments aside, she is also a very talented artist. It doesn't take much more than a glance of her work, nor a brief reading of her prose to discern that mortality is a central theme in most of Niffenegger's work. Her art, like her writing, is fragile and always teetering on the edge of life: almost antagonizing death to sit on the doorstep for a slight chance that the door might be ajar.

Both the collector and the artist, moderated by Lanny Silverman--the curator for the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will talk about how death has influenced artists throughout history. From the Cabinet of Curiosities of the Renaissance to the many Day of the Dead alters and collections, the memento mori (translated "remember your mortality") genre has reoccurred throughout the ages. To this day, it fascinates the career and works of Niffenegger and Harris.

It will be a conversation worth hearing, if not out of interest, than out of your own morbid curiosity.

June 15, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 7 p.m., FREE