Grave Concerns: Statement

Stemming from research into 19th century attitudes towards the afterlife, each graphite drawing in the Grave Concerns series brings together a symbolic funerary ornament from Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, and a terse bit of text from the Magic Eight-Ball. The drawings are a mash-up of high and low cultural sources: both ends of the spectrum that addresses perennial concerns about the nature of fate, supernatural force, and the survival of consciousness.

The funerary decorations observed throughout Laurel Hill derive from a long literary and art-historical lineage, a deeply symbolic language denoting such profundities as faith, grief, redemption, loss and immortality. The Magic Eight-Ball is a child's toy invented in the 1940's but still popular into the present. When an anxious question is posed to it and the ball is shaken, a pithy response floats out of darkness to the surface. Much as the Ouija board descended from the talking boards of Victorian seances into a spooky parlor game, so the Magic Eight-Ball is a laughably watered down version of divination.

Working across many media, Pruden is primarily concerned with cultural responses to the unknown, geographical imaginings, and the spectre of loss. He makes use of obscure histories as a kind of cultural subconscious, probing the ways that they inform our contemporary world. Having previously delved into such 19th century phenomena as polar exploration, mountaineering, and Spiritualism, he now brings his focus to bear on material that is both very near at hand and forever mysterious.