Joel-Peter Witkin's photograph, titled "Ars Moriendi" is, well, not the type of work I'm usually drawn to to say the least. I love the chilling feeling I get when I look at Witkin's work, he truly never fails to make my hair stand on end. The nude woman in the picture is beautiful, her fair skin and soft expression is calming. She's comfortable and inviting. She looks real, like she could be in front of you. Inevitably, I notice other parts of the photograph- what's that in the foreground? At first, my eyes don't want to believe the mottled figures below. Severed human heads' fallen jaws seem to howl at the figure above, although her response to them seems altogether welcoming.
Ars Moriendi, literally "The Art of Dying" was the title of two books from the 1400's, the books purpose was to help prepare one for death, and essentially helped one accept the inevitable. What an appropriate title for this photo. The woman in the picture is surrounded by death, and not only isn't phased, but is entirely relaxed. To take the title, "The Art of Dying," more literally, she has most definitely maintained an elegance and style about her in the company of death.
The photography of Joel-Peter Witkin is some that never fails to astound me. His images of corpses and nude figures, often with physical abnormalities, always capture my attention and keep my eyes from looking away- no matter how I try.