Monday, August 6, 2012

The Coffin and Corpse of Edgar Allan Poe

I classify myself as a "Edgar Allan Poe aficionado", and hope that one day I can rank myself as high as "Poe Scholar." For years now, I have studied Poe-his life-his works-his death-and his influence. There has always been a weird obsession with Poe, and his image. I always pondered the thought of Poe's untimely wake and funeral followed by his mysterious death in 1849. I decided to put this thought to reality, when I created a life-sized replica of Poe in his coffin. This has been an ongoing family project that I continue to smile proudly about. The beautiful pine coffin was built by my Dad, with the help of my Grandfather. The blue-grey silk lining and neck tie was sewed tediously by my Grandmother. Poe's hands were molded and then cast in plaster from my Grandpa's hands, and then painted by me. My Dad and I wood-burned the cross and raven onto the lid, and my Dad also did the hair work on the face. The head was sculpted by me, and after about four sculpts, I was satisfied. It looked like Poe, in death. Capturing Poe's three dimensional likeness was not an easy task. There were about 7 daguerreotypes taken of Poe in his life time, ranging from the earliest 1843 "McKee" daguerreotype, up to the "Thompson" daguerreotype taken just two weeks before his death. The thing about these photos are that Poe has almost seemingly different features in each! So you can understand the trouble of capturing Poe's likeness in sculpt to begin with, never mind a dead Poe. Finally, after I was satisfied with the sculpted likeness of Poe, I killed him-dragging all his features down, hallowing out his eye sockets, and curling his lip. In 1849, mortician practices were no where close to the technique today. Poe was not embalmed, and merely placed in a coffin, then buried. I tried to replicate an 1849 Poe corpse as accurately and uniquely as possible, and with the help of my family, I achieved that goal.