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Alton  S. Tobey

Cultural Mutilations
in The Pursuit of Beauty

Tobey's second Smithsonian Institution mural, Washington D.C.

 

 

The Mutilations Mural at the Smithsonian.

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          The extent to which mankind has pursued physical beauty throughout history, regardless of the pain, dangers and sacrifices endured through self disfigurement is seen in Tobey's mural, entitled Cultural Mutilations in Pursuit of Beauty. This mural was completed by Tobey in 1966, and installed in the Smithsonian's Hall of Physical Anthropology opposite his Trephinations mural.

 

 

 

 

 

 

           This painting, measuring seven by twelve feet, is a montage of races. Men of the Congo are shown with skin that seems magnificently embroidered because of repeated scarifications. As a result of other self-mutilations, Ubangi women are portrayed with elongated lips and men of the Amazon with mouths large enough to hold saucers. Burmese women display necks a foot long, natives of New Guinea are shownwith bound waists that resemble rows of insects, and Asians with elongated heads and Chinese women with tiny bound feet are all part of the composition.

          Modern tattooing is seen in the center of the main mural, and can be seen in the detail image lower right. Anyone interested in these details can click on any of the images above to bring up larger views. Preliminary sketches for this mural can be seen on Tobey's works on paper page. After either of these actions, use your browser's "back" button to return to this page.

          To represent Americans among the 80 human heads in the mural, Tobey painted in one corner (upper left corner of the full mural image) an illustration of the many "before" photos and "after" sketches and computer-generated images of patients that are produced in the course of modern cosmetic surgery procedures.

     "These people want to 'stand in' and 'stand out' at the same time. They want to stand in to their own groups and stand out from other groups."

---Alton Tobey

 

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The Alton Tobey Collection

Judith Tobey, David Tobey; Directors

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