two desperate-looking young women wearing embroidered summer dresses accompanying a severely-emaciated figure in foreground; adults and children, including a group of musicians at left, emerging from behind a wall of flowers and vertical metal bars; smiling balding man from seen from back with head turned toward PL and upraised arms at right; some lines impressed in paper, giving an embossed effect

Copyright © Rowan Pope

A Hunger Artist, 2013

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This disturbing image is inspired by Franz Kafka’s dark story A Hunger Artist, which follows a performer, a kind of circus freak show, whose act, or art, is starving himself. He travels from town to town, fasting in a cage for 40 days. There is a routine to his performances. Townspeople watch him closely as the fast progresses to starvation. At the end, a crowd gathers to see him emerge from his cage on the brink of death. An impresario directs his ceremonious unveiling, along with the orchestra, the crowd, and the presentation of his first meal. The surreal story is brought vividly to life in Rowan Pope’s almost photographic rendering. It is easy to forget you are looking at a pencil drawing, or an imagined world. The artist uses the narrative to examine a range of human emotion and presents a chilling view of humanity. The sneers, the elation, the voyeurism, the schadenfreude, as well as the fear and suffering place the viewer on edge.

Details
Title
A Hunger Artist
Artist Life
American, born 1980
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2017.18
Provenance
The artist, St. Paul; sold to Mia
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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two desperate-looking young women wearing embroidered summer dresses accompanying a severely-emaciated figure in foreground; adults and children, including a group of musicians at left, emerging from behind a wall of flowers and vertical metal bars; smiling balding man from seen from back with head turned toward PL and upraised arms at right; some lines impressed in paper, giving an embossed effect

Copyright © Rowan Pope