Camille Eskell

From the For Keep’s Sake series


Resin, wood, drawing, and print on mylar, pressed flowers

Courtesy of the artist
In her art, Camille Eskell explores the experience of her Baghdadi-Jewish family in India. Her work also probes the Victorian obsession with Orientalism, the stereotyped idea of Asia as a collection of exotic places perceived as other or decadent. The artist often uses the fez, a traditional hat worn in many Muslim countries, as a symbol of her family’s trade when they moved to Bombay. In Red Fez: Boy, Woman, Byculla, Bombay, Eskell places her fez, decorated with family scenes, on a stand of Eastlake design, similar to much of the domestic interior decoration found in the Museum’s 1870s mansion, Glenview. In Magic Carpet Ride: Little Maharajah, Eskell also draws on motifs from Middle East, Indian, and Sephardic traditions.

In the For Keep’s Sake series, Eskell’s boxes hark back to the Victorian obsession with plaster casts of the living and the dead, while recalling the work of 20th-century Surrealist artist Joseph Cornell. (The Museum’s Cornell box, Untitled (Hôtel de L’Etoil), is on view upstairs). Here, the artist poses her casts in a series of distinctly moder n gestures of social protest. The hands, detached from bodies, are literally “boxed in,” giving these small works an air of urgent desperation.