National Museum of Civil War Medicine welcomes first ‘artist in residence’

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About 10 new sculptures have been added to exhibits within the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

Each hand-crafted by Mike Benevenia.

“A lot of my work looks like it’s broken and it’s intentionally supposed to look like that because it’s recording a trauma within itself and trying to repair that,” explained artist, Mike Benevenia.

Benevenia has become the museum’s first “Artist in Residence” and will complete a three-year program at the museum and two other locations.

Benevenia says the exhibit’s depiction of wounded soldiers and surgical methods have greatly influenced his sculpture pieces, many of which depict prosthetics.

“Amputation is this quintessential image of the Civil War in pop culture and mass culture, and how the prosthetic is this device to help alleviate that mobility issue, but it’s never perfect,” Benevenia said.

The theme of conflict and injury is personal to Benevenia. His grandfather served in the Korean War, and Benevenia tore a ligament in his leg in that required a cast for several months.

“Thinking about people that have no leg and then how they had to then go on and continue in their life…I felt in a way, I could empathize with that to a degree,” explained Benevenia.

Benevenia admits the challenge of including artwork in the museum that some visitors may not be able to either recognize or understand.

“I hope that people look at these things and are willing to start to expand what the interpretation of the past can be,” said Benevenia.

But staff at the museum already say the sculptures have added to the exhibit’s message.

“Having the pieces in the building, it’s very powerful and it just proves what everyone had to go through during the Civil War,” explained deputy director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Joanna Jennings.

Benevenia’s artwork will be on display at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine until January 12, 2019.

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