Laura Bell and Ian Ganassi: The Corpses


Laura Bell, a painter based in the Bronx, and Ian Ganassi, a poet in New Haven, met as artists-in-residence at the Millay Colony. In 2005 they began mailing between them the ongoing collaborative collage series “The Corpses,” starting with an unfinished poem and handwritten phrases on a piece of printer paper stained with coffee rings that Ganassi mailed to Bell. With each mailing, words, images, and objects are added and new pieces are begun; at any point, either of them can call a piece finished. At first it was assumed that Ganassi would contribute text and Bell visuals, but this division soon dissolved. (The series title is a reference to the Surrealist game of Exquisite Corpse.)


Politics, religion, history, and literature make appearances. A collage might go back and forth many times or make only one circuit; pieces are minimal or layered, develop themes or function almost as diaries (a hospital glove, a postcard). The gathering of materials has become a consuming habit, combining found objects, text, drawings, ads, photos, fabrics, and all manner of mixed media—a painterly, visceral process, the anti-Photoshop. “The Corpses turned us into scavengers,” says Ganassi. “We ended up trying to get the whole world into them.”


While the process has retained its initial sense of play, the series soon demanded a level of intention equal to the work Ganassi and Bell were publishing and exhibiting individually. Called "joyously Fluxus-like" by Robert Shuster in the Village Voice and described by writer Byron Earhart as going "beyond collaborative to a kind of conspiratorial imagination," the Corpses have evolved into more than a decade of personal and material call-and-response. At present there are more than 300 finished works, with usually a dozen or more in progress or in transit.