Just Your Average Mental Breakdown: Awakening Slave

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Just Your Average Mental Breakdown
Artists Losing It
Curated by Drew Bierwirth

Michelangelo, Awakening Slave, 1525-30

It's so unfinished. He can't escape the medium he's been brought out of, even his posture seems tense; like he's stretching to break free from the stone. But Michelangelo didn't get to free him and his five counterparts for Pope Julius's tomb, leaving him entombed in his own medium.

Honestly, the piece conveys an incredible amount of emotion and meaning just as much unfinished as I think it possibly could finished - perhaps even more. The strenuous creation of Julius's tomb, continually being downgraded, further matches the unfinished creations meant for it, its planned grandeur never quite achieved.

Michelangelo's talent for what he did has been analyzed by many, given far too many diagnoses - some ludicrous and others justifiable, ranging from depression to high-functioning mental disorders of all sorts - but this talent created some of the most living sculptures existing.

He seems alive, like he's actually rising from the stone. But that's the thing about Michelangelo that's so fantastic. The figures in this series don't need to be out of the stone. They, by remaining inside it, tell their own story and express their own feeling - something that would completely change if they were removed from themselves.

It's like taking them out of their skin.

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