Meditations in an Emergency

December 21, 2018 – April 28, 2019

The New-York Historical Society’s first artist-in-residence, Bettina von Zwehl, presents new works inspired by the Museum’s collection of American portrait miniatures—particularly the profile drawings by Benjamin Tappan (1773 – 1857)—and by news coverage of a teen die-in staged shortly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Von Zwehl has created 17 portraits of New York City teenagers in the historical form of the silhouetted profile, describing them as death masks sculpted from life. The conflation forms a trenchant tribute to the victims of the school shooting on Valentine’s Day, 2018, as well as a testament to endurance and the practice of protest and teen activism.

Based in London, von Zwehl is an internationally recognized fine art photographer whose work draws upon historical iconography as well as the traditions of painted portrait miniatures and cut-paper silhouettes. Her powerful and intimate photographs honor the past while expanding the boundaries of portraiture.  

This project received generous support from Laura and James Duncan, Lynne and Myron Hofer, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Special thanks to Elle Shushan. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Seymour Neuman Endowed Fund, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor. 



Media sponsor:

Creative: Tronvig Group