For two months, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has been trying to summon the ghost of one of its most celebrated sons — literally.
"His Study of Life," an exhibit of Eakins' belongings at the Philadelphia artist's old studio on PAFA's first floor, invites viewers to contemplate legacy and history and the staying power of art. But those belongings also happen to be wired to machines designed to sense spirits and allow them to communicate.
The exhibit's most elaborate work, a robot that holds one of Eakins' own paintbrushes, is programmed to sketch an Eakins original should the machine sense the paranormal. Since August, its electromagnetic sensors and infrared detectors and temperature gauges have blinked in silence.