Death Salon Getty Villa (2015)



Death Salon Getty Villa: From Ancient Necropolis to L.A.’s Metropolis

Sunday, April 26, 2015 10am-7pm

See the Storify on the social media reactions to the day’s events.

(Audio recording of Introductory Remarks)

David Saunders is an associate curator in the antiquities department at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curated the exhibition Dangerous Perfection: Funerary Vases from Southern Italy. He did his doctorate on the depiction of dead and dying figures on Greek vases, and continues to be interested in the iconography of the wounded and deceased.

10:15 Talk Description: In “The Five Steps of Grief: A Getty Villa Guide,” David will share some ideas on attitudes to death and mourning as depicted on objects that can be encountered at the Getty Villa. What did art and death have to do with one another in ancient Greece? And how might we respond on seeing these objects in a museum today? (Audio recording)


Sarah Troop is a museum curator and historian who writes and recreates historical and cultural recipes for her blog, Nourishing Death, which examines the relationship between food and death in rituals, culture, religion and society. She is a member of the Order of the Good Death and serves as social media editor for Death Salon.

10:45 Talk Description: “Death and the Hollywood Ending: The Legacy of Forest Lawn and the Future of Death in Los Angeles” – Forest Lawn’s influential, feel-good death experience, whose most famous location mirrors the city it serves, provides the ultimate Hollywood ending. How has Forest Lawn’s take on death influenced our relationship with death and dying and what does the future of death in Los Angeles look like? (Audio recording)

11:1o BREAK

Lisa C. Pieraccini is a specialist in the material culture of the Etruscans and early Romans.  Pieraccini received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara in art history and classical archaeology, and she lived in Rome for many years where she taught and conducted research at the Etruscan site of Cerveteri. She now teaches in the classics department at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include Etruscan pottery, funerary archaeology, craft connectivity, Etruscan and Roman wall painting and the reception of the Etruscans in the 18th and 19th centuries.

11:30 Talk Description: “Consumption, Commemoration, and Catering in Etruscan Funerary Rituals” – The Etruscans inhabited central Italy from the 9th to the 2nd centuries B.C. Their underground burial chambers furnish extensive evidence for complex funerary rituals. Particularly significant are the widespread traces of eating and drinking in the tombs. Etruscologist Lisa Pieraccini examines the close connections between funerary rituals and feasting in order to better understand the ancient practice of dining with the dead. (Audio recording)


Jonathan Gold is the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times and is known as the belly of Los Angeles. He is the only food writer to earn a Pulitzer Prize, and is the subject of the new documentary City of Gold which recently premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

12:05 Talk Description: “Death and the Jewish Deli” – The Los Angeles Jewish community may be incredibly diverse, but funerals are occasions to stuff down truly heroic amounts of deli. Without massive shiva platters, every delicatessen in town would collapse. And when I have to go, I will die as I lived: seen off with Langer’s pastrami. (Audio recording)



Lunch break, attendees can purchase lunch at Getty cafes. There will be some special Getty gallery tours and #DeathMatchGV social media game for prizes at 1, followed by:

The Mynabirds is the solo project of singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn, who has also toured as part of The Postal Service and Bright Eyes. Originally from Washington D.C. with a long stint in Omaha, Nebraska, she now calls the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles home. Her third album on Saddle Creek Records, Lovers Know, will be released summer 2015.

1:30 Performance Description: The Mynabirds will perform a selection of original songs about loss and love in an intimate solo performance of voice and piano.


Josh Androsky is a Los Angeles comedian and writer. Josh is a writer for SpongeBob SquarePants. He has performed at SF Sketchfest, Hell Yes Fest, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Crom Fest, appeared on This American Life, SyFy’s Sharkmania, and contributes to VICE.

Megan Rosenbloom is co-founder and director of Death Salon and an Order of the Good Death member. Megan is a medical librarian at the University of Southern California with a special interest in the history of medicine and rare books. She serves as the resident talking death head on The Death Pod podcast.

Megan Amram is a Harvard grad, one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Hollywood & Entertainment,” Rolling Stone’s “25 Funniest People on Twitter,” writer for the hit shows Parks and Recreation and Kroll Show, and author of the satirical book Science for Her. The comedian shares her blend of silly, surreal and sometimes dark humor with her more than 450,000 Twitter followers.

Solomon Georgio is a finalist of NBC’s Stand Up for Diversity, a regular performer at the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival (Seattle, WA) and the Bridgetown Comedy Festival (Portland, OR), and most recently had his television debut on CONAN.

2:15 Performance Description: In the first live audience recording of The Death Pod podcast, hosts comedian Josh Androsky and Death Salon director Megan Rosenbloom will be joined by special guest comedians Megan Amram & Solomon Georgio to discuss a death practice with ancient roots that has taken an unexpected turn in modern day L.A. (Audio recording coming soon)

2:45 BREAK

Marie Svoboda received her M.A. in objects conservation from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo in 1994. Her postgraduate experience was mainly with archaeological material focusing on ancient Egyptian artifacts during her 7 years at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Marie joined the antiquities conservation department at the J. Paul Getty Museum as an associate conservator in 2003 working with the ancient Greek and Roman material as well as their small but exceptional Romano-Egyptian collection. Marie is a co-author of the publication Herakleides: A Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt.

3:00 Talk Description: “Ancient Faces: Funerary Practices in Roman Egypt” – In 2003, the J Paul Getty Museum initiated a technical study of its 2,000 year old Romano-Egyptian red-shroud mummy, known as Herakleides. From the exterior, the portrait mummy is carefully wrapped in a shroud decorated with mythological imagery preparing it for the afterlife. But it was the discovery inside the wrappings that added to the mystery of its funerary ritual. Associate conservator Marie Svoboda will present the highlights of these findings and a glimpse at ancient mummy portraiture as a part of the elaborate ancient tradition of death. (Audio recording)


Eric Bruehl is an educator for the J. Paul Getty Museum/Getty Villa since 2005. He received his M.A. in archaeology from the University of California, Los Angeles and has a deep interest in the world of the Roman dead. He has taught courses at the Getty Villa on ancient comedy outside of theater, the intersection of death and humor in antiquity, and the rich imagery on Roman sarcophagi. He looks forward to a future course exploring the role of wine and spirits in ancient funerary ritual.

3:30 Talk Description: “More than a Champion: Heroes and their ‘Hidden’ Flaws on Roman Sarcophagi”- Stories of the brave and fearless ancient Greek heroes Achilles, Herakles, and Meleager were popular in ancient funerary art. Such tales identified the deceased with these mythological supermen through shared virtues and universal challenges. Roman sarcophagi provided an elegant medium on which to tell tales of glory and transcendence, yet they remind us also that heroes often have massive character flaws. Museum educator Eric Bruehl takes a closer look at how these faults, often subtly addressed on ancient sarcophagi, played a role in the relationship between the hero and the deceased. (Audio recording)


Paul Koudounaris has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles and specializes in the visual culture of death. Based in Los Angeles, he is the author and photographer of the award winning books The Empire of Death and Heavenly Bodies, the former a history of charnel houses and the latter a study of Baroque-era jeweled skeletons. His third book, Memento Mori, will be released in the USA in April 2015.

4:00 Talk Description: Dr. Paul Koudounaris presents a talk about “catacomb saints,” or skeletons discovered in the Roman Catacombs in the late sixteenth century through early eighteenth centuries. Largely anonymous, they were nevertheless held to be the remains of Early Christian martyrs, and treated as sacred. Sent to Catholic churches and religious houses in German-speaking Europe to replace holy relics that had been destroyed in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the skeletons were carefully reassembled and richly adorned in jewels and expensive costumes. Their opulent glory was central to the Counter-Reformation strategy to defend the cult of relics against Protestant attacks. More than just flamboyant devotional items, however, they also turned out to be the finest works of art ever created in human bone. (Audio recording)

4:3o BREAK

Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the Ask a Mortician web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: & Other Lessons From the Crematory, was a New York Times bestseller.

Judy Melinek, M.D. is a forensic pathologist who works for the Alameda County Coroner and as an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. She coauthored the New York Times Bestseller Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner with her husband, T.J. Mitchell. They live in San Francisco.

4:45 Talk Description: With a nod to Caitlin Doughty’s popular YouTube series Ask a Mortician, Caitlin will join forces with medical examiner Dr. Judy Melinek to take questions from the audience about their work and death in general in a special live Ask a Mortician/Medical Examiner. (Audio recording)

5:30 – 7 The day ends with a reception on the beautiful Getty Villa grounds.

getty villa

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