The IMSS Artist Residency Program provides artists with extended and in-depth access to artifacts from its collection, working space within the Museum, and support to present exhibitions that introduce additional perspectives to the institutional depiction of medical history. As artistic practice occupies an increasingly pluralistic field, The International Museum of Surgical Science believes that artists are uniquely equipped to extrapolate on Museum collections in innovative ways. Artists-in-Residence present a capstone exhibition at the end of their residency.

Past Artists-in-Residence:

Tanya Gill (Spring 2023 Artist-in-Residence) is a multimedia artist and educator whose work explores collapsing environments, adaptation, and restoration through object making, painting, drawing, video and fiber. Material investigation is central to her practice; she is invested in material properties, limitations and context. Gill constructively plays with material limits and combinations, drawing out new meanings. Her work shifts between the political, social and personal realms, endeavoring to visually articulate and reverberate feelings that we all share.

Gill has been a Fulbright-Nehru scholar, as well as in residence at McDowell, Haystack Mountain School of Craft and The Ragdale Foundation. She received a BFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and earned a MFA in painting at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Gill calls Northern California, Northern India, and Chicago home. Currently she is nestled in Chicago, IL where she is a Community Artist in Residence at Hyde Park Art Center.

Learn more about the artist at

Nelly Agassi (Fall 2022 Artist-in-Residence) is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with performance, installation, video, textile and works on paper.  Her work deals with materials, body and space.  She is particularly interested in public spaces in relation to architecture. Agassi often works site-specifically, combining a performance that is held as a one-time event, and an installation that remains in the space for the entire duration of the show. Her works are both small-scaled and monumental. Hence, one may say that the elements of emphasis, radicalization, and deviation are an integral part of the conceptual tactics underlying her work. Agassi’s works thus demand a unique, different attention, whether due to the intimate, excessive proximity required in order to read them, or due to the fact that they dominate different parts of the public sphere of the exhibition spaces, transforming them into quasi-private intermediate realms and undermining conditioned perceptions of the relations that may form between the various elements present in situ. 

James R. Wilke (Spring 2022 Artist-in-Residence) is a multidisciplinary Chicago artist-author, playwright, songwriter, director, producer, singer, and assemblage artist, whose creative work has appeared in print nationally, on stage, on film and tv screens, in museums, and beyond Chicago to New York, Los Angeles, and as far away as Scandinavia and Japan. While having spent the past decade primarily as a Certified Public Accountant, James is thankful to the IMSS for helping fulfill his dream of returning to the arts, in which he had worked full-time for over 15 years prior to the Great Recession. A saying that permeates James’ life and art since Covid-19 changed our world is “memento mori – remember that you will die.” Of ancient Latin origin, it is meant not so much to make one think about death but to remind one to live life with meaning, with intention, to seize opportunities, and to do the things that really matter to oneself. In that spirit, James returns joyfully to his greatest passion, storytelling, and to share the message of embracing one’s life with others.

Anastasia Sitnikova (Fall 2021 Artist-in-Residence) (b. 1979, Russia) is a Chicago artist and art educator. Her art is driven by the curiosity about human nature and social relations as a representation of inner self and outer world, subconscious and conscious, correspondingly. Sitnikova creates large-scale installations to illustrate, activate and explore these ideas. Like many of us, she tries to understand other people through her own experience and find common ground that can make our coexistence more meaningful and enjoyable. Sitnikova holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a master’s degree in Management from the State University of Management, Moscow, Russia. Her work has been exhibited at educational institutions, non-profit and commercial galleries in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

Learn more about the artist at and follow her on Instagram at @stacy_sitnikova.

Kathleen Gallo’s (Spring 2021 Artist-in-Residence) work finds its home at the intersection of science and art. She creates post-mortem facial reconstructions, or the artistic approximation of the facial characteristics of an unidentified deceased person based upon the person’s unique skull structure. She created 2D post-mortem facial reconstructions from the Museum’s unique collection of trephined skulls from ancient Peru.

Image credit: Kathleen Gallo

Read more about Kathleen Gallo’s current work here.

Kioto Aoki (Fall 2020 Artist-in-Residence) is a visual artist and educator using the material specificity of the analogue image and image-making process to explore modes of perception as a politics of vision. Her photographic work oscillates between the still and the moving image, attentive to the apparatus of the human eye and the camera; while installation and artist book works engage mechanisms of structural tangibility and site-specificity. Forming a rhetoric of nuanced quietude, her practice considers the intimacies of vision through the experience of sight from inception through presentation. 

Image credit: Kioto Aoki

Read more about Kioto Aoki’s current work here.

Read more about Kioto Aoki’s show at IMSS: Breathe, Fibres of Papers Past here

Selva Aparicio (Spring 2020 Artist-in-Residence) is an interdisciplinary artist working across installation, sculpture and performance, creating artwork that functions as a research practice of memory, death, intimacy and mourning. Aparicio was born and raised in the woods of Barcelona, Spain; she received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MFA from Yale University in Sculpture. Her work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions; she was recently named the recipient of the JUNCTURE Fellowship in Art and International Human Rights and the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize.

Read more about Selva Aparicio’s current work here.

Namir Fearce (Winter 2019 Artist-in-Residence) is an interdisciplinary artist residing in Chicago, by way of North Minneapolis. His practices include experimental film, sculpture, painting, audio, and performance. Fluidity is central to his practice, drawing on a constellation of references and sites of Black American queer experience. He uses these histories, both personal and cultural, to weave complex, emotional, and  political landscapes while exploring the potential bodies, identities, and stories that can arise in these newly woven domestic spaces. Fearce is a 3rd year BFA candidate at the School of Art & Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His work has been featured in Red Bull Music Academy, Paper Magazine, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Walker Arts Center, Soap Factory and more.

portrait of Artist in Residence Namir Fearce hanging upside down

Jon Chambers (Spring 2019 Artist-in-Residence) is an artist and educator based in Chicago where he teaches media literacy, media art histories, net art, new media art (software + hardware) and video at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University. He has shown work nationally and internationally, in screening venues, galleries and online.

Image Credit: Maranda Powers

Learn more about Jon Chambers current work here.

Emma Rozanski (Fall 2018 Artist-in-Residence) is an Australian filmmaker, multi-media artist and a first-generation MFA graduate of Bela Tarr’s acclaimed film.factory experiment in Sarajevo. Her debut feature-length film, PAPAGAJKA (The Parrot) had its World Premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in 2016 and continued on to a successful festival run worldwide. Emma’s moving image works have collectively have been selected for over 150 festivals and exhibitions worldwide and won several awards. She is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talents, the Berlinale Short Film Station and the Reykjavík Talent Lab. Emma is part of the artist collective, Bistrik7 (@Bistrik7), a group of 20 filmmaker-artists from around the globe who make collective projects and curate screenings and exhibitions of their work. Currently, Emma is developing her next two narrative feature films, along with an ambitious long-form video art piece.

Learn more about Emma Rozanski’s work here.

Justus Harris (Winter 2018 Artist-in-Residence) combines medical data visualization and 3D modeling to understand health trends. His work is inspired by using continuous monitors for his type 1 diabetes. The 3D printed Diabetes Data Sculptures and public health data projects that come from his research have been featured internationally at venues including the Stanford School of Medicine, Theorizing the Web (New York), the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library where he was the inaugural Maker in Residence, and at the European Commission’s Internet of Things exhibit ‘Adaptation’ (Berlin). He is a portfolio reviewer and alumni of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BA, Visual & Critical Studies). Justus has participated in five artificial pancreas research studies and is currently using a DIY artificial pancreas system. He is currently developing his projects at mHUB, Chicago’s premier prototyping innovation center.


Learn more about Justus Harris’ current work here.

Carrie Olivia Adams (Spring 2017 Resident) lives in Chicago, where she is the communications specialist for the American Medical Association Foundation and the poetry editor for the small press Black Ocean. She is the author of “Operating Theater” (Noctuary Press 2015), “Forty-One Jane Doe’s” (book and companion DVD, Ahsahta 2013), and “Intervening Absence” (Ahsahta 2009) as well as the chapbooks “Grapple” (above/ground press 2017), “Overture in the Key of F” (above/ground press 2013), and “A Useless Window” (Black Ocean 2006). She has an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College and a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Georgia.


Learn more about the artists’ capstone exhibition at the Museum here.

Anatomical Theatres of Mixed Reality (ATOM-r) (Spring/Fall 2016 Residents) are a provisional collective exploring forensics, anatomy, and 21st-century embodiment through performance, language, and emerging technologies. Participants include Mark Jeffery (choreography), Judd Morrissey (text and technology), Justin Deschamps and Christopher Knowlton (collaborators/performers).

Photo courtesy of Grace Duval (2016)

Learn more about the artists’ capstone exhibition at the Museum here.

Marisa Zanotti (October 2016 Guest Resident) is an award-winning artist-researcher.  Her directing and writing practice is informed by her background in performance, choreography, theatre and installation practice.


Over 25 years she has consistently explored new technologies and the body, initially in relation to their role in live work and most recently in trans-media work The Pan’s People Papers.  She is a specialist in adapting and directing dance for the screen and has adapted work by Lea Anderson and Ben Wright.   In 2012 she developed the UK’s first choreographic Web App for phones and tablets.  Marisa’s film work is regularly screened in festivals, recently her documentary Edits Film adapted from Lea Anderson’s work Edits was shown in July at the Curious? Festival at BALTIC in Newcastle.   Marisa will be an artist-in-residence at The International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago in October.  She is based in the dance department at the University of Chichester.  Her practice-led doctoral research argued for screen adaptation as a way of revealing unique thinking by choreographers.  Marisa has a long-term collaboration with the editor Ian Ballantyne. She is currently working with composer Matthew Whiteside and Magnetic North on an AV collaboration We Are All Made of Stars.

ATOM-r hosted Zanotti at the Museum as part of an exchange program with the University of Chichester, where they were in residence Summer 2016. 

Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz (Fall 2015 Residents) are collaborators that live and work in Chicago. Drawing on their research into prehistoric & ancient art, eroticism, and esoteric traditions, their works synthesize concerns of sex, death, myth, transformation, and alchemy. They view the act of collaboration as the dissolution of individual identities and union of oppositions as a new, harmonized whole.


Learn more about the artists’ capstone exhibition at the Museum here.

Vesna Jovanovic (2013/15 Artist in Resident) is a Chicago-based visual artist who specializes in conceptualizations of the human body. Using spilled ink as groundwork, she creates drawings that often formally resemble medical illustration while concentrating on what is usually left out: how it feels and what it means to have a body as well as how the body is socially constructed and culturally perceived. With drawing as a bodily act and medical illustration as a visual trope, Jovanovic brings embodiment, biopolitics, phenomenology, and various other ideas and theories of the human body into her work.


To learn more about Vesna’s project, please visit her blog here or watch a video of the artist and the Museum’s past Curator here.

Learn more about the artist’s capstone exhibition at the Museum here.

Annie Heckman (2012-2013 Artist-in-Residence)

As the culmination of her residency at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago artist Annie Heckman transformed the museum’s History of Anatomical Study exhibit to showcase an original animation within a creatively curated installation of artifacts, artwork, and archival materials from the IMSS collections. The artist’s multi-layered project focused on two practices that converge uniquely within these surroundings: the creation of an opening in the skull through the ancient operation known as trephining, and the projection of subjective boundaries and openings onto the architectural space of the museum.

Interested in the risk and mutual trust implicit in trephining, as well the dignity of forming such trust, Heckman used imagery and ideas that she encountered in her research at IMSS as inspiration and source material for her animation-in-progress, which incorporates drawings, text, collage, photography, and digital media. Likewise, she investigated how the museum’s historic mansion—its structure, contents, and accumulated human experiences first as a private home and then as a public institution—can represent an enlarged version of the central headquarters we assume to be present in the skull. 

Viewing both the skull and the building as weird, dynamic containers, Heckman inserted her studio practice into the museum’s exhibition space as a way to extend her creative research on mortality and the workings of the mind. By gradually curating and arranging historical materials from the museum’s collection around the projected animation over a two month period, Heckman situated the piece within a conceptual context, dramatizing her research experience and artistic process to provide visitors a glimpse of her mind at work.

On exhibit June through August of 2013, the resulting installation juxtaposed fragments that she has excavated from various eras in the history of trephining and of the museum itself to realize an anachronistic imagined past for her present work and activate an alternative narrative of artefactual meaning through her idiosyncratic interpretation. Heckman’s project was part of the museum’s new “Open” artist residency program, which allows artists extended and in-depth access to the IMSS’s collections to generate new artwork, studio space during open hours to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with visitors, and support to present exhibitions that introduce additional perspectives to the institutional depiction of medical history.

More information about Heckman and her work is available at

Rebecca Keller (2012 Artist in Resident) is an artist, writer as well as the founder of Excavating History. She has exhibited her work widely, and has been honored by two Fulbrights, grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Illinois Arts council. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The 2011/12 exhibition, Excavating History: Artists Take on Historic Sites involved artists Joseph Cruz, Brianna Schwiezer, Amber Ginsberg, Maral Hashimi, Rebecca Hernandez, Elise Goldstein, Meredith Zielke, Erin Obradavitch, Liene Bosque, Kristin Ginger and Annie Heckmann.

Excavating History named one of the best shows of the year by Time Out Chicago:

Other reviews and articles featured in HyperallergicTime Out Chicago, The Visualculturist,  Praeterita and MutualArts.

This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

The International Museum of Surgical Science acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.