The International Museum of Surgical Science supports a commitment to contemporary art and artists through exhibitions and programs that use the frame of contemporary artistic practice to examine new perspectives in medical-surgical science and our relationship to the body. The Museum’s Contemporary Arts Initiative includes rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, as well as an ongoing Artist in Residence program.
Michael Lee Zirulnik: Strips & Needles—A Day in the Life (March 24, 2023 – September 4, 2023)
Alexander Gonzalez: Process (March 31, 2023 – May 14, 2023)
Remembrance & Renewed Hope: Nurses Exhibit (May 1, 2023 – May 31, 2023)
Megan Euker: BODIES III (May 12, 2023 – July 23, 2023)
Mel Keiser: The Life and Deaths of The Mels: Here Lie the Bones (May 19, 2023 – July 9, 2023)
Fabrizzio Subia: Año Nuevo (2023) (February 24th, 2023 – May 7th, 2023)
Deborah Simon: Embroidered Morphologies (January 27, 2023 – April 23, 2023)
Kintsugi: Healing through Japanese Art (September 30, 2022 – March 12, 2023)
Eric Dean Spruth, MA, ATR: Art Therapy & Tarot: The Importance of Symbol; Then, Now, and Forevermore (November 18, 2022 – February 12, 2023)
Rosśa Crean: Liminal (August 5, 2022 – September 18, 2022)
James Wilke: Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (July 9, 2022 – August 28, 2022)
Alexander Utz: GUT (May 6, 2022 – July 3, 2022)
Phil Gaytor: Maskeraid (May 6, 2022 – July 3, 2022)
Biomedical Visualization Graduate Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago Capstone Exhibit (March 31, 2022- May 1, 2022)
Anastasia Sitnikova: Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (February 18, 2022 – April 24, 2022)
BODIES II: Industrial Design (November 12, 2021 – February 11, 2022)
Kathleen Gallo: Artist-in-Residence Capstone Exhibit (August 1st, 2021 – October 31st, 2021)
Kioto Aoki: Artist-in-Residence Capstone Exhibit (March 12, 2021 – June 13, 2021)
Nurses’ Relaxation and Renewal Through the Arts (April 9, 2021 – July 11, 2021)
Zoe Beloff: Emotions Go to Work (August 14, 2020 – March 27, 2021)
Selva Aparicio: Artist-in-Residence Capstone Exhibit (October 16, 2020 – February 25, 2021)
Mairin Hartt: Against the Grain (September 11, 2020 – January 24, 2021)
Megan Euker: The Cure (February 21, 2020 – July 2, 2020)
Biomedical Visualization Graduate Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago Capstone Exhibit (February 27, 2020 – March 29, 2020)
Bryan Northup: Sea Inside (November 22, 2019 – February 16, 2020)
BODIES: SAIC Intro to Designed Objects (November 15, 2019 – February 16, 2020)
STILL BEGINNING: The 30th Annual Day With(out) Art (December 1, 2019 – December 30, 2019)
Namir Fearce: Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (October 4, 2019 – November 3, 2019)
Plant Medicine (August 9, 2019 – November 3, 2019)
Jon Chambers: Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (March 29, 2019 – May 12, 2019)
Scientific Sketches and Subsurface Scattering: Capturing the Beauty Within (February 1, 2019 – March 24, 2019)
David Allen: Mastectomy Tattoos and Post-Surgery Healing (August 31, 2018 – January 20, 2019)
Emma Rozanski: Specimens of Chance and Play (November 2, 2018 – December 2, 2018)
FLUX: Responding to Head and Neck Cancer (May 18, 2018 – August 19, 2018)
Art with Heart: The Work of Biomedical Visualization Students (March 16, 2018 – May 6, 2018)
Marilène Oliver – Re-Stitched and Re-Touched: Materializing the Medical Data Body (December 4, 2017 – March 4, 2018)
The Screening Room: AIDS Advocacy Selections from the Video Data Bank (November 3, 2017 – December 30, 2017)
Carrie Olivia Adams – Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (August 1, 2017 – October 1, 2017)
Soft Sculpture (May 16, 2017 – October 1, 2017)
Vincent Tiley: Material Eyes (May 16, 2017 – July 16, 2017)
Inside the World of Medical Art – Group Art Exhibition (April 1, 2017 – May 7, 2017)
ATOM-r: Kjell Theøry, Prologue – Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (January 20, 2017 – April 9, 2017)
Whit Forrester: Affinity in the Tall Grasses of California (November 15, 2016 – February 26, 2017)
The Screening Room: AIDS Advocacy Selections from the Video Data Bank (November 15, 2016 – December 20, 2016)
Haunted House: Artists Respond to Site – Group Art Exhibition (March 20, 2016 – July 31, 2016)
Vesna Jovanovic: The Oval Portrait: 16 Case Studies of the Grattan Osteoclast – Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition (January 21 2016 – February 21, 2016)
Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz: New Work – Artist in Residence Capstone Exhibition(January 21, 2016 – February 21, 2016)
Stevie Hanley: Synaesthetica (August 15, 2015 – November 15, 2015)
Fractures and Dislocations: “Excavating Histories” Group Exhibition (May 2, 2014 – May 30, 2014)
Lauren Levato Coyne: The Age of Spontaneous Generation (December 14, 2013 – June 8, 2014)
Raeleen Kao: Inhospitable (December 14, 2013 – June 8, 2014)
FaceOff: Skull-A-Day vs Street Anatomy (May 31, 2013 – August 25, 2013)
Meredith Zielke & Yoni Goldstein: The Jettisoned (March 22, 2013 – May 26, 2013)
Ellen Garvens & Joanne Tilley: Mirror Box (March 22, 2013 – May 26, 2013)
Alison Carey: New Kingdoms (December 14, 2012 – February 24, 2013)
Michael Reedy: Expulsion (December 14, 2012 – February 24, 2013)
Jordan Eagles: Blood Work (September 14, 2012 – November 30, 2012)
Patrick Nagatani: Chromatherapy (June 4, 2010 – August 20, 2010) Nagatani’s exhibition of photographs will explore chromatherapy, a modern alternative healing practice that extends back in time to ancient Egypt and China, as well as into the future, in the form of the light tool used by the physician in the sci-fi television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. The photographs will theatrically depict colored light therapy in staged scenes to create pseudo-documentary cinematic narrative images that call into question whether it is the scenes or the photographs themselves that are the true therapy.
Carolyn Bernstein: Yew Tree Project (June 4, 2010 – August 20, 2010) This wall installation will integrate science and metaphor with a particular focus on the contemporary visual culture of medical imaging technologies, which can serve as powerful diagnostic tools but can also reduce the patient to two-dimensionalized film representations of self. Bernstein’s project will explore ways of seeing through, looking into, and confronting the “diseased” body and expose the complexity of networks and interdependencies among institutions and individuals involved in the development of the cancer drug Taxol from the bark of the poisonous yew tree. The artist will also restore patients their dignity in rendering them carefully by hand.
Lauren Kalman: Blooms, Efflorescence, and Other Dermatological Embellishments (March 5, 2010 – May 21, 2010) Kalman’s installation includes jeweled adornments that replicate the skin infections, lesions, and sores caused by medical conditions such as acne, cancer, herpes, and syphilis, as well as photographs of models wearing these adornments. In rendering the grotesque and undesirable aspects of actual human skin, Kalman’s work subverts conventional consumer desire for such talismanic commodities, from which buyers and wearers subconsciously seek to appropriate qualities coveted in the imagined “perfect” body.
Annie Heckman: You thought that you were alone but I caught your bullet just in time (March 5, 2010 – May 21, 2010) This installation comprises glow-in-the-dark house-of-cards structures built of interlocking cut paper pieces, each drawn upon in graphite and coated with phosphorescent paint to resemble a human or animal bone. Heckman contextualizes this installation in the tradition of European bones churches such as the Kostnice Sedlec in the Czech Republic.
Carol Chase Bjerke: Hidden Agenda (November 6, 2009 – January 15, 2010) Bjerke presented a very personal sculptural installation about living with an altered body in the aftermath of an ostomy (a surgical reconfiguration of the intestine to create a stoma, or surgical opening in the abdomen through which body wastes pass). Her sculptures, inspired by the aesthetic qualities of the medical supplies manufactured for people with ostomies, emphasized the relentless repetition and inconvenience of life after this procedure while investigating issues of self-image and privacy.
Masako Onodera: The Way of the Flesh (November 6, 2009 – January 15, 2010) This exhibition will showcase sculptures made of highly evocative materials including fiber, latex, and lacquered animal skin, simulating body parts or appendages. The works are grotesque and suggestive of decay, but also oddly hypnotic, echoing the human ambivalence—repulsion in an uneasy balance with aesthetic fascination—toward the body as an organic object.
Redefining the Medical Artist, Guest Curator: Meena Malhotra (July 31, 2009 – October 16, 2009) This group exhibition showcased state-of-the-art scientifically accurate representations of the body in various media by students, alumni, and faculty of UIC’s Biomedical Visualization graduate program. Their work stems from the tradition of medical illustration founded by the 16th-century physician Vesalius; however, these contemporary medical artists have grown far beyond drawing from dissection, creating digital renderings of biomedical procedures, processes, and phenomena.
Vesna Jovanovic: Pareidolia (July 31, 2009 – October 16, 2009) Jovanovic showed a series of her drawings influenced by inkblots and Rorschach tests, examining the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia, in which a vague and random stimulus, often an image, is perceived as being significant. She began these works with randomly spilled ink, around which she then drew intricate biomorphic forms, her method replicating that of a scientific researcher discerning a pattern in data points.
Sandi Chaplin: What Grows? (May 1, 2009 – July 17, 2009) Chaplin’s sculptural “garden” installation consisted of artificial limbs joined with actual tree branches and grape vine roots, centering on a full-size mannequin with a window in its chest exposing a wooden heart and the tree branches that constitute its circulatory system. The installation utilized a combination of man-made and natural materials to explore the common metaphor of the heart as the seat of emotion and love, questioning the connection frequently drawn between emotional and physical pain.
Ron Bell: Crania Mechanica (May 1, 2009 – July 17, 2009) This show featured sculptures that Bell constructed by cobbling together actual animal bones with found and hand-fabricated industrial machine parts, transforming the gallery into a mad scientist’s laboratory. Bell’s work was inspired by the 18th-century experiments of Luigi Galvani, who introduced an electrical spark to the exposed muscle tissue of a severed frog leg and noted that the leg twitched. Galvani’s experiment led to the discovery of bioelectricity, the electrical current transmitted by the nerves to stimulate muscle motion and control heartbeat.
Dominic Paul Moore: Put This in Your Mouth (January 30, 2009 – April 17, 2009) “Put This in Your Mouth” features Chicago artist Dominic Paul Moore’s graphite depictions of images culled from medical advertisements, modified according to his memories of the sterile hospital environment as an asthmatic child and the son of a respiratory therapist. Moore’s stark and simplistic compositions often replace the ads’ humane medical assistants with cold yet anthropomorphous machines, exploiting the cinematic qualities of these source materials to subvert their original intent. Moore says, “These drawings juxtapose the vacillating fragility of life with the rigidity of medical technology.”
Laurel Roth Hope: Hope Chest (January 30, 2009 – April 17, 2009) “Hope Chest” comprises panty liners hand-embroidered and beaded by Laurel Roth, including a series concerning birth control, a PMS quilt, and a “racing pad” for fast women. Roth relearned embroidery and crochet techniques from her childhood to fill her modern version of a hope chest with off-kilter reflections on biology, fertility, and the ever-changing societal roles of women. The exhibition also includes some of the artist’s designer pet skulls, extremely realistic renderings of the crania of domestic animals that Roth hand-carved from solid industrial acrylic block and polished to resemble crystal. These sculptures illustrate man’s hand in the design and creation of his environment and its inhabitants. Says Roth, “They showcase the extreme of mankind’s modification of animals through breeding—our closest companions who could no longer survive without us, our highly bred pets.”
“Sculpture as Medicine: Fetishes, Physiological Spaces, and Healing Actions,” Group Show curated by Gabriel Akagawa (October 31, 2008 – January 9, 2009) “Sculpture as Medicine” constitutes a group exhibition of works in various media, including a performance to take place during the opening reception, created by students in a class of the same name at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition is curated by their instructor Gabriel Bizen Akagawa, who designed the course, which is curated by their instructor Gabriel Bizen Akagawa, who designed the course, which he has taught for the last two years, “to investigate how studio art changes when it has a medicinal function.”
Jason Ferguson: CORPOreal (October 31, 2008 – January 9, 2009) “CORPOreal” comprises documentation of the medical protocols—postmortem examination, dissection, cross-sectional imaging, and full-body scanning—that Ferguson has performed on everyday household objects, such as a shoe and a La-Z-Boy recliner. The exhibition includes both the physical remains of these objects, selected based on their socio-cultural associations, as well as video footage of their deconstruction through procedures generally reserved for the bodies of living organisms. Ferguson learned these actual procedures from medical practitioners and professionals in other scientific disciplines; “Collaborating with practitioners in various branches of study gives my work a level of authenticity that I could not provide on my own,” he says.
Geraldine Ondrizek: Fingerprint DNA: A Portrait of an Arab-American Family (August 1, 2008 – October 17, 2008) “Fingerprint DNA” comprises the actual DNA fingerprints of four members of Ondrizek’s husband’s Arab-American family, the Qamars, each printed by dye sublimation on a panel of Ultra Sheer fabric. The printed panels are mounted on a loom-like metal panel of Ultra Sheer fabric. The printed panels are mounted on a loom-like metal panel of Ultra Sheer fabric. The printed panels are mounted on a loom-like metal those of genetic material, the patterns are handed down through the generations.” Viewed from the front, the familial identity markers on each panel overlap; from the side, threads connecting each panel are visible, representing literally the characteristics that are shared by members of a family.
Laura Kurtenbach: Myth Symbol Image (August 1, 2008 – October 17, 2008) “Myth Symbol Image” consists of digital montages that Kurtenbach created by superimposing anatomical illustrations on top of Christian iconography from stained glass windows. Her compositions are printed using the Ultrachrome giclée process on plexiglass sheets that evoke the church windows from which the images are derived, at the same time subverting their intended purpose by revealing the “bare bones” of human life—the body’s mortality. She says, “The use of multiple layers creates a world in which the semi-transparent layers of scientific materials obstruct, overlap, and combine with the religious images to create a dichotomy between the two.”
Timea Tihanyi: Two Spaces, One Body (May 2, 2008 – July 18, 2008) “Two Spaces, One Body” comprises three new fiber sculptures created specifically for the Museum, all of which are based on traditional, two-dimensional visual representations of the body in space, from a microscopic image of nerve tissue, to an anatomical illustration, to a geographic map. With these pieces Tihanyi attempted to recreate the original experience of being in a body by rendering these abstractions tangible and three-dimensional in felt, thread, and pins. Says the artist, “I appropriate these images in order to dissect and remake them as objects, exploring the dichotomy of the world compressed into a two-dimensional virtual plane and the physical, tactile world. My goal is to reconsider the meaning of these representations, as well as the way they embody information about the reality of physical existence.” The resultant works evoke the subjective, visceral aspects of such experience that usually get lost in translation.
Christa Donner: ExtraSensory (May 2, 2008 – July 18, 2008) “ExtraSensory” consists of photographs, collages, and ink drawings in which Donner re-envisions anatomy to more accurately reflect the feeling of embodiment. In collaboration with seven rural teenagers, Donner collected personal narratives about bodily sensation and translated these into wearable collages, depicted in the photos as modeled by their creators, set against the backdrop of their small town. “The result is a complex, surreal look at teenage body image and the way that we imagine sensations we can feel but can’t see,” she says.
Jonathan Gabel: Warsong: Iliad Cenotaphs (February 1, 2008 – April 18, 2008) “Warsong: Iliad Cenotaphs” comprises painted wood sculptures representing the “Warsong: Iliad Cenotaphs” comprises painted wood sculptures representing the ancient Greek epic poem, more than 250 warriors are introduced by name only to be ancient Greek epic poem, more than 250 warriors are introduced by name only to be has been able to create detailed anatomical models of the flesh displaced by spears and arrows. He says, “Through the cartography of the body, the medical view of the world illuminates not only the physical properties of life, but also the intangible value of it.”
Joseph Kohnke: Marked (February 1, 2008 – April 18, 2008) “Marked” consists of a faux medical device that continuously scans a conveyor belt of skin images from which Kohnke has excised every marking. Upon registering a void in the stream of images, the pneumatic mechanism triggers a light on one of two bodies, representing the marking’s original location. The pair of bodies that Kohnke employs—a human form and that of a fawn—illustrates the contrasting functions of external human form and that of a fawn—illustrates the contrasting functions of external preserving camouflage in the other. “In nature, markings and spots on the body’s surface are used to increase the chances of survival, whereas on humans they are looked upon as flaws or the markings of death,” Kohnke says.
Rosemary Feit Covey: Internal Medicine (November 2, 2007 – January 18, 2008) “Internal Medicine” features three distinct series of Feit Covey’s wood engravings. The Brain Tumor series was commissioned by tumor patient David Craig Welch shortly after he was diagnosed in order to depict his experiences while undergoing major surgery and other medical procedures, whereas the Porcupine Girl series of prints personifies various aspects of the artist’s own experience with a life-threatening medical condition. In the third series, called Vanitas, Vanitas, Feit Covey draws upon a 17th century Dutch type of still life that emphasized the fleetingness of life in order to explore the global impact of health and illness in the modern world. ”In all three sets of work I have combined personal emotions with extensive observation, reading, and research. I assimilate this scientific and historical data rather than studying it on a purely intellectual level. It is a deeply internal process that is ultimately externalized through the act of engraving,” she says.
Barbara Kendrick: Based on a True Story (November 2, 2007 – January 18, 2008) “Based on a True Story” comprises colored pencil, watercolor, and mixed-media “drawings” that Kendrick creates in order to portray the feeling of nerve pain, a chronic condition she developed as the result of a severe case of shingles in 1993. To illustrate the changes in perception she experiences during bouts of this pain, which can be brought on by the slightest of breezes, Kendrick takes poetic license with anatomy, recombining and jumbling images of the brain, nervous system, and cellular structures: “Scientific images tangle with doodles. I think of it as emotional mapping, where certainty and synthesis are suspended, lost in a fluidity of mark and image-making,” she says.
Matthew Cox: Recovery (August 3, 2007 – October 19, 2007) Cox’s exhibition, “Recovery,” features found x-rays that the artist has transformed by literally re-covering parts of the exposed skeletons with embroidered faces, hair, and clothing, all rendered in a slightly anachronistic, Botticelli-esque style. Contrasting the cold, diagnostic quality of the x-rays with the painstaking, nurturing aspect of hand-stitching, Cox nurses the depicted patients through their recovery from sickness to health.
Margaret Leininger: Under the Looking Glass (August 3, 2007 – October 19, 2007) “Under the Looking Glass,” Leininger’s exhibition, comprises embellished fabric “specimens” that replicate the microscopic patterns created by disease-causing microbes as they form colonies not unlike those found within human civilizations. Her use of stitching to portray these patterns emphasizes the connection between natural and man-made structures, as this medium inevitably evokes the presence of a human hand.
Laura Splan: Sympathetic Coordination (May 4, 2007 – July 20, 2007) “Sympathetic Coordination” features digital prints of surgical implants and instruments, such as artificial hearts, encircled by delicate capillary filaments that Splan has drawn in her own blood, as if trying to literally incorporate these foreign objects. However, by extracting blood from her body and using it as ink, she in turn alienates this intimate substance, suggesting that the boundaries between the body and the external world are perhaps too permeable for comfort. She says, “I try to create work that evokes a dichotomous experience with formal imagery that, upon closer inspection, reveals some uncomfortable truth about our cultural and biological conditions. It is important to me that the work be reflexive and self-contained—that not only the form of an object reveals meaning, but also the materials and process by which it was made.”
Renee Prisble Una: Biological Cartography (May 4, 2007 – July 20, 2007) “Biological Cartography” comprises site-specific sculpture and installation work that Una created through a process of experimentation similar to that of a scientist in a lab. Based on the hypothesis that buildings resemble bodies, Una contrasts the organic materials in her Petri dishes, including latex, beeswax, and gelatin, with the conventional results of architectural and anatomical experiments: maps and charts. That the experience of having an individual body in a specific place cannot be fully reconciled with, or isolated from, these abstract diagrams unsettles viewers by reminding them of their dual existence as both a subject and an object. Una says, “An organic process of experimentation and discovery has led to the materials and systems in this exhibition. The place and the body are forever intertwined; their boundaries are obscured by mutual experience.”
Brian Dettmer: Postoperative (February 2, 2007 – April 20, 2007) “Postoperative” features a variety of objects that have gone under Dettmer’s knife, including 11 books that he dissected one page at a time by carving through their covers and excising everything but images and ideas of interest to reveal the hidden relationships of their innards. Also on display will be a skull and a full-size, anatomically correct human skeleton that Dettmer molded from cassette tape shells for AC/DC’s Back in Black and other such albums, reinterpreting the phrase “dead media”: as Dettmer says, “Their intended role has decreased or deceased and they often exist simply as symbols of the ideas they represent rather than true conveyors of content… Through meticulous excavation or concise alteration, content becomes recontextualized and new meanings or interpretations emerge.”
James F. Cleary: Wisenheimer’s Disease (February 2, 2007 – April 20, 2007) “Wisenheimer’s Disease” comprises a series of 40 photomontages depicting Cleary’s apocalyptic vision of humankind’s degeneration resulting from “Do It Yourself Homo Improvement.” In Cleary’s words, “My drawings look forward with horror to the novel and grotesque ways that science may choose to reshape the human body in a well-meaning, but misguided effort to improve upon God’s work.” Although the monstrous creatures that Cleary produces by reconfiguring and satirically defacing medical illustrations offer harsh criticism of body modification and genetic engineering, the artist confesses that he suffers from the same disease as the scientists that he condemns—he simply delights in “making monsters.”
Catherine Jacobi: Her Tongue: corporal and textual examinations (November 3, 2006 – January 19, 2007) “Her Tongue” features Jacobi’s recent sculptural work in two distinct media—glycerin and found materials. Referencing antique anatomical models of teeth, hair follicles, and the tongue, the sculptures created from found materials represent the biological process of conception, through which “family history,” both in terms of genetic material and biographical narrative, is recombined into a new form. Jacobi says that these works play with “the idea of what we are made of—wood, our language, our histories, and our mothers,” and concludes that “the history of objects is a history of us.” On the other hand, the works composed of glycerin, which comprise the artist’s “biopsy” series, resemble tissue samples viewed through a microscope. Like living tissue, they gradually and uncontrollably change as they age, due to the inherent volatility of the medium: “The misperception is that this form, this body specific is fixed; rather, it constantly changes and escapes anticipation.”
Mary Farmilant: Hospital (November 3, 2006 – January 19, 2007) “Hospital” comprises ten large-scale color photographs of the former Columbus Hospital in Chicago, taken between 2002 and 2005 while the building was awaiting demolition to make way for the construction of luxury condos. Farmilant’s photographs, alluding to the clinical documentary tradition within their medium, record the deteriorating condition of the hospital building, itself the setting of innumerable life stories’ beginnings and ends. She says, “These images explore the idea that human presence still remains a part of the history and narrative of these now uninhabited spaces.” Farmilant offers these observations of Columbus Hospital as support for the hypothesis that American medical institutions are suffering from a “profit plague”: “Although the images are of one hospital,” she says, “they represent the current demise of healthcare throughout the country.”
Leslie Speicher: Face to Face (August 4, 2006 – October 20, 2006) In her exhibition, entitled “Face to Face,” Leslie A. Speicher deconstructs her body into its essential parts to examine its life functions and their inevitable cessation. She assembled this installation of “self-portraits” from microscopic images of her blood cells and MRI torso and brain scans produced in collaboration with medical imaging specialists. “I was seduced by the data that these scanning and microscopic machines provided,” she says, “There was a visual pleasure for me in this inquiry.” “Face to Face” continues the investigation of the body’s internal landscape that Speicher began in earlier works, including the installation Endoderm No. 2 at Art Basel Miami, for which she covered the interior of a room with giant foam “cells” to give viewers the impression of walking through an oversized organ. “Whether using current technology to create a replica of my lungs or ‘turning myself inside out’ by wearing a dress with a pattern of my blood cells on it, my ultimate challenge has been to entice others into questioning the mental and physical aspects of being human,” she declares. Speicher is currently based in Cleveland.
Lauren Niimi: Evidence (August 4, 2006 – October 20, 2006) “Evidence,” Lauren Niimi’s exhibition, focuses on the external terrain of the artist’s body. Her photographic works depict landmarks that medical procedures have mapped on her skin—X’s that mark the spots where needles and scalpels broke ground. She explains, “The human body captures stories, experiences, memories, and time through its markings—scars, bruises, and incisions—sometimes in an aggressive and painful way, and sometimes with eloquence and reserve.” In her fiber-based works, Niimi evokes the idea of a second skin; she juxtaposes materials such as gauze and band-aids, used to cover and protect open wounds from outside elements, with images and text clipped from tabloids, publications that routinely expose the bodies and private lives of celebrities to the public eye. “My process is one of preserving and mapping a particular understanding of the human body: its accomplishments, failures, capabilities, and limitations,” she says. Originally from Highland Park, Niimi now resides in Chicago, where her work has been exhibited at the Rehab Institute and Woman Made Gallery, among other spaces.
Alison Hiltner: We Will Rebuild You (May 5, 2006 – July 21, 2006) For her exhibition, “We Will Rebuild You,” conceptual artist Alison Hiltner has created prototypes and advertisements for medical devices that, although fictional, do seem within the reach of medicine in the near future (if it is possible for doctors to replace a patient’s knee or hip, can a replacement kidney be far behind?). The work does not include a generic implantable brain, but it does expose the universal human desire to enhance our physical forms in all its comic absurdity. It also suggests a more sinister aspect of this poignant desire: the medical-commercial complex willing to exploit it. Says Hiltner, “My artwork reflects the consequences of increasingly frequent collisions of medical technology and consumer culture, a battle of style versus substance, life versus lifestyle. “ Based in Minneapolis, Hiltner is represented by New York’s Spike Gallery, where the exhibition of her sculptural piece Organ Donor Vending Machine garnered critical acclaim.
Lee Tracy (May 5, 2006 – July 21, 2006) Lee Tracy’s installation, entitled “Negative to Positive,” offers a glimpse into the artist’s head, both literally and figuratively—the work features CT scans of Tracy’s brain, etched with personal thoughts from her journal. According to Tracy, the work “masters the merging of dualities” and serves as “a confirmation of our own humanness.” The stark contrast between the universal physical structure pictured in the image and the individual mental content symbolized by the text evokes their invisible intermediary, the elusive mind-body connection that remains well beyond medicine’s ever-expanding grasp, despite the best efforts of numerous researchers. So long as the nature of this connection evades scientific understanding, the human psyche can only be seen through art. Tracy lives in Chicago, where she is known for her diverse work, including abstract and figurative paintings as well as public artworks on the topic of the environment.
Ruth Chambers: Through the Skin (February 3, 2006 – April 21, 2006) Combining light and translucent porcelain with text and images, Chambers explores thresholds between the internal and the external, the material and the immaterial, as they have been conceived throughout history in medicine and metaphysics. The installation Beneath the Skin constitutes a “wall” of luminous ceramic vessels in the form of human organs, suspended at varying heights from the ceiling of the darkened gallery as if floating. Their thin surfaces glow with inscribed words that evoke the historical search for vitality, the source of life, within the body’s so-called vital organs, which, Chambers notes, are “very heavy with associative meanings in our culture.” The installation probes the metaphorical dimensions of life functions such as circulation, digestion, reproduction, respiration, and consciousness. The second installation, entitled Materia Medica, builds upon the first, incorporating porcelain models of Renaissance apothecary jars imprinted with the leaves of medicinal plants. The work questions the utopian belief that a certain characteristic of a plant, such as the color or shape of its leaves, indicates its curative effects on the vital organ it resembles, an idea that originated in 17th-century mysticism and remained the foundation of herbal medicine well into the 19th century. Contrasting this ideal with images of our dystopian world, Chambers asks whether cruel and violent acts “have to do with the lack of an integration of the physical and the psychic or are they rather extreme perversions of a drive to transcend the material?” Materia Medica was created specifically for the museum, which features a recreation of a 19th-century apothecary shop.
Alice Leora Briggs: Graft (November 4, 2005 – January 20, 2005) Alice Leora Briggs’ exhibition, “Graft,” features drawings of medical procedures from various historical eras, some amazing, others more horrific than the maladies they were intended to cure. As she says, “Over the centuries science has employed methods to assuage human afflictions that are at once enthralling, frightening, and miraculous. My drawings are efforts to comprehend and depict aspects of an astonishing array of medical procedures that have alternately supported and threatened our well-being.” Briggs herself assumes the role of a surgeon while drawing in that she transplants and grafts parts of images from disparate sources, including historical medical illustrations and photographs, to create her body of work. Based in Lubbock, Texas, Briggs is represented by Nüart Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and has shown her work across the country.
Leigh Anne Lester: Family Portraits (November 4, 2005 – January 20, 2005) In her exhibition of embroideries and paintings entitled “Family Portraits,” Leigh Anne Lester focuses on a different kind of medical history—the genetic inheritance passed down through the generations of a family. The embroideries play on traditional portraits by depicting family members’ afflicted organs, rather than their faces, suggesting that genetic relations do not only run skin-deep. The paintings Lester creates by matching colors from microscopic images of diseased cells to swatches of household paints; she says, “These pieces are investigating the idea of living with a disease, having it inhabit your body, but turning that experience around and living in the setting or the atmosphere of the disease by having it be a color that you would paint a room in your house.” Lester co-curates the gallery Cactus Bra Space in San Antonio, Texas, and has exhibited throughout the Southwest and Midwest.
Cristin Millet: Medicine and the Body (August 5, 2005 – October 21, 2005) Cristin Millett’s “Medicine and the Body” is comprised of two installations, Teatro Anatomico and Transparency of Knowledge. This exhibition utilizes multi-media, including video, sculpture, and printed fabric. The Teatro Anatomico itself is modeled after anatomical theaters in Italy, England, and the United States. Millett researched these theatres for over two years, observing that an anatomy theater creates a power relationship between the inhabitants of the space depending on their roles and location within the theater. “I approach my work using a very logical and systematic method, grounding myself in research on the history of medicine… When entering the rooms; the viewer enters the body and their role of spectator shifts to that of the spectacle. These installations represent an intersection of scientific ideas and contemporary aesthetic observations, which provide insight into prevalent societal attitudes surrounding the female form.” Teatro Anatomico was created during a three-month residency at Sculpture Space in Utica, New York. Millett is a State College, Pennsylvania-based artist who has exhibited nationally. She received her BFA in metalsmithing from Kent State University and her MFA in sculpture from Arizona State University.
Greg Porcaro (May 6, 2005 – July 22, 2005)
Lilias Hahn (May 6, 2005 – July 22, 2005)
L J Douglas (February 4, 2005 – April 22, 2005)
Karen Jayne (February 4, 2005 – April 22, 2005)
Ian Crawley (November 5, 2004 – January 21, 2005)
Jason Lazarus (November 5, 2004 – January 21, 2005)
Lindsey Obermeyer (August 6, 2004 – October 22, 2004)
Sarah Faust (August 6, 2004 – October 22, 2004)
Marie Dutka (May 7, 2004 – July 23, 2004)
Anne Mondro (May 7, 2004 – July 23, 2004)
Victoria Martin (February 6, 2004 – April 23, 2004)
Laura Olear (February 6, 2004 – April 23, 2004)
Micki LeMieux (November 7, 2003 – January 23, 2004)
Paula Temple (November 7, 2003 – January 23, 2004)
“Medical Illustration Now” (August 8, 2003 – October 24, 2003) Mixed media group exhibition: Highlighting excellence in contemporary medical illustration. Outstanding, innovative work by students from regional institutions such as the American Academy of Art are included. This is a unique opportunity to showcase this vital field and to see the impact of new technologies on rendering the human body.
Granite Amit: Preliminaries (May 9, 2003 – July 25, 2003) Mixed media: Wall installations of multi-layered imagery address the human being from a psychological-existential perspective. The human body and its gestures become the artist’s calligraphy.
Joel Warner: Critical Condition (May 9, 2003 – July 25, 2003) Mixed media: Commentary on the state of traditional art and museological practices using the metaphor of the hospital, the surgery and the morgue. Warner combines historic art objects with modern medical equipment for a startling and humorous effect.
“Healing Practices: Cancer and Recovery” (February 7, 2003 – April 25, 2003) Mixed media group exhibition: Coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness month, this exhibition presents the works of artists addressing cancer and recovery. Among the ten artists included are Leslie Nautiyal (DeKalb, IL) and Arline Kimball Sadlon (Rockford, IL).
Betsy Stirratt: La Maladie (November 8, 2002 – January 24, 2003) Paintings: Sttiratt creates precious-looking icons using detailed imagery of body parts painted on gold leaf backgrounds.
Patricia Biesen: Paper Doll Mastectomies (November 8, 2002 – January 24, 2003) Paintings: Biesen’s paper doll cut-outs convey what’s missing in an immediate and striking manner as she images of breast cancer.
Micka Klauck: Mummies and More! (August 9, 2002 – October 25, 2002) Drawings and Prints: Klauck explores her interest in the skeletal structure of the human body by sketching exposed mummies as a way to get to the real “bones of the matter.”
Ana Lois-Borzi: numb (August 9, 2002 – October 25, 2002) Multi-media Installation: Incorporating found objects and encasing and layering them within light boxes that hang suspended from the ceiling of a darkened room, Lois-Borzi makes them memorable by their change in context.
“Anatomy in the Gallery” (May 10, 2002 – July 26, 2002)
- Kim Piotrowski – Paintings: The actual and the virtual collide in compelling images of the body and its natural environment. Through the vehicle of the human form, the artist has found a means of painting about the fundamental issues of life.
- Douglas Anderson: Duck Feet – Paintings: Highly detailed metaphoric imagery derived from personal history is combined with peculiarities associated with traditional and emerging medical procedures. The odd juxtaposition of the images and ideas in these surreal paintings provide both a disturbing and humorous view of our obsession with immortality.
Chris Kahler: Anatomica (February 22, 2002 – April 26, 2002) Paintings and drawings: through dramatic compositions melding anatomical forms with organic abstraction, Kahler addresses the human body and its vulnerability to age, disease and invasive science.
Gregory Porcaro: Where My Body Meets Memory (June 16, 2001 – December 11, 2001) Paintings and sculpture: comment on the artist’s relationship to Crohn’s Disease, and how it shaped his identity as a man.
Takeshi Yamada: Medical Journal of the Artist (February 17, 2001 – April 17, 2001) Drawings, paintings, artifacts: tell the detailed story of the artist’s personal experiences with illness, medical treatments and four surgeries.
Lisa Costello: Birds and Bees (February 17, 2001 – April 17, 2001) Sculpture: incorporate found objects within futuristic machinery to explore human reproductive technology and its effect on our interpretation of the human body.
Pessie Finn: Medical Art (October 31, 2000 – December 20, 2000) Manipulated X-Rays, CAT Scans: transform this medical documentation into explorations of form and color.
Angela Willcolks: Zoo: A Morphology (October 31, 2000 – December 20, 2000) Paintings: transform scientific illustration into synthetic, biomorphic, whimsical images.
Darby Johnson: Psychosomatic (August 26, 2000 – October 26, 2000) Photography: uses images of the body as a metaphor for emotions and thoughts experienced by the artist.
Organic Produce: A Gut Show (June 17, 2000 – August 23, 2000) Multimedia: a spectrum of responses to visualizing organs, tissues and textures of the inner human body.
- Carmina Andreuzzi (Chicago, IL); Janell Baxter (Chicago, IL); E. C. Brown (Chicago, IL); Joyce Croft (Chicago, IL); Paul Dickinson (Chicago, IL); Marc Fisher (Chicago, IL); Renee Gory (Chicago, IL); Carol Jackson (Chicago, IL); Melissa Oresky (Skowhegan, ME); Mindy Rose Schwartz (Chicago, IL); Jeni Swerdlow (Chicago, IL); Micki Tschur (Frankfurt, Germany)
Danielle Tegeder: Radiant Systems (April 15, 2000 – June 14, 2000) Paintings: inspired by the elasticity and translucency of tissues, cells, bacteria and DNA.
Mark Li-Cheng Wu: The Art of Pathology: A Hard Look at Soft Tissue (April 15, 2000 – June 14, 2000) Photography: by a pathologist of the organs and tissues that pass under his microscope.
Rene McGinnis: Paintings Exploring the Internal/Angst and Beauty (February 12, 2000 – April 12, 2000) Paintings: speak visually about love, sex, procreation and longing through angst and beauty.
Melanie Feerst: The Artist as Surgeon/ The Artist as Patient (October 30, 1999 – December 18, 1999) Installation: explores the interpretive differences between “curing disease” and “healing illness” in physician/patient relationships.
Jennifer Fredrich: From the Cabinet of Dr. Murrock (August 28, 1999 – October 26, 1999) Photography/Installation: Tells the story of a fictional 19th century doctor, wife and patients through an installed environment containing photographs printed on glass.
“Anatomy in the Gallery” (June 26, 1999 – August 24, 1999)
- Amor Montes De Oca – Photography: concerned with the relationship between human emotions and anatomical structure.
- Roberta Lindegard Meier – Drawings: Images of scars and sutures which served as a healing process for surgeries endured by the artist.
- Adrian Perez – Sculpture: explores the concept of body and responsibility for the body’s condition.
“Anatomy in the Gallery” (April 22, 1999 – June 22, 1999)
- Michael Eakes/ Christine Mytko – Photography: silver gelatin prints that are portrait-like images of brains.
- Susie Kaplan – Photography: transparencies that symbolize the artists’ brother’s battle against Muscular Dystrophy.
- Cara S. Pickett – Oil paintings, charcoal/pencil drawings: abstract tissue and bone images.
Patricia Otto: “Anatomy in the Gallery” (February 13, 1999 – April 13, 1999) Oil paintings, pastels, mixed media: use the human figure as a vehicle for expressing states of being throughout the stages of life.
“Anatomy in the Gallery – Group Show” (October 31, 1998 – December 18, 1998)
- Robert Johnson – Oil paintings: suggesting the subject’s internal organs have as much importance as the face or body.
- Santos Michelina – Watercolors: reflections on death.
- Jessica Peterson – Artist’s Book: “Preservation.”
- Laurel Prafke – Pen and ink drawings: anatomical studies.
- Eric Wert – Graphite, gouache and charcoal drawings: series of works done while visiting the gross anatomy lab at Northwestern Medical School.
Dr. Mark Li-Cheng Wu, M.D.: “The Art of Pathology” (August 29, 1998 – October 22, 1998)
“Anatomy in the Gallery” (July 9, 1998 – October 9, 1998)
- Joseph Hu – Paintings, charcoal drawings: abstract collages of human structure attempting to provoke the audience into questioning human existence.
- Erik LaGattuta – Paintings: realistic portrayals of cadavers and anatomy labs, depicting the relationships between the mind and body, and exhibiting the human emotions associated with human autopsies.
The Museum is in the process of digitizing its archive. To inquire about exhibitions presented earlier than what’s listed, please contact Museum staff.
This project is partially supported by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.