IMSS Artist-in-Residence, Spring 2021
Artist-in-Residence, Kathleen Gallo
Kathleen Gallo’s 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 will be creating 2D post-mortem facial reconstructions from the Museum’s unique collection of trephined skulls from ancient Peru.
“My body of work aspires to a seemingly impossible goal: bringing life to the dead. Centering around my affinity for examining the human condition, mortality, anthropology, and anatomy, my art culminates in the field of anatomical/forensic art, primarily in the creation of post-mortem facial reconstructions. Using the structure of the skull as directions, I reassemble the idiosyncrasies of the face to construct a recognizable person with distinct features, bringing to life a face forgotten by time.
By examining death every day, I have managed to find success in my body of work and exercise my extreme passion for history and justice. In my work I push myself to explore my emotional capacity, giving myself over to my fascination with things long past and examining humanity’s relationship with mortality over thousands of years to capture its qualities and its gravity. I hope that my artwork may continue to give faces to the individuals who have had their dignity and identities stripped from them, as well as open a dialogue surrounding the taboo subject matter of human mortality in Western culture. Above all, I want to lead an expedition into my own mental and emotional capacity around the cyclical nature of destruction and birth.”Kathleen Gallo, Artist Statement
Before and After Facial Reconstruction of Neandertal Shanidar #1
Plaster, acrylic paint, synthetic hair
A reconstruction of a Neandertal found in Shanidar Cave, Iraq. This hominid dates back
to approximately 60,000-45,000 BCE. He is also known as “Neal Andertal”.
(Image courtesy of the Penn Museum)
Observational Study of Morton Skull #1097
Graphite on paper
A sketch such as this is a part of my preparatory work for a post-mortem facial
Partial 2D Reconstruction of Morton Skull #1097
Graphite on paper
This drawing is another form of facial reconstruction that is done on the anterior and
lateral sides of the skull.
Kathleen Gallo began her art education as an apprentice at the age of eight. After a decade of studying under Chicago-born professional artist Donna Sands, Gallo moved from Chicago to Philadelphia to further develop her skill set. In order to continue her studies, she audited physical anthropology classes at the University of Pennsylvania, and she attended the PAFA Hahnemann Program for cadaver dissections. These experiences furthered her knowledge of human anatomy and appreciation for the field of anthropology (the study of human beings). In May of 2020, she graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with a BFA in Fine Arts.
Gallo completed her first post-mortem facial reconstruction at The New York Academy of Art in January of 2018. This reconstruction would later lead to an identification of the remains with the instruction of her mentor, forensic artist Joe Mullins. Gallo has created reconstructions for the Pima County Police, Penn Museum, Mütter Museum, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Images of her post-mortem facial reconstructions have been published in Expedition Magazine and The New York Times.
Gallo interned at the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology under Dr. Janet Monge. In her internship/freelance work she created flesh-reconstructions from skulls in their archives, as well as made visual art based on their private collection. One of her college achievements was having the Penn Museum purchase her reconstruction of a Neandertal from approximately 45,000-65,000 years ago. This technically crafted reconstruction is now on permanent display in the main entrance gallery of the Penn Museum. She continues to pursue her career path in both the field of forensic arts as well as fine arts.
About the Residency Program: 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 and introduce novel perspectives to the institutional depiction of medical history. The IMSS Artist Residency Program provides working artists with:
- Access to the Museum’s extensive collections and archive
- Visibility on the Museum’s website and social media channels
- A month-long capstone Solo Exhibition (or equivalent presentation) at the Museum
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.