Some days ago I have been lucky and quick enough to get a ticket to Morbid Anatomy Salon, an event organized by Wellcome Collection and Morbid Anatomy, a blog and museum in New York devoted to the exploration of art and medicine, death and culture.
I was particularly intrigued by the anatomical Venus: an 18th century life-sized wax woman created to teach a general public about anatomy. As Joanna Ebenstein, founder of The Morbid Anatomy blog, explains: “Since their creation in late-eighteenth-century Florence, these wax women have seduced, intrigued, and instructed. Today, they also confound, troubling the edges of our neat categorical divides: life and death, science and art, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, spectacle and education, kitsch and art. They are corporeal martyrs, anatomical odalisques, the uncanny incarnate. These wax models are the pinnacle of artificial anatomies, a tradition of three-dimensional, anatomical teaching tools stretching back to the turn of the eighteenth century.”
After this talk, I decided to go back to a series I started working on some time ago: Pulp Sections, papercut interpretations of anatomical sections, inspired by layered illustrations found in anatomical flap books from the early 20th Century.
Each piece starts from an image sourced from an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book I have been extensively referred to for my work.
Every original etching is analized and simplified to one layer. In order to have a relatively correct series of layers for each body part, most of the time I have to complement the Gray’s Anatomy images with diagrams found in other medical sources, both printed and online – I am getting to know a lot about my body!
Every level is then traced and cut into a cardboard of a specific colour, respecting when possible the colour code used in most books: red for arteries, blue for veins, yellow for nerves and so on.
Finally, all the layers are mounted together and sandwiched between layers of foam board to create a depth.
Here are the pieces created so far: