From January to March of 2015, the Dalhousie Art Gallery mounted an exhibition curated by Dr. Cindy Stelmackowich titled Anatomica that explored artists’ and scientists’ fascination with the internal landscapes of the human body, both as a physical object and an ever‐changing biomedical representation. This project generated a conversation between contemporary art and historical, illustrated anatomical atlases, anatomical models and medical artefacts, about the biological materiality of human existence.
The contemporary artworks in this exhibition offer new visual and conceptual vocabularies to the study of anatomy and the medicalized body; a number of artworks challenge the rhetorics related to scientific realism, while others emphasize the sensuality, historicity and the performativity of biomedical science.
The artworks in Anatomica respond to the materiality of the body’s surfaces and textures—its undulating flows, ripples or vigour. Whether through knitting (Sarah Maloney), carving (Maskull Lasserre), paper quilling (Lisa Nilsson), painting (Garry Neill Kennedy), drawing (Lucy Lyons, Howie Tsui and Kaisu Koski), sculpting (Maura Doyle) or sewing (Lyn Carter), these artworks offer new and exciting visual and tactile responses to anatomical seeing and knowing. This curious embrace of anatomical study is not unlike the pursuits of the surgeon or the dissecting anatomist’s gaze, in that defining minute bodily structures, membranes and parts all in the most exhaustive descriptions, are fundamental to building collective knowledge and understanding our fragile bodies and their inner workings.
Displayed alongside the contemporary artworks in Anatomica at the Dalhousie Art Gallery were selected groups of rare anatomical atlases and medical teaching models from the University’s Killam Library Special Collections and its Division of Anatomy within the Department of Medical Neuroscience.