As a lover of human anatomy,
I’m so excited that we’re finallyputting our bodies at the center of focus.
Through practicessuch as preventive medicine,
and self-monitoring —
down to now obsessingover every single step we take in a day.
All of this works to promote
a healthy connectionbetween ourselves and our bodies.
Despite all this focuson the healthy self,
general public knowledgeof the anatomical self is lacking.
Many people don’t knowthe location of their vital organs,
or even how they function.
And that’s because human anatomy
is a difficult and time-intensivesubject to learn.
How many of you heremade it through anatomy?
Wow, good —
most of you are in medicine.
I, like you, spent countless hoursmemorizing hundreds of structures.
Something no student of anatomycould do without the help of visuals.
Because at the end of the day,
whether you rememberevery little structure or not,
these medical illustrations are whatmakes studying anatomy so intriguing.
In looking at them,
we’re actually viewinga manual of our very selves.
But what happens when we’re done studying?
These beautiful illustrationsare then shut back
into the pages of a medical textbook,
or an app,
referenced only when needed.
And for the public,
medical illustrationsmay only be encountered passively
on the walls of a doctor’s office.
From the beginnings of modern medicine,
and therefore anatomy,
have existed primarily withinthe realm of medical education.
Yet there’s something fascinatinghappening right now.
Artists are breaking anatomyout of the confines of the medical world
and are thrusting itinto the public space.
For the past nine years,I have been cataloguing and sharing
this rise in anatomical artwith the public —
all from my perspectiveas a medical illustrator.
But before I get into showing youhow artists are reclaiming anatomy today,
it’s important to understandhow art influenced anatomy in the past.
Now, anatomy is by itsvery nature a visual science,
and the first anatomists to understandthis lived during the Renaissance.
They relied on artists
to help advertise their discoveriesto their peers in the public.
And this drive to not only teachbut also to entertain
resulted in some of the strangestanatomical illustrations.
Anatomy was caught in a strugglebetween science, art and culture
that lasted for over 500 years.
Artists rendereddissected cadavers as alive,
posed in these humorousanatomical stripteases.
Imagine seeing thatin your textbooks today.
They also showed them as very much dead —
unwillingly stripped of their skin.
Disembodied limbs were oftenposed in literal still lives.
And some illustrationseven included pop culture references.
This is Clara,
a famous rhinoceros that wastraveling Europe in the mid-1700s,
at a time when seeing a rhinowas an exciting rarity.
Including her in this illustrationwas akin to celebrity sponsorship today.
The introduction of color
then brought a whole newdepth and clarity to anatomy
that made it stunning.
By the early 20th century,
the perfect balance of scienceand art had finally been struck
with the emergenceof medical illustrators.
They created a universalrepresentation of anatomy —
something that was neither alive nor dead,
that was free from those influencesof artistic culture.
And this focus on no-frills accuracy
was precisely for the benefitof medical education.
And this is what weget to study from today.
But why is it that medical illustration —
both past and present —
captures our imaginations?
Now, we are innately tunedinto the beauty of the human body.
And medical illustration is still art.
Nothing can elicitan emotional response —
from joy to complete disgust —
more than the human body.
artists armed with that emotion,
are grasping anatomyfrom the medical world,
and are reinvigorating it through artin the most imaginative ways.
A perfect example of this is Spanishcontemporary artist Fernando Vicente.
He takes 19th century anatomicalillustrations of the male body
and envelops them in a female sensuality.
The women in his paintings taunt usto view beyond their surface anatomy,
thereby introducing a strong femininity
that was previously lacking in the historyof anatomical representation.
Artistry can also be seen in the repairand recovery of the human body.
This is an X-ray of a womanwho fractured and dislocated her ankle
in a roller-skating accident.
As a tribute to her trauma,
she commissioned Montreal-basedarchitect Federico Carbajal
to construct a wire sculptureof her damaged lower leg.
Now, notice those bright red screwsmagnified in the sculpture.
These are the actual surgical screwsused in reconstructing her ankle.
It’s medical hardwarethat’s been repurposed as art.
People often ask me how I choosethe art that I showcase online
or feature in gallery shows.
And for me it’s a balancebetween the technique
and a concept that pushes the boundariesof anatomy as a way to know thyself,
which is why the workof Michael Reedy struck me.
His serious figure drawingsare often layered in elements of humor.
For instance, take a look at her face.
Notice those red marks.
Michael manifests the consuminginsecurity of a skin condition
as these maniacal cartoon monsters
annoying and out of controlin the background.
On the mirrored figure,
he renders the full anatomy
and covers it in glitter,
making it look like candy.
By doing this,
Michael downplaysthe common perception of anatomy
so closely tied to just disease and death.
Now, this next conceptmight not make much sense,
but human anatomyis no longer limited to humans.
When you were a child,
did you ever wishthat your toys could come to life?
Well, Jason Freenymakes those dreams come true
with his magical toy dissections.
One might think that thiswould bring a morbid edge
to one’s innocent childhood characters,
but Jason says of his dissections,
“One thing I’ve never seenin a child’s reaction to my work is fear.”
It’s always wonder,
and wanting to explore.
Fear of anatomy and gutsis a learned reaction.
This anatomization also extends topolitically and socially charged objects.
In Noah Scalin’s “Anatomy of War,”
we see a gun dissectedto reveal human organs.
But if you look closely,
you’ll notice that it lacks a brain.
And if you keep looking,you might also notice
that Noah has so thoughtfullyplaced the rectum
at the business end of that gun barrel.
Now, this next artistI’ve been following for many years,
watching him excitethe public about anatomy.
Danny Quirk is a young artist
who paints his subjectsin the process of self-dissection.
He bends the rules of medical illustration
by inserting a very dramaticlight and shadow.
And this creates a 3-D illusion
that lends itself very wellto painting directly on the human skin.
Danny makes it look as if a person’sskin has actually been removed.
And this effect —
also cool and tattoo-like —
easily transitionsinto a medical illustration.
Now Danny is currentlytraveling the world,
teaching anatomy to the publicvia his body paintings,
which is why it wasso shocking to find out
that he was rejectedfrom medical illustration programs.
But he’s doing just fine.
Then there are artists
who are extracting anatomy from boththe medical world and the art world
and are placing itdirectly on the streets.
London-based SHOK-1 paintsgiant X-rays of pop culture icons.
His X-rays show how culturecan come to have an anatomy of its own,
and conversely how culture can becomepart of the anatomy of a person.
You come to admire his work
because reproducing X-rays by hand,let alone with spray paint,
is extremely difficult.
But then again this is a street artist,
who also happens to holda degree in applied chemistry.
Nychos, an Austrian street artist,
takes the term “exploded view”to a whole new level,
splattering human and animal dissectionson walls all over the world.
Influenced by comics and heavy metal,
Nychos inserts a very youthfuland enticing energy into anatomy
that I just love.
Street artists believethat art belongs to the public.
And this street anatomy is so captivating
because it is the furthest removedfrom the medical world.
It forces you to look at it,
and confront your ownperceptions about anatomy,
whether you find it beautiful,
or awe-inspiring, like I do.
That it elicits these responses at all
is due to our intimateand often changing relationship with it.
All of the artiststhat I showed you here today
referenced medicalillustrations for their art.
But for them,
anatomy isn’t just something to memorize,
but a base from which to understandthe human body on a meaningful level;
to depict it in ways that we can relate,
whether it be through cartoons,
or street art.
Anatomical art has the power
to reach far beyondthe pages of a medical textbook,
to ignite an excitement in the public,
and reinvigorate an enthusiasmin the medical world,
ultimately connecting our innermost selveswith our bodies through art.