Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Graveside Portrait Photography, 20th Century

These images are drawn from an article entitled "Ghost World: A Selection of Graveside Portrait Photography from the YIVO archives" featured in Guilt and Pleasure Magazine's current Death Issue. You can read the whole article (and see all the images) here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Alexander Ver Huell (1822-1897)

Not long ago, I posted about an enigmatic postcard I had purchased in Ghent. Who was the artist? What was the story? A number of Morbid Anatomy readers pointed me in the direction of Dutch illustrator Alexander Ver Huell. Today Bibliodyssey posted more about this man and his fantastical and macabre art work--all images above drawn from that post.

See more (and find out more about the illustrator) here. Thanks to friend to Morbid Anatomy Paul Rumsey for alerting me to this post!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ian Goulden's Digital Photomontages

I discovered the interesting digital photomontagery of Ian Goulden (aka "seriykotik1970") on a blog called "Traveling with the Ghost." Above is one of his pieces, entitled "The Curiosity Collector." You can view the whole collection of photomontages on his Flickr page.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Anatomie des Vanités" Exhibit, 2008

The Erasmus House in Brussels, Belgium is staging an amazing looking exhibition called "Anatomie des Vanités" that will be on view until September 16th. The exhibition celebrates the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Erasmus Museum and is organized around a 17th century anatomical Eve (see top photo above), belonging to an unspecified private collection. Modern artists such as Jan Fabre, Marie-Jo Lafontaine and Aïda Kazarian also take part in this project.

From the museum flyer:
The exhibition includes animals, Narwhal tusks, an anatomical Eve, a whale's penis, 'vanities', turned ivories, testimony to the masters' virtuosity an of the taste for curiosities that could be found in the 'Wunderkammern' of the 16th and 17th centuries. These historic objects are contrasted with contemporary art (Jan fabre, Marie-Jo Lafontaine) and with paintings of this Museum (Jerome Bosh, Quentin Massys, Hans Holbein). The artist Aida Kazarian has helped redesign the layout of the Museum, on the 75th anniversary of the foundation of Erasmus House. The highlight of the exhibition is a pregnant anatomical Eve, coming from a private collection. This exhibition on vanity, though in jubilant fashion, shows many representations of death, at the confluence of the traditional 'memento mori' of the Middles Ages and the birth of scientific thought in the curiosity cabinets.

All above images from the museum website; you can find out more about the exhibition there. You can also view a video of the installation here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"To Die No More," Blind Pony Books, 2008

My friend Herbert Pfostl of Blind Pony Books has published a beautiful little book called To Die No More. It is a lovely, quiet little book, meant, in Herbert's words, to be "read slowly but in one sitting from cover to cover for it is 'composed' like a piece of music (melodies overheard) -- but as if one voice was speaking --- although so many different voices, thoughts, prayers, sighs, miscalculations and curses etc etc are brought together in it." It is, he continues, "...a little book on the marvelous embroideries of death told in fragment from many sources both known and long forgotten illustrated with small paintings of shipwrecks, animals and ashes. Made with great care and sober like a good dream." The book runs 200 pages text and features 25 color images, many of them reproductions of Herbert's paintings, one of which featured above.

To get a taste of Herbert's work, check out his wonderful Blind Pony website. To Die No More is available at this website; you can also get the book at St. Mark's Books and Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers if you happen to reside in the NYC area.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"The Undead," Guest Blog Post, Saul Chernick

Artist Saul Chernick, who I reported on in a previous post, has done a nice "guest posting" called "The Undead" for a blog called Art Fag City. In the post, he discusses the history of death in the arts up to the present, including the anatomical arts and illustrates his essay with a nice collection of images (such as, above, Hans Baldung Grien's Death and the Maiden, 1518-20).

Check out Chernick's post here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Creation Museum, Petersburg, Kentucky, U.S.A.

On my recent roadtrip, my boyfriend and I happened upon a billboard for The Creation Museum (while on our way to the equally spectacular Breyerfest and the wonderful Roadside America). It was not on our itinerary, but we agreed that we'd be crazy not to go. It was well worth the stop; it was an amazing, if angering and perplexing, spectacle, well worth the $28 dollar admission.

The Creation Museum is the $33 Million showcase of a Christian Evangelical group called Answers in Genesis, an organization run by Ken Ham, who holds a degree in applied science from the University of Queensland in Australia. The museum is, in effect, an alternative natural history museum, complete with large-scale animatronic dinosaurs and living animals, that uses the visual language of the natural history museum to debunk the teachings of natural history. I think of it as a visual essay attempting to reconcile biblical literalism with science. A tricky thing, and, in my opinion, a real failure.

Here is how the the museum website describes the museum:
The Creation Museum presents a 'walk through history.' Designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director, this state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life. A fully engaging, sensory experience for guests. Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics, and a special-effects theater complete with misty sea breezes and rumbling seats. These are just some of the impressive exhibits that everyone in your family will enjoy.

Here is how one of my favorite authors Stephen Asma describes it, in his recent article "Trapped in the Creation Museum:"
In many ways, it's not quite accurate to call this center a museum at all. It contains almost no factual information, unless you count speculations on how Noah kept dinosaurs on the ark as information. It offers no new observations about nature, unless inferring the existence of a Designer can be called observational. And, unlike most nature museums, it has no research component. But perhaps the main problem with the museum is that it implicitly endorses the terms of debate set up by creationists--that it is God and goodness vs. Darwin and evil.

But see for yourself! If you have the opportunity, I very highly recommend you visit the museum in person--It really must be seen to be believed. If you'd like to pay a a virtual visit, I have documented much of the signage and most of the exhibits on my Flickr page. For more information, check out Asma's article in its entirety.

Indiana Medical History Museum

I just returned from a week-long roadtrip to give my lecture in Indianapolis and then return, via Lexington Kentucky, to Brooklyn.

The lecture went well; people seemed genuinely interested in the topic and asked really great questions. I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow anatomical-art bloggers Vanessa Ruiz and Janet Chao. Another highlight--Gary Schnitz, who introduced my lecture, alerted the conference attendees to the existence of a local museum called the Indiana Medical History Museum which, based on his very enthusiastic description, we took a detour to visit.

The museum (pictured above) was rather amazing. Housed in the remaining building of what had been a large psychiatric hospital complex in the 19th century (then known as the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane), the museum represents (this per the brochure) "the beginning of scientific psychiatry and modern medicine while the building itself is the oldest free standing pathology facility in the nation and is on the National Register of Historic Places." The museum is housed in the 19 room Old Pathology Building, built in 1896, and contains 3 clinical laboratories, a 100 seat amphitheater, and a photography studio. Visiting the museum feels a bit like time travel, as it still contains original books, photography studio equipment, paintings, fixtures, pathological samples, signage, furniture, and more. The experience provided a kind of haunted, experience of 19th century psychiatry.

The museum website seems to no longer be operational (above information taken from their brochure) but you can check out the museum's Flickr photostream. I also took a ton of photos, from which the above are drawn; you can view the rest here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Lessons in Anatomy Made Easy: Anatomical Models in Scientific and Cultural Context," Conference, 2008

The Museum Boerhaave in Leiden, The Netherlands, is hosting an international conference on anatomical models in historical and cultural context. The conference will be held on November 6th and 7th, and abstracts (if you're interested in presenting a paper) need to be submitted by August 1. The website is interested in submissions from historians of science, art historians and conservators with an interest in anatomical models, whether made from wax, plaster, papier-mâché or glass.

More information here. Via Biomedicine on Display.

Image from Anatomical Theatre exhibition.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Plastination Photo Essay (2008)

German photographer Marc Steinmetz has done a photo essay on Gunther von Hagens' (of Body Worlds fame) plastination method of bodliy preservation; check out all the photos here.

Via Medgadget.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"The Bruno Gebhard Papers," Dittrick Medical History Center, Cleveland, OH

The Dittrick Medical History Center in Cleveland, Ohio has joined the digital museum movement and begun to post images from their collection to Flickr! My favorite thus far: The Bruno Gebhard and German Health Displays" photo set from which these images are drawn. There's some great stuff up there, and much fascinating information; I highly recommend a visit. See the whole collection here.

About the photo set, from the Flickr page:
A set of photos from the Bruno Gebhard papers in the Archives at the Dittrick Medical History Center, at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio. Gebhard was curator at the Deutsches Hygiene Museum, 1927-35, and first director of the Cleveland Health Museum, 1940-65. These images document exhibits mounted by Gebhard in Germany and the United States in the 1930s.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Anatomical Venus Tattoo!

Morbid Anatomy reader Heather Whiteside has designed (and had permanently applied to her skin!) a tattoo based on the anatomical venus wax sculptural tradition.

To design the tattoo, she consulted a number of historical precedents, such as the famous La Specola Venus, a popular anatomical model from the William Bonardo Collection of Wax Anatomical Models, and a photograph of a wax anatomical model by photographer Herbert List (more on his work in a future post.) Of the tattoo, Heather writes:

This tattoo signifies my decision to register with the University of Alabama-Birmingham's Anatomical Donor Program, i.e. making a bequest of my body to medical research after my death. I had the tattoo artists at the shop, Blue Rose Tattoo in Huntsville, sign as my witnesses on the donor form. :) Greg Ross did the fine tattoo work from my original design. The imagery is a combination of  memento mori funeral portraiture and versions of anatomical venus type wax models.
If I were going to add a literary quotation to acccompany the tattoo, it would be the following: "Grave: a place in which the dead are laid to await the coming of the medical student." DEVIL'S DICTIONARY. Ambrose Bierce. 1911. I do wonder what the future medical students might make of this tattooed cadaver?

Nice work, Heather!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Association of Medical Illustrators Conference, July 16-July 20th, 2008

If anyone happens to be in the Indianapolis area next week, I will be presenting an illustrated lecture at the Association of Medical Illustrators Conference on Thursday, July 17th, at 1:15 PM. The presentation will cover the art and history or medical models, how they relate to the history or biomedical visualization, and my recent photo exhibition Anatomical Theatre.

On a related note, to get to the conference, I will be driving from New York City to Indianapolis, then home by way of Lexington, KY. Does anyone have any must-see suggestions either along the way or in either city?

Here is a full description of the presentation, from the conference website:

An understanding of early 3D models and teaching materials will provide historical review relating to the production and design of museum models, artifacts, and teaching aids. AMI members may benefit and gain insight into the role that 3D anatomical models play in contemporary medical illustration.

This lecture and Power Point presentation will feature photographs and imagery from pilgrimages to great medical museums of Europe and the United States. This presentation will focus on the art and history of medical museum artifacts, objects such as anatomical waxes, ivory sculptures, paper machŽ preparations, and preserved human remains, all created to teach medical students about visual diagnosis, anatomy, and the workings of the human body. The presentation will demonstrate, via lecture and images, that these artifacts communicate not only relevant medical lessons, but also function both as artistic and cultural objects. These museum pieces often represent changing metaphors with which the mysteries of the body have been understood, shifting ideas about how science should be presented. Also revealed in these models are understandings of gender, notions of the ideal versus the aberrant body, and evolving approaches to death. These artifacts contain an undeniable humanity and pathos that give the works the emotional depth generally attributed to artworks. This lecture will discuss preservational and sculptural methods; known artists of the genre, contextualization of these artifacts for a contemporary viewer, and review how these artifacts illustrate the history of medicine.

All Images from Anatomical Theatre Exhibition.

"Scientific Peep Show Tells How Our Bodies Work," Feb. 1938, Popular Science Magazine

From the wonderful blog Modern Mechanix. My question. What ever became of this alleged "New York Museum of Science and Industry?" And where are these models today? Anyone have any idea?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

"Black Rainbow," by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang.