My name is Naomi Slipp and I write about American art and human anatomy. A lot of people ask me why I study medical illustration and artistic anatomy – I don’t really have an answer. I don’t have unfulfilled dreams of being a doctor (art history was not my back-up career) or morbid desires to animate human cadavers á la Dr. Frankenstein. Instead, I think I love anatomical illustrations and works of artistic anatomy because they visualize for us what is going on inside of our own bodies – a mysterious terrain located right inside of us. This is something that artists have tried to express for hundreds of years – that fascinating and uncharted interior that is both complex and beautiful.
As a required facet of my PhD fellowship, I am organizing an exhibition called Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Rimmer, and Eakins to Contemporary Artists, to be held from January 31 - March 31, 2013 at the Boston University Art Gallery. This exhibition tells the story of the study of artistic anatomy in America from the first anatomy text of John Singleton Copley, created in 1756, to the contemporary works of Kiki Smith and others. Over eighty works in the exhibition [many never exhibited before], including drawings, prints, sculptures, paintings, and texts, illustrate the relationship between American art and medicine, a collaboration founded because of their shared interest in the human body and the study of anatomy.
Included in the exhibition are: illustrated anatomical lecture tickets; photographic stereoviews; anatomical sketches, studies, and models; pathological anatomy illustrations; and American anatomy books written for women and children. Fine art created by American artists Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), Kiki Smith (1954- ), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), William Rimmer (1816-1879), Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and many others, along with visual works from the "everyday" including magazines and prints, will illustrate the ways that artists studied artistic anatomy. Perhaps, most important, this exhibition examines both what that study meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work.
An illustrated catalogue [print run of 1000] comprised of a foreword, two scholarly essays, a series of color plates, an exhibition checklist, and a selected bibliography accompanies the exhibition. This catalogue illustrates many of these works of art for the first time, bringing them to the attention of a broad audience of readers, scholars and students. The first essay was written by one of my colleagues and discusses classical cast collections in nineteenth-century America, while the second essay written by me is about the study of artistic anatomy in American art.
In addition to this catalogue, extensive public programming throughout the duration of the exhibition, including two guest lectures, two guided tours, a scholarly panel/round-table, and daily film screenings, will enhance the scope and visibility of the exhibition. It is my hope that this programming will have a positive impact on the community and create a dialogue between two commonly polarized fields (art and science). We will be initiating collaborative programming with Massachusetts General Hospital, the College of Fine Arts, the BU Medical College & the Center for Science & Medical Journalism at Boston University, and the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. In looking at artworks created by artists and doctors, I hope to unite this diverse audience, bringing together people who are interested in art and those who are interested in medicine for a rich, shared conversation about what it means to occupy, treat & picture our own bodies.
WHAT DO I NEED YOUR HELP WITH?:
An exhibition costs a lot of money and so does a publication. While I have a small budget, I thought big when I began planning the show in the fall of 2010. It quickly became apparent that the benefits of the exhibition – addressing a subject that is unaddressed in scholarship and exhibiting many works that had never been seen before – also meant much higher costs to prepare these artworks for their début. As the costs of borrowing works of art from lenders and institutions mounted and mounted and mounted… I felt my exhibition slip further and further away from my original vision. I made hard decisions and cut half of my budget, applied for grant funding, and got creative with installation and programming costs. Recently, one of our funding sources fell through. We now face a shortfall of approximately $2,500 or 5% of the projected expenses.
This is about the time a friend suggested Kickstarter… So here we are: I am asking you to partner with me and the Boston University Art Gallery to bring Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Rimmer, and Eakins to Contemporary Artists to life. Be a part of this amazing exhibition, fund as much or as little as you can. I believe that this show and the accompanying catalogue deserve to be great but this can only be accomplished with your help. Your donations will defray costs on all ends of the exhibition: publication costs, exhibition costs, & programming costs.
Remember, if we don't make our $2,500 goal, we don't get funded at all. If we happen to raise more than our stated goal, these additional funds will help to expand the catalogue and exhibition programming, and increase our ability to borrow and promote the exhibition. If you have other ideas for rewards or ways to publicize this campaign please message me!
IN RETURN FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION:
You get that warm fuzzy feeling associated with helping a lowly graduate student, combined with a non-profit academic art gallery, mount a stellar exhibition and produce a beautiful scholarly publication. If you are looking for the swag too, there are a variety of rewards at several pledge levels. And as a special bonus, everyone, at every pledge level, will receive update emails through the progression of the exhibition, its installation, and the opening!
Thank you for your time and remember: time is limited and every pledge helps. If you like my project, please share it with others.
Thanks to Oskar Schuster, Alastair Cameron, and freemusicarchive.org for the music in the video.
The artworks shown above are: a plate from T.S. Lambert's "Systematic human physiology, anatomy, and hygiene" (1873); "Anatomical Rendering of Antique Figure: Bones," a student drawing from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Archives done by Carrie Saunders in 1876; a plate from Andreas Vesalius's "De Humani Corporis Fabrica" (1555); and a plate from William A. Alcott's "The House I Live In..." (1855).
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges that pertain to mounting a large exhibition and publishing an illustrated catalogue are certainly extensive. However, I have a supportive team at the Boston University Art Gallery who are excited to be a part of Teaching the Body. Our three major funding sources have dedicated themselves to the project and we have begun lining up participants and speakers for programming events. Personally, I have watched and participated in major exhibitions and publication ventures first hand through my employment at institutions such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Harvard University Art Museums.
Whatever the challenges that might arise, I have a significant and supportive network of individuals who are ready to assist in making Teaching the Body and the accompanying catalogue a success.
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