Schedule for Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500

This event was held on October 18, 2014.

General admission: $35
NYAM Fellows, Members, and Friends of the Rare Book Room: $20
Students and hospital house staff (ID required): Free
Wheelchair seating and companion seat: $35

The Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room will be open for drop-in visits.

Hosack Hall, Ground Floor

11:00 AM–12:00 PM
Unexpected Anatomies: Extraordinary Bodies in Contemporary Art
Ann Fox, PhD, and Chun-Shan “Sandie” Yi
Artworks about body difference show us the lived experience of disability. They dissect traditional ways of knowing about the body, which typically operate on our perceptions and expectations in problematic ways. Scholar Tobin Siebers has posited a “disability aesthetics” that dismantles our understanding of the body as an entity that is naturally one way and offers, instead, through fragmentation and reassemblage of the human form, a richer sense of human embodiment. Fox will discuss anatomies in art that approach and compel the anatomical gaze toward the body slant; for instance, Carol Chase Bjerke’s Misfortune Cookies, arranged in the shape of a stoma, evoke the intersection of the physical embodiment and lived experience of the ostomy patient. Yvonne Petkus’s sculptural paintings of female nudes—some informed by the experiences of Boston Marathon bombing survivors—reimagine the muscled anatomical figure in a meditation on bodily hierarchies and the aftereffects of trauma. Doug Auld’s paintings of burn survivors, State of Grace, and Sandie Yi’s Re-fuse Skin Set, challenge our sense of skin as the reflector of a whole, cohesive, normalized anatomy.

12:00–1:00 PM
The Language of Vesalius and the Purpose of the Fabrica
Daniel Garrison, PhD
The translator of the 2013 English language edition of the Fabrica, Garrison will focus on the classical ideology of nature and humoral doctrine found in the Fabrica and its epistemology—particularly on the concepts of anatomia sensata, or anatomical knowledge based on direct observation. He will also explore the significance of the mid-sixteenth-century publication of visual images and the changes to be found in the three editions of the Fabrica. Finally he will ask: should Vesalius be understood as a Renaissance humanist or an Early Modern scientist?

1:00–1:30 PM
3D Printing at the Intersection of Art, Anatomy, & Medicine
ProofX (Dima Elissa and Nuha Nazy) and Riva Lehrer
For almost a century, doctors have been able to see inside the human body, as radiography evolved from X-ray to computerized imagery such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound. However, in the last ten to fifteen years, advances in digital visualization have made it possible to convert such two-dimensional images into three-dimensional screen renderings of the individual patient’s anatomy. Today, 3D printing has moved far beyond mere visualization: physical replicas of patient anatomy are manufactured through 3D printing. Among many benefits of such biomedical 3D printing, such models can provide the surgeon a much more complete and accurate presurgical representation for planning, preparation, and decision making. ProofX’s presentation will conclude with “The Surface of Soles,” a brief reading by Riva Lehrer, whose custom orthopedic boots are often the object of public staring and are the inspiration for ProofX’s drive to use 3D printing to help people with non-normative bodies.

2:30–3:30 PM
STAND UP STRAIGHT: Toward a History of the Science of Posture
Sander Gilman, PhD
Our bodies are malleable. They change with age and with the demands that we place on them. How we stand—our posture—defines us as healthy or ill, able or disabled, beautiful or ugly. It defines us as human or not human. How do these shifting ideas of posture provide insights into the claims society makes on who we are and what we are able to do? The history of posture is also the history of our reading of human anatomy. From the ancients to the moderns, how the body’s anatomy is understood shaped and shapes our understanding of what is human (did Neanderthal Man stand up straight or slouch?), what is beautiful (the competition for a Posture Queen in twentieth-century America), and what is patriotic (no slouching in ranks!). How our understanding of posture was part of the history of anatomy and how the history of anatomy crafted our understanding of posture is central to this tale.

3:30–4:30 PM
Writing the Body
Bill Hayes
As The New York Times has noted, “Bill Hayes has an unusual set of skills: part science writer, part memoirist, part culture explainer.” For his three book-length works of narrative nonfiction as well as numerous essays for the Times and other publications, he has gone to unusual lengths in pursuit of his subjects. Hayes spent a year studying anatomy alongside medical students for his acclaimed book The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy. He is now at work on a history of exercise, titled Sweat, for which he is delving into the life of sixteenth-century physician (and early exercise advocate) Girolamo Mercuriale. In this presentation Hayes will retrace his steps in researching his books and discuss the varying approaches he has taken in writing about the human body.

4:30–5:30 PM
The True and Horrid Story of the Burke and Hare Anatomy Murders
Lisa Rosner, PhD
Vesalius’ revolutionary work, On the Fabric of the Human Body, transformed the study of medicine—but it also had the unintended result of transforming human remains into medical commodities. It was rumored that Vesalius himself robbed graves to find the cadavers necessary for his study of anatomy, and body snatching emerged over the next few centuries as the seamy underside of scientific progress. In the early nineteenth century, at the celebrated Edinburgh, Scotland, medical school, William Burke and William Hare took the sinister next step: rather than dig up cadavers in graveyards, they decided to create them. In 1827 to 1828 they killed sixteen people over twelve months—a higher murder count in a shorter time than Jack the Ripper—and sold them to the ambitious anatomy lecturer Dr. Robert Knox. Rosner’s presentation explores the world of Burke and Hare, constructed from contemporary documents and illustrations, and features images from The New York Academy of Medicine’s library.

5:30–6:30 PM
Alice Dreger, PhD
This talk will explore the evolution of medical imaging, from drawings to photographs to scans, with particular attention paid to how framing an image as medical can change its value and import, and even render its status to pornography. Dreger will draw on her twenty years of work as an historian and patient advocate looking at the social and medical treatment of people born with relatively unusual anatomical forms to address these questions: Why did physicians start blindfolding patients who were photographed? When does a medical image become art, pornography, an obscenity, or a branding opportunity? And what should modern medical textbooks look like?

Presidents Gallery, Ground Floor

11:00 AM–12:00 PM
Naissance Macabre: Birth, Death, and Female Anatomy
Brandy Schillace, PhD
Although full-figure anatomy prevailed when Vesalius’s On the Fabric of the Human Body was published, by the eighteenth century, sectioned and partial anatomies had become common in anatomical training. Two such works of female anatomies stand apart: William Smellie’s A Sett of Anatomical Tables (1754) and William Hunter’s Gravid Uterus (1774). These two large, copiously illustrated anatomical atlases bookend key developments in the practice of eighteenth-century midwifery. Unlike the tidy illustrations in Smellie’s atlas, the figures in Hunter’s atlas are frequently depicted with bloodied cross-sectioned stumped legs, yet both were illustrated by the same gifted anatomy artist, Jan van Rymsdyk. Whether Hunter deliberately intended to achieve artistic or visceral impact may be debatable, but unlike the birthing sheet, used to conceal a woman’s body from the midwife, the atlas rendered the female form more than denuded: it was stripped of flesh, severed, the internal matter laid open for observation. These superb female anatomical atlases, like silent muses, were invaluable to the practice of midwifery, particularly in handling difficult and dangerous childbirth.

12:00–1:00 PM
Chase Joynt
Resisterectomy was born out of a desire to relocate, redistribute, and recraft narratives of hysterectomy and mastectomy as they related, in part, to Chase Joynt’s personal experiences of these procedures as a transgender man. It is from this place that Joynt began to search for another person who might share the experiences of these procedures, while offering and inspiring alternative lenses through which to think through these issues and thematics. Made in collaboration with Dr. M. K. Bryson, Resisterectomy juxtaposes the narrative of trans sex-reassignment surgeries with the narrative of cancer surgeries. Resisterectomy is a four-part multimedia moving image, picture, and text installation that challenges the boundaries of a gendered body through the examination and infiltration of, in, and on various medical procedures and spaces.

1:00–1:30 PM
The Icones Anatomicae: Vesalius at The New York Academy of Medicine
Arlene Shaner
The Icones Anatomicae is a beautiful twentieth-century handpress printing of the original sixteenth-century woodblock images from Andreas Vesalius’s work. In 1934, after more than two hundred of the blocks were rediscovered at the University of Munich, The New York Academy of Medicine published the Icones Anatomicae, in partnership with the Bremer Presse (Bremen, Germany). Some of the story of the printing of the Icones was later recounted in Three Vesalian Essays, a volume meant to accompany the Icones. This appeared almost twenty years later, after many delays, but parts of the narrative remain incomplete. A search through the rare book collection and the NYAM archives helps fill the gaps in the story of the printing of this extraordinary work and the eventual fate of the original woodblocks.
Canceled due to illness

2:30–3:30 PM
Revisiting the Frontispiece: Vesalius’s Jewish Friend and the Impact of the Inquisition
Jeff Levine, MD, and Michael Nevins, MD
The famous public human dissection on the frontispiece of the 1543 Fabrica features a bearded man in the gallery who appears disturbed. Dr. Jeff Levine and Dr. Michael Nevins attribute this distinctive face to Lazarus de Frigeis, whom Vesalius described in the text as his close friend, “the distinguished Jewish physician” who taught him Hebrew words for the bones. The frontispiece was recut for the 1555 second edition and the phrase “distinguished Jewish physician” was deleted. Drs. Levine and Nevins will discuss the relationship between Vesalius and Lazarus and consider whether the anatomist was courting trouble by making a public statement of admiration for a Jew during the Inquisition. They will also analyze differences between the first- and second-edition frontispieces and their meanings. Did they contain coded messages reflecting a spectrum of tensions existing in sixteenth-century Italian society, particularly in the context of European Jewry during the Renaissance —and if so, why?

3:30–4:30 PM
Eva Åhrén
Anatomy in Three Dimensions: Specimens and Models in Medical Museums
The nineteenth century was the age of the museum, in medicine and science as well as in culture at large. Anatomists and pathologists in the Western world collected and prepared human and animal skeletons and organs, which they arranged in museums in correspondence with their own research programs, teaching curricula, and changing scientific concepts. In this talk Åhrén will draw on photographs, prints, and drawings of specimens and models to show what such museums contained and what they looked like. She will show examples from medical museums in Europe and the United States, and demonstrate how these collections relate to the understanding of difference and hierarchy in medical science: evolution and the human-animal divide, human races, developmental abnormalities, and sexual characteristics.

4:30–5:30 PM
People Are the Most Interesting and Unusual Creatures
Steven Assael
People are the most interesting and unusual creatures that walk the planet. I’ve been drawn to the human image as a curiosity ever since I can remember, and I believe symmetrical relationships are endemic to our nature. Our anatomical composition is physically divided one side to the other by both symmetry and asymmetry. As the veins of a leaf are more equal in their pattern at a distance and varied in their particularities close up, so are we. We are also divided in our inner psychological world. We reveal ourselves just as theater presents its actors on stage and simultaneously bury or conceal our private histories. Moments can be revelatory experiences when painting or drawing a person from life. The observational experience of perceiving the subtleties of variation of physiognomy and gesture results in a compilation determined by my artistic expression.

5:30–6:30 PM
The Hidden History of the Anatomical Transparency
Michael Sappol, PhD
This is a story about topographical anatomy—a tradition of slicing and sawing rather than cutting and carving—and converting bodies from three to two dimensions and back again. In topographical anatomy, the frozen or mummified body was cut into successive layers that were then transcribed and reproduced as book illustrations, prints, or slides (sometimes with the original cadaver slices preserved in an anatomical museum). The topographical method influenced, and was influenced by, flap anatomy (the technique of cutting out and assembling printed illustrative anatomical parts into a layered representation of the body). In the twentieth century, medical illustrators and publishers developed a new technique of three-dimensional layering: the anatomical transparency, a device that has come to enchant artists as well as anatomists. These anatomical productions—medical illustrations and artworks, but also exhibitions, toys, gimmicks, and other objects of consumer desire—oscillate between disassembly and reassembly of bodies and speak to our ambivalent relation to the anatomical body. This presentation features photographs by Mark Kessell.

Woerishoffer Hall, Third Floor

11:00 AM–12:00 PM
Visualizing Anatomy on a Live Model
Kriota Willberg
Part live drawing performance, part slide show and lecture, part conversation, Kriota Willberg’s presentation explores the (kin)esthetic relationships of our anatomy. Twenty-five years of experience as an educator in health sciences, art, and dance have allowed her to build innovative methods for visualizing the body beneath the skin. Locating the bones, joints, and muscles on the body of a live model, Willberg will create intricate, colorful anatomical renderings that shift and deform as the model moves through a musculoskeletal choreography that dramatically enhances the audience’s appreciation of our deeper structures. A narrated slideshow of artworks from Albinus to Vesalius as well as Willberg’s own illustrations enhance and help identify actual and fanciful relationships of our parts to our whole.

12:00–1:30 PM
The GIMP Project
Heidi Latsky with Tiffany Geigel and Robert Simpson
In 2006 choreographer Heidi Latsky was commissioned by Lisa Bufano—a visual artist who was a bilateral amputee—to create a solo dance work for her. Little did she know that this collaboration would profoundly change the trajectory of her career. The GIMP Project, Latsky’s choreography featuring disabled and nondisabled dancers, ensued from this unique experience and continues and evolves to this day. Through video and live performance, Latsky will trace her journey and engage with the audience in a Q & A about this complex, diversified, and rich experience that has changed her life.

2:30–3:30 PM
Graphic Medicine and the Multiplanar Body
MK Czerwiec and Ian Williams, MD
Comics and graphic novels covering myriad health topics have become an international publishing phenomenon. As a source of alternative expertise, they can expand the conversation between the public and the medical professions, stir trans-generational interest, and impart new knowledge. By disrupting the monopoly of objective medical thinking, a more inclusive approach is possible, one in which the perspective of the patient, caregiver, or lay person has equal importance to that of the medical authorities. In this presentation, Dr. Ian Williams will focus on the iconography of the body in comics, showing how a comic can portray the body not only as a physical apparatus but a perceptual entity, simultaneously conveying action, feeling, and thought. MK Czerwiec will present the depiction of the body in drawing and comics created by care providers, taking examples from published graphic novels and work by medical students as they grapple with how to treat and portray the multiplanar body.

Berg Room, Third Floor

1:30–6:30 PM
ProofX Demonstration (Dima Elissa and Nuha Nazy)
For almost a century, doctors have been able to see inside the human body, as radiography evolved from X-ray to computerized imagery such as CT, MRI, and ultrasound. However, in the last ten to fifteen years, advances in digital visualization have made it possible to convert such two-dimensional images into three-dimensional screen renderings of the individual patient’s anatomy. Today, 3D printing has moved far beyond mere visualization: physical replicas of patient anatomy are manufactured through 3D printing. Among many benefits of such biomedical 3D printing, such models can provide the surgeon a much more complete and accurate presurgical representation for planning, preparation, and decision making. Participants will see the technology in practice at a demonstration table where ProofX staff and engineers will be on hand to answer questions.

Workshops (Registration Required)

10:00 AM–1:00 PM
Renaissance Illustration Techniques Workshop with Marie Dauenheimer, Medical Illustrator
Register here
Artists and anatomists passionate about unlocking the mysteries of the human body drove anatomical investigation during the Renaissance. Anatomical illustrations of startling power vividly described and represented the inner workings of the human form. Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks were among the most magnificent, merging scientific investigation and beautifully observed drawing. Students will have the opportunity to learn and apply the techniques used by Renaissance artists to illustrate anatomical specimens. Using dip and technical pens, various inks and prepared paper students will investigate, discover, and draw osteology, models, and dissected specimens from various views creating an anatomical plate.

11:00 AM–1:00 PM
From the Cradle to the Grave: Session One: The Cradle
Register here
Working with NYAM’s conservation team, celebrate Vesalius’s life with a hands-on workshop producing your own articulated anatomical figures in the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory. During the morning’s Cradle workshop, we will construct paper facsimiles of a moveable baby and female pelvis from one of NYAM’s 19th century obstetrics texts, Geburtschülfliche Taschen-Phantom (or the Obstetrical Pocket-Phantom). The book was written by Dr. K. Shibata, a Japanese author studying in Germany, and was published first in German before being translated into English and Japanese. Participants will have time to make at least one paper baby and pelvis, which can be produced as paper dolls or magnets.

2:30–4:30 PM
From the Cradle to the Grave: Session Two: The Grave
Register here
Working with our conservation team, celebrate Vesalius’s life with a hands-on workshop producing your own “exquisite corpse” in the Gladys Brooks Book & Paper Conservation Laboratory. During the afternoon’s Grave workshop, we focus on producing a Vesalian-themed exquisite (or rotating) corpse. Loosely based on the surrealist parlor game in which a picture was collectively created by assembling unrelated images, this workshop will employ a special, rotating binding structure and mix-matched facsimile images from NYAM’s rare book collections to allow students to create their own unique, moveable pieces of art.

2:30–5:30 PM
Understanding the Hand, physical anthropology workshop with Sam Dunlap, Ph.D.
Register here
The hand as an expression of the mind and personality is second only to the face in the Renaissance tradition of dissection and illustration that continues to inform both art and science. Basic anatomical dissection, illustration, and knowledge continue to be fundamental in many fields from evolutionary biology to surgery, medical training, and forensic science. This workshop will offer participants the opportunity to explore the human hand and its anatomy, which will be demonstrated with at least three dissections.  Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) forelimbs will be available along with other comparative skeletal material. We will discuss hand evolution, embryology, and anatomy, and the artistic importance of the hand since its appearance in the upper palaeolithic cave art. We will also analyze the hand illustrations of da Vinci, Vesalius, Rembrandt, and artists up to and including the abstract expressionists.

3 thoughts on “Schedule for Art, Anatomy, and the Body: Vesalius 500

  1. Pingback: NYAM hosts Vesalius 500: Art and Anatomy | Dittrick Museum

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  3. Pingback: The Body on Display: A Day at the NYAM Medical History Festival – NASSR Graduate Student Caucus (NGSC)

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