January 6 – March 18, 2007

“Visionary Anatomies” showcases the work of 11 contemporary artists inspired by human anatomical imagery to express aesthetic, social and cultural ideas. The exhibition of 18 works represents a wide range of media, artistic styles and schools of thought that actively exist in the art world today. Created by the National Academy of Sciences and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, “Visionary Anatomies” will be on view January 6 through March 18, 2007 at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Amherst, MA. The exhibition will continue on a six-city national tour through 2007.

For centuries, medical science has relied on artists to further the understanding of the human body. Throughout the last 25 years, advances in imaging technology have supplanted the need for traditional artists’ renderings of the anatomy. However, contemporary artists are returning to the medical field for inspiration. From the modest beginnings of woodcuts and etchings to modern X-rays and angiograms, artists’ interpretations have evolved with the understanding of the body.
The inspiration for many of the photographs, paintings and mixed media works is often a technical image, such as an X-ray, manipulated or recreated to convey a personal statement. The compositions in “Visionary Anatomies” disassemble, reconstruct and rearrange the human body according to the artists’ motives. In some cases, the artists’ own maladies have inspired their work; one such painter merges images of her own angiograms with healing symbols from a 17th-century sorcery book. However, not all of the artwork is personal; some artists simply create optical illusions or deliver cultural and societal suggestions.

“Visionary Anatomies” exemplifies the continued dialogue between artists and scientists, which leads to the discovery of powerful metaphors in medical images and the insights that they contain. The work that results from these partnerships, according to exhibition curator JD Talasek, has “the potential to remind us of our humanity and to keep alive our sense of wonder and awe.”

The artists featured in the exhibition include local Northampton artist, Richard Yarde, Stefanie Bürkle, Katherine Du Tiel, Tatiana Garmendia, Joy Garnett, Connie Imboden, Predrag Pajdic, Katherine Sherwood, Frederick Sommer, Mike and Doug Starn, and the group (art)n.


Lecture: Richard Yarde, Thursday, February 8, 4:30 pm, Stirn Auditorium. Reception to follow in the museum.

The National Academy of Sciences was chartered by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Although primarily dedicated to the furtherance of sciences, the NAS also recognizes the significant role art plays in society and history. For the past 25 years, NAS’ Office of Exhibitions and Cultural Programs has sponsored exhibitions, concerts and other events, focusing primarily on the intersection of art and science.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of the Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage though a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit www.sites.si.edu.