Brains and Breasts: Omitted Anatomies
Exhibition by Helen Gerritzen & Marilène Oliver
What happens when two artists discover they have created works from the exact same inspiration? Leonardo da Vinci’s paper cartoon c 1509-10, Dissection of the principal organs and arterial system of a woman 1 (also known as the Great Lady), a delicate rendering of a woman’s torso, became the starting point of contemporary works by Marilène Oliver and Helen Gerritzen. During one of their first ever conversations, Helen and Marilène shared their enthusiasm for this mysterious and rich anatomical drawing.
Says Gerritzen: “It was the verso that captured my attention: I loved the pin pricks on the back of the drawing and the way that the folds in the paper becomes a division imposed on the body. I did the same to a sheet of copper as da Vinci had done in the paper cartoon, I folded it in four and redrew the women’s body in individual pricks; each one physically etched into and through the plate.” Gerritzen then captured this process on paper as a print.
Oliver, collaborating with Dr Francis Wells, created a print based sculpture from Leonardo’s drawing in order to imagine his female body having been scanned/seen by contemporary imaging technologies (such as MRI and CT). “I found it fascinating how on closer inspection we realized that the heart isn’t actually human – its bovine! And there are four uterine ligaments which again are bovine. Did you know those curved lines coming from the belly button are not found in adults but in fetus?”
They went on to ask each other about their current projects. Gerritzen described how she was working on a series of large collagraph-based works inspired by anatomical illustrations of mammary glands from the medical text “Diseases Peculiar to Women.” Oliver explained that she was working with MRI brain scan data related to her mother’s early onset dementia.
“So we are both working with Leonardo’s omitted anatomies? The Great Lady has no breasts nor brains does she?”
Brains and Breasts: Omitted Anatomies is an exhibition of print based work made by Gerritzen and Oliver that explore these omitted anatomies visually, emotionally and politically. Their initial conversation has sparked a longer, deeper, richer artistic discussion, the results of which will be exhibited at SNAP. Anatomical illustration and medical imaging are the foundation of Gerritzen and Oliver’s works but they are then transformed through various print processes such as etching and collagraph. The works offer both a lived and feminist exchange of the female body’s long history as a repository of cultural, sexual, medical and religious meanings and reminds us of the tenuous corporeal and symbolic “body” being represented here.
Opening Reception: November 2, 7-9 pm.
SNAP is a public gallery so admission to our exhibitions is always free!