The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Leonardo da Vinci
For years, as as an art educator and artist, I’ve had an ongoing preoccupation with body parts, especially with anatomical systems and human organs as artistic imagery. This fascination has lead me to research a variety of vintage anatomical illustrations by scientific and medical artists such as Georg Stubbs, William Braune, Nicolas Henri Jacob, Anton Nuhn and Leonardo da Vinci.
These illustrators were professional artists with advanced education in both the life sciences and visual communication. I like the idea that these artists collaborated with scientists and physicians, and that they transformed complex visual information into visual images with potential to communicate to broad audiences. As digital photography and other digital media have come to dominate the medical illustration world, the demand for these artists has declined. So, I say to myself, perhaps my art can fill this void.
Within these illustrations I love the usage of the soft tones, dusty pinks, strong blood reds and variation of subtle flesh tones. Many of these artists made observations of human dissection or cross sections of organs, which I find quite odd, but beautiful at the same time. From this insight into anatomical illustrations I’ve decided to abstract the imagery, whereas most medical illustrators would draw more accurate renderings of their anatomical subject matter.
Over time, I have painted a variety of medical themes – including childbirth, rib cages, hearts, livers, and brains – onto nesting dolls. The dolls vary in size, and range from sets of three to sets of six. The dolls mimic the idea of dissecting the body into smaller and smaller parts, but while I’m painting I sometimes think to myself that the change of sizing of the dolls also relates well to the concept of growth of the human form.
Kezia Field teaches art at Columba College, Dunedin, where she is HOD Visual Arts. More information about her work as an artist and art educator is available via her Pinterest page.
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