Announcement by Laura Ferguson and Katie Grogan, DMH, MA
The Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine (MSPHM) at NYU Grossman School of Medicine recently launched a new website ArtandAnatomy.com, offering a glimpse inside their book Art & Anatomy: Drawings (University of California Medical Humanities Press, 2018) and the innovative anatomy drawing course on which it is based.
The Art & Anatomy course was developed by MSPHM artist-in-residence Laura Ferguson in 2009 and has had approximately 450 participants to date, including medical students, physicians, researchers, and other healthcare professionals—all with various levels of drawing experience. On Tuesday evenings, art supplies are set out on tables and the anatomy lab is transformed into a studio. Participants gather with a spirit of creative enterprise and a unique goal: to turn anatomy into art.
Art & Anatomy is not a course in medical illustration; in fact, it highlights many of the limitations of typical medical representations of the body. It can be hard to relate to our inner bodies if we can only imagine them through print and digital illustrations: generic and diagrammatic, with the texture of real life smoothed away. The artists in Laura’s course learn to visualize the body in new ways and appreciate the unique beauty of each individual’s anatomy, however different.
The drawings made in Art & Anatomy show how powerful and compelling the imagery of anatomy can be. They create an alternative aesthetic of anatomy—one that is far more nuanced and personal. Visual representations of the body’s interior are often accessible only through medical imaging or computer-generated renderings. These should not be only images available to us. The drawings featured in the book and on the website grant us access to images of our inner anatomies that are unexpected yet familiar, inviting us to (re)connect with our own bodies and making them more accessible to us.
The artists are encouraged to let go of preconceptions and see what is really there. The course, and its resultant drawings, open a space where the human form can be observed without judgement, labeling, or the imperative of a single correct interpretation. The Anatomy Lab offers a great diversity of real human bodies, donated for students to learn from—and, in their role as artists, the anatomical differences they are taught to recognize as pathologies become the details that bring their drawings alive, like portraits. Each bone, organ, and anatomical structure contains unique details that tell the story of a life lived.
Art & Anatomy: Drawings is a visual book about the course. It features 92 drawings, photos of the class in progress, a foreword by Danielle Ofri, MD, essays and quotes from participants, and a curriculum for those who may wish to start their own anatomy drawing courses.
At ArtandAnatomy.com, visitors will find more about the book and the course, as well as a gallery of beautiful drawings, information about related projects, and much more. Through the launch of this website, the MSPHM aims to inspire those working at the intersections of art and the body and to foster conversation with the medical humanities community at large.
Laura Ferguson is Artist-in-Residence in the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and co-editor of Art & Anatomy: Drawings. Her work has been featured in galleries and museums in New York and around the country, in seminal exhibitions on art and medicine including “Seeing Ourselves” at MuseCPMI in New York, “Humans Being” at the Chicago Cultural Center, and “Beyond the X-ray” at the Boston Museum of Science.
Katie Grogan, DMH, MA is Associate Director of the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine and Instructor of Medical Humanities at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. She is co-editor of Art & Anatomy: Drawings. Her research interests include literature and medicine, critical theory, narrative ethics, and the inclusion of arts, humanities, and social sciences in medical education.