Body beautiful: Anatomy as art

Exhibits at two museums in Washington, D.C., use medical imagery to showcase the beauty of the human form.

By Damon Adams — Posted March 28, 2005

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One image shows a human body, its skeleton exposed, striking a pose that could be a football player receiving a pass or a dancer gliding across a Broadway stage.

A second image, this one a pen and ink on canvas, illustrates a crouching, bald man whose bended arm and knee expose an inside view of interwoven nerves, muscles and bones.

The works at two different museums depict anatomy as art. They are parts of exhibits now on display in Washington, D.C., that use medical imagery to showcase the beauty of the human form.

"It's a cool look at the body," said Elizabeth Lockett, exhibit designer and collections manager of the Human Developmental Anatomy Center at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, which is displaying the exposed skeleton image.

"The Human Body Revealed" exhibit at the museum is artist and writer Alexander Tsiaras' interpretation of human anatomy. The exhibit, which runs through June, features 60 images from Tsiaras' book, The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed. The display includes a 10-minute video that looks at the internal structures and processes of the body.

Tsiaras teams computer software with full-body scans, powerful microscope images and molecular surveillance views to craft the creations.

"We try to make sure they're beautiful, so that's what will keep people" focused on them, said Tsiaras, whose company, Anatomical Travelogue, is based in New York City.

In another exhibit, the one with the crouching bald man, artists use more abstract images to portray the human body as art.

The "Visionary Anatomies" exhibit, presented by the Office of Exhibitions and Cultural Programs at the National Academy of Sciences, runs through May 20. It showcases works that are based on medical images and concepts. The images depict the inner workings of the body while intertwining medicine, art and technology.

"It's 11 contemporary artists who use medical imagery as part of their artistic vocabulary," said J.D. Talasek, director of exhibitions and cultural programs at the academy.

In a forward to the exhibit, Institute of Medicine President Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD, writes: "The artists ... expose us to our inner selves, highlight selected parts and juxtapose (and sometimes rearrange) the physical elements within and around us. The works draw from ancient anatomy and from modern imaging technology."

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Now playing

"The Human Body Revealed"

Location: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Ave. and Elder St., NW, Washington, D.C.
Phone: 202-782-2200.
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Exhibit runs through June.
Cost: Free admission and parking.
Web site: link

"Visionary Anatomies"

Location: National Academy of Sciences Building, 2100 C. St., NW, Washington, D.C.
Phone: 202-334-2436.
Hours: Weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibit runs through May 20.
Cost: Free admission. Photo ID required to enter building.
Web site: link

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