Research: Artists inspired by medicines

Continuing from my previous research post, I have explored the work of some other artists inspired by medicines.

Anna Dumitriu

Anna Dumitriu makes bioart which ranges from running workshops that teach people how to extract DNA and use bacteria in artworks to her Plague Dress which is dyed with walnut husks (purported to be a plague cure) and embroideries impregnated with the DNA of the plague bacterium.

Image credit: Anna Dumitriu (2013)
Image Credit: Anna Dumitriu (2018) Plague Dress

Paddy Hartley

Paddy Hartley’s work Building Body was prompted by the use and abuse of steroids in the bodybuilding community. His project culminated in the creation of statues that Hartley refers to as “a series of satirical ceramic ‘trophies’ which are themselves as fragile as the ‘enhanced’ human form on which they are based.

 'Male'. Earthenware Terra Sigillata, wood. 1993
Image Credit: Paddy Hartley () Building Body

Lindsay Obermeyer

Lindsay Obermeyer’s work Dis/ease (1996-2007) plays on the idea that “[d]octors tend to focus their gaze on small aspects of the body, rather than look at the sum of its parts.” Her use of applying sequins or embroidery to text taken from Gray’s Anatomy either disguises or highlights the selective nature of medical specialisms. This idea particularly resonates with me as the condition I have is multi systemic which means that currently I am either being seen by or in the process of being referred to ten different specialists at seven different hospitals.

Her work Micro Patterns (2009-2018) “investigate(s) microscopic patterns, rendering visible biological forms in the highly saturated colors of MRI scans“.

Vertebral Body - 2011
Image Credit: Lindsay Obermeyer Vertebral Body – 2011 Gouache painting on paper, 8.5″ x 11″, photo credit: Larry Sanders

Her work (2018-) Patterns of Healing Obermeyer has chosen to turn her own condition into from something scary to something beautiful by turning her MRI scans into beaded embroidery on silk. Her 3D sculptures in Mikros (2008-2018) use needle felting which she points out contains the DNA of the animal whose wool she has used.

In my feedback from my tutor, she recommended I look at the packaging of the medications I am prescribed with the view of incorporating it into the presentation of my work. Lindsay Obermeyer has beaded some of the bottles that her medication is issued in to “(turn) them into miniature reliquaries”. I found her reasoning behind the creation of her ongoing work Medicine Man rather beautiful:

In today’s society, the doctor is at the top of the pyramid with his or her power over life and death.  The root for Bead is Bede which means prayer.  These little reliquaries once contained tablets taken to give me lmore time to enjoy my life.  They are in a sense an answer to my prayers.”

Lindsay Obermeyer
Medicine Man - 2016 to date
Image Credit: Lindsay Obermeyer (2016-) Medicine Man

Laura Splan

Laura Splan’s work Embodied Objects is a series of sculptures based on electromyogram (EMG) readings of electrical activity in muscles. The resulting sculptures are created by 3D printing them. In Viral Artifacts she creates doilies using computerised machine embroidery to create lace doilies that depict virus structures.

In Placebo she creates oversized knitted renderings of antipsychotics and antidepressants to “provide a different kind of comfort than their prescription counterparts“.

Prozac, Thorazine, Zoloft
Image Credit: Laura Span (2008) Prozac, Thorazine, Zoloft

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