Exhibition Information

Hidden Beauty: Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science/ Beyond Obvious
January 28 - February 22, 2019

Hidden Beauty: Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science is a traveling exhibition organized by Norman Barker of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, featuring photographic images that represent a visual aspect of medical and scientific research. The core idea put forth explores the aesthetics of human disease, both within and beyond the context of our preconceived social systems. This collaborative project by a scientist and artist asks the viewer to consider the aesthetics of the human body, disease, and biology. Norman Barker and Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue explain, “Disease is a dynamically powerful force of nature that acts without regard to race, religion or culture. These forces create visually stunning patterns with a remarkable ability to evoke human emotion in isolation that differs when viewed in the context of the disease that produced the image. We see beauty in the delicate lacework of fungal hyphae invading a blood vessel, the structure of the normal cerebellum, and the desperate drive of metastasizing cancer cells. However, the appreciation of the imagery produced by disease is bittersweet; we simultaneously experience the beauty of the natural world and the pain of those living with these disease processes. Ultimately, this series of images will leave the viewer with an appreciation of visual beauty inherent within the medical sciences.”

In conjunction with the Hidden Beauty project, the Dowd Gallery presents an additional, thematically related exhibition titled Beyond Obvious. This curatorial project features four artists across art disciplines that create within the realm of medical science. The display includes works by Emily Culver, Holland Houdek, Lionel Maunz and Boryana Rossa, providing a personal interpretation of the clinical aspect of human life.

Emily Culver is a multimedia object maker. Her works reference tangible objects which question their perceived purpose. By manipulating familiar visual forms (such as handles, blades, vessels, and furniture) in undefined ways, Culver invites the viewer to re-frame their own understanding and purpose of these items. The process of unveiling and recognition of the viewer’s projection of self onto these objects results in a state of speculative reality. Culver elaborates. “My work reveals the 'toolness' of objects by questioning utilities or ideas of function/non-function. Like a prosthesis, a tool becomes the body, becomes an extension of the body’s capabilities. It becomes the way through which one interacts with the world, with space, and with other objects. A tool translates needs, desires, and channels the energy that one extends into it."

Holland Houdek's three-dimensional work focuses on medical implants, the body, and embodied experience. Houdek investigates ideas regarding values placed on body enhancements outside as well as inside of human body. Her latest objects are variations on medical implants and instruments. She employs a material and aesthetic vocabulary found in jewelry making and stretches this methodology into the field of sculpture. In addition to the technique of hand fabrication from sheet copper and traditional stone-setting, she also used cast iron and other industrial material (such as felt) as a foundation for her often complex objects. Her works imply duality between function and dysfunction, between sculpture and adornment.  She adds, “I want viewers to consider what is an adornment, what a precious and personal object means — that it can be not only jewelry on the body but also for inside the body.”

Lionel Maunz figurative works expose a raw psychological process associated with ideas of anti-natalism, compacting the indignities of corporeal existence with the torment of consciousness. Maunz’s practice mines these ideas through exceptional physical portrayals of depravity. The power of human bondage - over beast and man alike - is exposed through studies of bodies in agony, torture, and failure. Maunz captures the rapturous and agonized movement of the violated man, through the unforgiving material of cast iron as well as graphite drawings. Maunz says,” I’m trying to give my work some essence of what it is to inhabit the body.”

Boryana Rossa is an interdisciplinary artist and curator who works in the field of electronic arts, film, video, performance, photography, and biotech art. Rossa builds on her personal clinical life experiences and injects them into her work. She often uses her body as a tool to convey distinct messages on various subjects such as identity, gender, political and economic reality or a local history through a lens of a global perspective. She characterizes her work in the context of modern culture,” The wide use of media and technology in contemporary society and the new methods of mythology creation based on the availability of digital devices is another current topic I am working on. Science and technology create the future we will live in. Awareness in that field helps us to not only hail new advances but to evaluate them as potential agents of the evolution of our notions (both positive and negative) and creators of new power structures. In a feminist context, I emphasize the notion of life and the body as a construct (or constructed) rather than datum (static), which gives a different perspective on gender and the body. That can be seen in my performances and some of my biotech-related work.”

Beyond Obvious is also a one-day symposium taking place at the Dowd Gallery on February 6, 2019. This project was largely funded by the SUNY System Administration and its Conversation in the Disciplines Program grant.

The Dowd Gallery is inviting the organizer of the Hidden Beauty project, Norman Barker, to speak. Barker is a professor of pathology and art as applied medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He will be giving a lecture on the inception and development of his collaborative project as well as the creative processes accompanying the medical field and scientific research and discoveries. Our second speaker, Holland Houdek, is a visual artist and professor of Metalsmithing at Nazareth College. Houdek has formed her art practice based on partnerships with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, MedWish International, Cleveland Clinic, and others. She takes inspiration for her 3-D metal sculptures from medical implants and translates these medical devices into objects and wearable art. Holland will give a workshop and presentation about her work within the context of the aesthetics of medical research, her path to interdisciplinary conversation and benefits of merging disciplines. Our third participant is Dr. Boryana Rossa, Assistant Professor of Art, Video and Transmedia Core at Syracuse University. Rossa will speak about her recent experience during a residency for the research and development of the bio-art project The Mirror or Faith related to the genetic predisposition of spirituality. This project is a collaboration with the biologist Dr. Michael Edel, the University of Barcelona as part of the Grid Spinoza program, funded by the European Commission. She will also address the development of her project displayed at the Dowd gallery as part of the main exhibition. The program will be concluded by a panel discussion with Christa Chatfield, Associate Professor at SUNY Cortland Biological Sciences, Jaroslava Prihodova, Dowd Gallery interim director and several honor students who participated in a collaborative art project as a part of Epidemics in Society course. Their artworks will be on display in the Daniels Foyer at the Dowd Fine Arts Center.

About contributors: 

Norman Barker, M.S., M.A., R.B.P., is a professor of pathology and art as applied medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He specializes in photomicroscopy, macro, and natural science photography. Mr. Barker is director of the Pathology Photography and Graphic Arts Laboratory. Barker received his undergraduate degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He earned his M.S. in education from Johns Hopkins and an M.A. in publications design from the University of Baltimore. Mr. Barker joined the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1983. He is an Accredited Senior Imaging Scientist (ASIS) and a Registered Biological Photographer as well as a fellow of the BioCommunications Association and a fellow of The Royal Photographic Society. Barker's work appears in textbooks, journals, and museums worldwide. His work is in the permanent collections of more than forty museums including The Smithsonian, The George Eastman House, The American Museum of Natural History and The Science Museum in London. Barker lives and works at Baltimore, Maryland.

Christine A. Iacobuzio-Donahue, MD, Ph.D. is a gastrointestinal pathologist interested in cancer genetics with a strong focus on pancreatic cancer. She is a member of the David M. Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Her research interests include understanding the role of somatic mutations in DNA, the “genetic blueprint” of all living cells, in tumorigenesis, metastasis, and treatment resistance. Iacobuzio-Donahue is also the Director of the Medical Donation Program. Unlike traditional body donation or organ donation programs, the Medical Donation Program empowers MSK patients at their end of life to donate their cancer tissues to the ongoing state of the art clinical research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She received her MD and Ph.D. from Boston University, MA.

Emily Culver is a multimedia object maker originally from rural Pennsylvania. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, Phoenix, AZ; University of Georgia, Athens, GA; Baltimore Jewelry Center, Baltimore, MD; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI; PLUG Projects, Kansas City, MO; Galerie Marzee, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen, Netherlands; Brooklyn Metal Works, Brooklyn, NY; Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA; FJORD Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; and Little Berlin Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. She has received awards including a WJA Scholarship, the Ernst Toth Scholarship, and an MJSA Scholarship in 2015; a WMIA Scholarship and the Carl and Olga Milles Scholarship in 2016; and a Mercedes-Benz New Beginnings Award in 2017. Culver was the recipient of the Stuart Thompson Haystack Fellowship in 2016 and a Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship in 2017. She also accepted an eleven-month Artist-in-Resident position at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in May of 2017. Culver attended Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia where she received her BFA in Metals/Jewelry/CAD-CAM in 2012. In 2017, she received her MFA in Metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Currently located in Richmond VA, Culver is an Instructor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Holland Houdek is an object maker with a focus on non-ferrous metals. She has exhibited her work throughout the United States and internationally in China, France, Austria, Taiwan, Germany, Spain, Lithuania, Canada, Mexico, and Morocco. Her work can be seen in an upcoming 2018 group exhibition at the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in NYC, Metalsmith Magazine‘s Exhibition in Print 2017,  two Lark Books’ 500 Series, Susan Ramlijeck’s On Body and Soul: Contemporary Armor to Amulets, SNAG’s A Body Adorned, Contemporary Jewelry in China, CAST, and elsewhere. Holland is the recipient of the Janet Indick Sculpture Award and Material Hard & Soft‘s Ray & Georgia Gough Grand Juror Award. She was also a 2016 Niche Awards Winner and a 2015 Taiwan International Metal Crafts Competition Finalist, and she holds numerous Best in Show and other awards of merit. She is a former John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry resident and was the 2014-2015 Visiting Artist-in-Residence at the University of Iowa. Working closely with the medical industry through her five Implants Series, Holland has formed professional partnerships with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, MedWish International, Cleveland Clinic, and others. She took her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Stout and her MFA from Syracuse University, NY. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Art Gallery director at Nazareth College in Rochester, NY.

Lionel Maunz's practice involves sculpture, installation, and drawing. His works were shown nationally and internationally. Solo exhibitions include The Contemporary Austin, TX, 2017; MoMA PS1, NY, 2016; Fealty, 2016, Deluge, 2014, Receipt of Malice, 2012, and Wail Eternal Scorn of Geologic, 2010 all Bureau, New York. Selected group exhibitions include: Dead Eden, Lyles & King, NY (forthcoming); Klemm’s, Berlin; Lamerica, Bible, NY; Omul Negru, Cantacuzino Palace, Bucharest, Romania, Greater New York, MoMA PS1; Rotrixagatze, On Stellar Rays; New Hells, Derek Eller Gallery; and Gallery Loyal, MalmoĢˆ. In 2009 he was a participating artist in Mirror Me organized by Kai Althoff and Brandon Stosuy at Dispatch, NYC. His works are in the permanent collection of the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He received his BFA and MFA degrees from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. Maunz lives and works in New York City.

Boryana Rossa is an interdisciplinary international artist and curator. Most of Rossa’s performances and other works have been shown internationally at venues such as Steirischer Herbst, Graz; National Gallery of Fine Arts, Sofia; 1st Balkan Biennale, Thesaloniki; Kunstwerke and Akademie der Kunste, Berlin; The 1st and 2nd Moscow Biennial for Contemporary Art, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art  at the Brooklyn Museum, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art (MUMOK), Vienna; Zacheta Gallery, Warsaw; Sofia City Art Gallery, Sofia; Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia; Exit Art, NY; Sofia Arsenal - Museum of Contemporary Art (SAMCA), Sofia. In 2004 together with the Russian artist and filmmaker Oleg Mavromatti, Rossa establishes UTRAFUTURO–an international group of artists engaged with issues of technology, science, and their social implications. Works by ULTRAFUTURO have been included in the Biennial for Electronic Art, Perth (BEAP) and shown at Foundation for Art and Creative Technologies (FACT), Liverpool; Society for Art and Technology (SAT), Montreal. In 2012 Rossa has finished her Ph.D. on Post-Cold -War Gender Performances. Cross-cultural examination of gender representations viewed through Soviet, Russian and Bulgarian film re-enactments, in the Department of Arts, at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. She is also a director of Sofia Queer Forum, together with philosopher and activist Stanimir Panayotov. Recently she completed a residency for the research and development of the bio-art project the Mirror of Fait related to the genetic predisposition of spirituality. This project is a collaboration with the biologist Dr. Michael Edel, the University of Barcelona as part of the Grid Spinoza program, funded by the European Commission. Her works are in numerous public and private collections among which as Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Bank-Group, Sofia City Art Gallery, SAMCA and others. Her performances and videos have been included in international art archives such as the performing art archive re.act.feminism and Transitland Video Art from Central and Eastern Europe 1989 - 2009. She also holds the prestigious award Essential Reading for Art Writers of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA, Sofia)  for 2008. Her dissertation was supported by the research grant by the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer (HASS). In 2014 she has been awarded Ruf Award for contemporary art, and the 2014 NYFA Fellowship Award for Digital/Electronic Arts together with Oleg Mavromatti. She publishes in newspapers like Kultura Weekly, 39 Grama, n.paradoxa.Rossa is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Transmedia, Syracuse University.

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