May 5–July 21, 2006
Alison Hiltner, “We Will Rebuild You”
Lee Tracy, “Negative to Positive”
A new installation by emerging artist Alison Hiltner and a previously unexhibited installation by established artist Lee Tracy will be on display at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago from May 5 to July 21, 2006. The public is invited to attend a free reception for the artists on Friday, May 5, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Although the two works are nearly opposite in tone—one sincere and the other ironic—they complement each other in meditating on what insight medicine, the science of the body, can provide into the mind.
Lee Tracy's installation, entitled “Negative to Positive,” offers a glimpse into the artist's head, both literally and figuratively—the work features CT scans of Tracy's brain, etched with personal thoughts from her journal. According to Tracy, the work “masters the merging of dualities” and serves as “a confirmation of our own humanness.” The stark contrast between the universal physical structure pictured in the image and the individual mental content symbolized by the text evokes their invisible intermediary, the elusive mind-body connection that remains well beyond medicine's ever-expanding grasp, despite the best efforts of numerous researchers. So long as the nature of this connection evades scientific understanding, the human psyche can only be seen through art. Tracy lives in Chicago, where she is known for her diverse work, including abstract and figurative paintings as well as public artworks on the topic of the environment.
For her exhibition, “We Will Rebuild You,” conceptual artist Alison Hiltner has created prototypes and advertisements for medical devices that, although fictional, do seem within the reach of medicine in the near future (if it is possible for doctors to replace a patient's knee or hip, can a replacement kidney be far behind?). The work does not include a generic implantable brain, but it does expose the universal human desire to enhance our physical forms in all its comic absurdity. It also suggests a more sinister aspect of this poignant desire: the medical-commercial complex willing to exploit it. Says Hiltner, “My artwork reflects the consequences of increasingly frequent collisions of medical technology and consumer culture, a battle of style versus substance, life versus lifestyle.” Based in Minneapolis, Hiltner is represented by New York's Spike Gallery, where the exhibition of her sculptural piece Organ Donor Vending Machine garnered critical acclaim.
These exhibitions are the latest in the museum's “Anatomy in the Gallery” series, which showcases medically themed contemporary art.
Artists from Leonardo da Vinci to William Hogarth studied anatomy in order to represent the body from all angles, and now many contemporary artists are examining the subject from a modern perspective. The museum exhibits their work in accordance with its mission: to enrich the lives of its visitors by enhancing their appreciation and understanding of medicine.
This project is partially sponsored by a CityArts Program 2 grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.