Home | Site Map


September 3 – December 19, 2010

“Street Anatomy”, curated by Vanessa Ruiz

Free, public reception: Friday, September 3, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

Robyn Roth, The Rescue (L) & Decaying Bloom (R)

The International Museum of Surgical Science (IMSS) is pleased to present Street Anatomy, a group exhibition focusing on representations of human anatomy in contemporary art and pop culture, from September 3 through November 19, 2010. On view will be works that incorporate anatomical imagery in a variety of mediums, including painted skateboards and cast dark chocolate, by nine artists from across the US and abroad, as well as a photo gallery of anatomical tattoos. This exhibition, the latest in the Museum's ongoing "Anatomy in the Gallery" program, is guest curated by Vanessa Ruiz, the author of a popular niche blog, www.streetanatomy.com, that has covered the intersections between medicine, art, and design for the past two and a half years.

A self-described "anatomy fanatic," Ruiz created the Street Anatomy blog in 2007 as a graduate student in the Biomedical Visualization program at the University of Illinois at Chicago to educate readers about the little known profession of medical illustration. While she has since graduated to a position as Art Director for a large pharmaceutical ad agency in the area, the blog, driven by the strong response of its devoted audience, has evolved into a celebration of the variety and multiplicity of portrayals of human anatomy in the world today. In the process, the blog has chronicled the rise of a movement toward widespread use of anatomy as a design element in contemporary art and pop culture.

Jason Freeny, Micro Schematic

Ruiz states, "Anatomy has become as pervasive in modern culture as it is in medical textbooks. The subject is used extensively in advertising, designer toys, fashion, interior design, street art, and more. Even the heart at the center of the classic 'I heart Mom' tattoo has taken a turn for the anatomically correct, as tattoo artists impart a more real and visceral emotion to the piece—a testament to the validity of the statement."

The exhibition will feature nine artists representative of the label-defying figures involved with this movement:

   • CAKE, a New York City street artist with a fine art painter's aesthetic;
   • Ryan Gerdes, a graphic designer in Portland who specializes in screen printing;
   • Heather Tompkins of San Francisco, a filmmaker and illustrator who combines ink and digital media;
   • Robyn Roth, a Kentucky-based tattoo artist and painter of skateboard decks;
   • Jason Freeny, a corporate designer in New York who digitally creates anatomical charts of pop culture icons such as Hello Kitty and the Lego man;
   • David Foox, a New Zealander who produced a collection of vinyl toys to promote organ donation;
   • Emilio Garcia from Spain, a former web designer who originated the jumping brain motif now ubiquitous in a variety of 2-D and 3-D formats;
   • Noah Scalin, a resident of Richmond, VA, who created a skull from found objects every day for a year and documented his work on his Skull-a-Day blog, http://skulladay.blogspot.com, which spawned a skull-spotting phenomenon and led to the publication of a book and an appearance by the artist on the Martha Stewart show; and
   • Stephen J. Shanabrook, an established contemporary artist most famous for his "Morgue Chocolates" series of candies cast from body parts.

All of the artists have previously appeared on the Street Anatomy blog. Their work will be accompanied by individual statements regarding personal motivations for the use of anatomical imagery. As a whole, the show will provide the public with an understanding of this cultural movement's widening scope and undeniable impact, demonstrating why anatomical imagery continues to fascinate both those inside and those outside the medical world.


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.


1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610 USA
fax 312.642.9516


Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Wednesday: 10 am to 4 pm
Thursday: 10 am to 4 pm
Friday: 10 am to 4 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm

Last admission will be taken one hour before the closing time.