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December 14, 2013 – May 25, 2014

Raeleen Kao: Inhospitable
Lauren Levato Coyne: The Age of Spontaneous Generation

The International Museum of Surgical Science presents the latest installment of its ongoing ANATOMY IN THE GALLERY series exploring embodiment through contemporary art: Inhospitable, an exhibition of drawings and etchings by Raeleen Kao, and The Age of Spontaneous Generation, featuring drawings by Lauren Levato Coyne.

Raeleen Kao, Without Me, You're Nothing (Part 2) (detail)

Inhospitable comprises drawings and etchings that portray the body as an object vulnerable to physical and psychological damage as a result of both disease and medical treatment. Raeleen Kao's self-portraits and more abstract compositions in graphite utilize a personal symbolic language of hair and skin to record the series of chronic health conditions and surgical interventions that have affected her body throughout her life. She focuses on the scars, stitches, and biopsy sites that externalize her most intimate medical history and depicts hair as a reflection of health and a marker of femininity and sexual power in women, most evident through its absence in female cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Delicately rendered individual strands convey the fragility of the body as a whole, while elaborate braids evoke the vanity of desperate efforts to maintain a façade of stability in the face of illness and death, recalling their use in Victorian mourning practices. Kao's color etchings reference nests, umbilical cords, and eggs to signify the anatomical aspects of the body that define a woman and explore the historical stigma placed upon women unable to have children. The obsessive repetition of this imagery meditates on the destruction of the female reproductive system and the recurring trauma of losing a child.


Lauren Levato Coyne, Self-Portrait as Spontaneous Combustion (detail)

The Age of Spontaneous Generation showcases colored pencil and graphite drawings that characterize the body as a repository for and progenitor of disparate and wondrous objects, images, ideas, and creatures—both real and artificial, deeply rooted and impulsively conceived. This exhibition represents the culmination of Lauren Levato Coyne's "Wunderkammer: A Year of Curiosities" project inspired by the Renaissance European collections known as Wunderkammer (literally "wonder rooms"), or cabinets of curiosities. Much as these encyclopedic 16th-century displays housed a broad range of items including natural history and geological specimens, religious relics, and medical anomalies, Levato Coyne's series of "Self-Portraits as…" feature elements of the natural, spiritual, and anatomical world residing in and colliding with a female protagonist based on the artist's own body and experiences. The exhibition also introduces new and never-before-shown works from an additional series centered on the long-held theory of spontaneous generation, which posits that living beings can arise from non-living things—wasps from the bodies of dead horses and butterflies from mud. Since imagining bats bursting from her father's chest during surgery, the artist has investigated ancient beliefs about what the body produces, psychologically and medically, as a means of addressing mortality, memory, and grief.

Raeleen Kao’s prints and drawings chronicle her own medical history, beginning with her earliest memory—a critical heart surgery at age three. She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2011 and is currently employed as a printer at White Wings Press in Chicago. Her work was featured in a solo exhibition entitled Body Like a Barrow at Bert Green Fine Art in Chicago earlier in 2013 and will be traveling internationally in a group exhibition produced by the Southern Graphics Council until 2015.

Lauren Levato Coyne is a Chicago-based artist, writer, and collector of exotic and unusual specimens with a focus on the entomological and anatomical. She was trained at The School of Representational Art in Chicago and studied privately with renowned figurative painter Steven Assael in New York. Her work was most recently highlighted in Symbiosis, a two-person exhibition at Century Guild in Chicago. Upcoming in 2014 is a solo exhibition entitled Medusa Syndrome at Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago, by whom she is represented.

Anatomy in the Gallery is an ongoing series of contemporary art exhibitions at IMSS exploring the implications and complications of embodiment. The Museum has showcased these quarterly paired solo and group shows within the context of the its historical exhibits and collections since 1998 in order to encourage reflection on the interaction between medicine and the human condition. This program is supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

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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
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