Redefining Female Anatomy
Throughout history, female anatomical depictions have been largely distorted. Representations of the female body have focused mostly on their reproductive organs in order to help men explain what is occurring in the uterus, instead of showing the whole body of a woman. Vanessa Ruiz, founder of “Street Anatomy”, has shown through her blog that there is much more to the female anatomical body than just her uterus.
“Street Anatomy” is a blog that compiles thousands of artists’ works into a single space. Ruiz seeks out anatomical artists to feature them on her blog. It launched in 2007, and has thousands of posts including the human anatomy in pencil drawings, paintings, 3-D sculptures, and so much more. Through this blog, she brings together art and medical illustrations outlining the beauty and intriguing features of the human body. She and all the artists presented in this blog have pushed beyond the limits of having anatomical illustrations solely for medical education and instead portray anatomy in a culturally situated, emotional, and expressive way.
In a TedMed talk, Ruiz explains her reasons for introducing this blog to the public. She says that she created “Street Anatomy” in order to bring the public more knowledge about biomedical visualization. Ruiz mentions that medical illustrations and anatomy have existed solely for medical education but now artists from all over the world are breaking these confinements and exposing the human body to the public. She explains that by using medical illustrations we are in turn looking at a manual of ourselves and therefore the public should have more access to this information.
Ruiz also mounts gallery showcases where the artist’s illustrations are shown to a public audience. In one specific showcase, “OBJECTIFY THIS: Female Anatomy dissected and displayed”, Ruiz presents an exhibition featuring female anatomy in art. She writes “Historically, female anatomy has been represented in medical illustrations predominately as a variation of the male form in terms of reproductive organs and surface anatomy.” She urges viewers to rethink and question the ‘objectivity’ of female anatomy and instead redefine their own perceptions of the female body.
Fernando Vicinte, an artist featured on “Objectify This”, presents his piece called, “The Venus Print Collection”. He shows the beauty of female anatomy through his paintings in which the women are “skinned and dissected” to reveal the many underlying layers that compose a woman. Vicente also omits the use of blood, strictly adhering to structure and form of the female body. He mentions that his reasoning for these paintings is to give us a new perspective on the female anatomy and to display a woman’s body as a human being, not just as a sexual being, however, his depictions show us something else. The images below are a few of his works and we can clearly see that images of these women are very sexualized. He describes his piece as “the human body without subterfuge, outside and inside, its fragility, is the mirror to look in that we realize how fragile we are, and what we think, we all have the same arteries and muscles”. Even though these images are sexualized, Vicente does demonstrate that women and men are very similar and that we should not be defining a woman’s body to be simply a reproductive body.
Vicente’s piece, “The Venus Print Collection”, has many similarities with the Anatomical Venus. The Anatomical Venus, made by Paul Clement, is a full life size demountable doll made of wax. The purpose of the Anatomical Venus was for aesthetic instructional use. In the 17th and 18th centuries, physicians used human anatomy to learn about the body, however, corpses were difficult to obtain and they were “gross”. The Anatomical Venus was a way to render the image of death agreeable. It uses beauty and aesthetics to display a woman's body, and Vicente’s piece does this as well.
Danny Quirk, another artist presented on “Objectify This”, is best known for his piece “Anatomical Self-Dissection”. He uses mostly watercolor to show the audience what is really beneath the skin. He states that his “art is for self exploration as well as for aesthetic education”. His project is a humanistic quest for self-understanding and the acquiring of knowledge of the human body.
Vanessa Ruiz’s blog has redefined and unlocked new perspectives towards human anatomy and more specifically, a woman’s body.