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Artist Statement

Stelmackowich, Cindy PhD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318204b539
Other Features: Cover Art

Dr. Stelmackowich is represented by the Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (; e-mail:

Editor's Note: Another image from “The Disaster Series” can be seen on the cover of Academic Medicine's April 2010 issue.

I have been working as a professional visual artist for a number of years with themes related to the cultural connections between art and medical science. In the past, I have incorporated scientific glassware, medical textbooks, test tubes, and surgical instruments into wall installations, sculpture-based works, chandeliers, and light boxes. While working toward a PhD in art history, my research in Canadian and European medical archives brought me to study various 19th-century anatomical atlases. Over the years I have continued to be intrigued by the way the classical medical figure in these medical illustrations is represented as neither dead nor alive—seemingly hovering between life and death.

The image on the cover of this issue is from “The Disaster Series,” a total of 12 works done over a period of two years (2007 and 2008). I completed works from this series doing a residency in digital imaging techniques at Daimon in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. It is through a process of digital collage (using Photoshop and InDesign) that I have imposed on these scientific works a series of quite different images in order to reposition them within new allegorical settings that ultimately interrogate the ambiguities embedded within the traditional genre of anatomical science.

“The Disaster Series” merges two genres of hand-drawn graphics; the lithographs illustrating 19th-century anatomical atlases and those that enlivened 19th-century journals, such as the London Illustrated News. These 19th-century disaster scenes are thus embedded into the deep anatomical regions of the body; shipwrecks swirl inside of the cranium, fires burn away in the chest regions, volcanoes erupt in the lungs. These works represent the most interior regions of the human body as the site of both fear and memory: They suggest that psychologies, tragedies, felt losses, and sufferings lodge themselves deeply inside us, inside our anatomies. In many respects, this series connects the destructive event with the body and through this gesture forces an internalization of history.

Figure. F

Figure. F

Cindy Stelmackowich, PhD

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges