This is going to be the first installment of the new Anatomy in Art Series on Street Anatomy. I’ll be showcasing artists who use anatomy as an art form rather than for educational purposes. Sometimes we need a fresh look at anatomy. Those in the medical professions come into contact with medical images everyday and they become common. The artists in this series use anatomy as a part of their art and by doing so draw our attention to it once again.
Let’s start off with the internationally renowned British artist, Damien Hirst. At 41 years old, he’s managed to stir up controversy and push art to the point where we begin to question, “what constitutes art?” But, he’s become a millionaire many times over for it so why should he care. Hirst has always been rebellious. As a child he got in trouble and the only subject he did well in was art. Surprising then is the fact that he was initially rejected from two art colleges in England.
If you don’t know his name then you might know some of his most famous pieces from his Natural History series, in which dead cows, sheep and even a 14ft tiger shark are preserved in huge glass containers filled with formaldehyde.
Interesting note. The young artist had a placement at a mortuary as a student, which probably influenced his fascination with life and death, a theme throughout his work.
There are three major anatomically related pieces that Hirst conceived. I say conceived because Hirst often has a team of people working on his art projects. He still takes all credit as he believes that it’s the conception of the idea that makes him the artist. Of course, it’s easy being an artist when you can pay people to do the work for you.
The works are the Virgin Mother, Hymn, and Resurrection.
Hymn is 20ft tall and also made out of bronze. Hirst sold Hymn to the art collector and gallery owner, Charles Saatchi, for £1 million. The toy manufacturer, Humbrol, later sued Hirst because Hymn is an exact replica of their 14″ Young Scientist Anatomy Set designed by Roman Emms.
Resurrection is simply a skeleton suspended in a crucifixion pose by two panes of glass. It was the centerpiece of the first art exhibition being staged in Iran by the British Council since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
Hirst says that everyday objects can be harmless and insignificant, but as soon as you take that object out of context and create new meaning, it can become powerful. He uses the example of a shoe. A shoe is an everyday object, but if a man uses a shoe to beat his wife, it suddenly becomes something else, a weapon. Hirst says, “The change of function is what’s frightening. That’s what art is.” Is this what he is accomplishing by blowing up anatomical figures to absurd proportions? Is it giving new meaning to anatomy? Is it making us face death on a massive scale? Mmm, probably not. Make anything huge and it looks impressive. Make it a huge anatomical model and I’ll love it.