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An·at·om·ize Inc·ize red·uce div·ide

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Inc·ize red·uce div·ide
Authors:Portner, Maya Lea
Date Issued:Aug 2006
Abstract:The development of my thesis project started with an interest in the anatomical wax models of Museo della Specola in Florence, Italy, and a desire to recreate their specific qualities according to my own sensitivities and conceptions. The wax models of la Specola are products of late 18th century Italian collecting culture, and exist as markers of many aspects of the Enlightenment. As I searched through various historical descriptions and theoretical analyses of these wax models, I found that I was most interested in them as sculptures, and as evidence of a relentless investigation into the human body. In my physical, emotional and aesthetic response to the waxes, I am convinced of their relevance and visual power today. What were the material and formal qualities of the waxes of La Specola which caused me to linger among them, and return again and again to their displays? As I read more about the history of wax effigy, I gained vocabulary to articulate some of their power. In order to understand the motivation for my artwork, it is necessary to consider the verisimilar capabilities of wax, and its role in Freud's concept of the 'uncanny'. Even a moderate investigation of such ideas reveals interesting connections between the medium of wax and our (western) conceptions of the body. The work was developed through three areas of understanding, which I will discuss throughout the body of this paper: 1) historical and theoretical research, 2) my art practice, and 3) the conceptual structure of analogy. A modest investigation into the history of medical imagery (particularly in polychrome wax), and the theoretical writings surrounding wax models such as those in the collection of La Specola, helped me to better understand my initial, intuitive attraction to these subjects and images. For example, the philosophies of Descartes figure prominently into the history of dissection and the study of anatomy. In concert with this research, my art practice was a methodology of practical experimentation into the forms and materials best suited to the conceptual and psychological development of the work. As the work took material form, I adopted the organization of an analogy-informed by the book" Visual Analogy: Consciousness and the Art of Connecting," by Barbara Maria Stafford--which is simply the way I am identifying my strategy of communication. Articulating the structure of analogy, is likening visual art to poetry, and admitting my reliance on metaphors and similes. Cartography and anatomy come from the same scientific paradigm of valuing the minute and detailed recording of the visible world: the equation of vision with knowledge. What happens when the act of anatomizing (reducing and dividing material, to arrive at a specific system) merges with the act of mapping (in this case a road map)? My work took the form of an 'artistic dissection' process, which answers this question. The 'artistic dissection' required a "body," which I made from paper and beeswax embossed with a pattern designed according to a collage of road maps. When the "body" was fully formed, I proceeded to carve it up with an exacto-knife. While developing my description of process, I struggled with what to call this "body." After much deliberation, the "body" has been termed "waxed paper" or some such variation until midway through the description. At a pivotal step in the process the "wax paper" becomes a "waxy skin." Then only when the "body" is submitted to the process of 'artistic dissection,' does it acquire its final name, wax "carcass." In my consideration of anatomy and mapping, I am interested in the tension (the overlap and the disparity), between what can be seen and known, and what is felt and known. Is the map absolute? The result of my process of 'artistic' dissection was a map of the body according to its invisible cities, a map of my body in a sense, as if those places contain the meanings of my many parts.
Description:Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2006.
Pages/Duration:v, 35 leaves
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: M.F.A. - Art

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