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Something for Every Body
Dream Anatomy Exhibition Opens at NLM

Who we are beneath the skin amazes and scares us, entertains, repels, fascinates, inspires. Since 1500 A.D., when illustrations of human anatomy first began appearing in print, artists have employed fantastic settings, bizarre juxtapositions, mischievous poses, intense colors and fanciful metaphors to display scientific knowledge of the body and its interior — a dream anatomy that reveals as much about the outer world as it does the inner self. Dream Anatomy, a new exhibition at the National Library of Medicine, will run from Oct. 9 until July 31, 2003.

NIH staff are invited to an opening program, "Anatomical Visions: Past, Present, Future," in Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg. 38A on Oct. 9. After coffee in the lobby from 3 to 3:30 p.m., the program will begin with Dr. Ynez Violé O'Neill from the UCLA School of Medicine discussing the revolution sparked by the father of modern anatomy, Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564). She will be followed by Dr. Michael Sappol, NLM historian and curator of the Dream Anatomy exhibition, who will describe the show's themes and contents. Finally, New York artist Alexander Tsiaras will move the proceedings into the 21st century with his discussion of contemporary anatomical visualization. Tsiaras's work is featured in Dream Anatomy, as are Vesalius's remarkable representations of the human form.

This dissection of the arteries of the face was a staple of anatomical texts in the 18th century.

Drawn almost entirely from the library's collection, Dream Anatomy shows off the anatomical imagination in some of its most spectacular incarnations, from 1500 to the present. The exhibition has three sections:

Anatomical Dreamtime focuses on the early modern era. In the 1500s and 1600s, artists employed visual metaphors and iconographic references, making use of all the artistic styles and genres available to them, to depict human anatomy. The resultant images, playful and rich in social meaning, featured fanciful scenes and bizarre juxtapositions.

Getting Real examines the movement to dispense with metaphor and fancy. Between 1680 and 1800, anatomists began calling for a more realistic "scientific" anatomy. They argued that metaphor, death imagery and theatrical gestures did not belong in anatomical illustration. Realistic scientific illustration no longer employed bizarre juxtaposition, metaphor and theatricality, but had its own dreaminess; it featured intense color, sumptuous textures, radical partitioning of the body and sometimes blatant ugliness.

Visionary & Visible looks at fanciful anatomical images in the period from 1800 to the present. In fine art, popular science and popular culture, anatomical representation continued its long association with death imagery, allegory and aesthetics. Currently, artists and scientists are exploring and rethinking the boundaries between art and science. Advances in the technology of anatomical imaging, including NLM's Visible Human Project, are inspiring new anatomical visions.

Artist Katherine Du Teil makes photographs of living bodies covered with projected anatomical images — a playful exploration of our continual attempts to synthesize the two, or perhaps an ironic comment on the impossibility of synthesis.

Dream Anatomy is displayed in the first floor exhibition space of Bldg. 38. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours Thursdays til 9 p.m. The exhibition can also be viewed Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A web version of the exhibition is located at To schedule tours and for other information about Dream Anatomy, contact Jiwon Kim at 496-5963 or

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