Body as Soul
by Colleen McLaughlin Barlow
Cancer led me to a dissecting room. I saw
the component parts
of us: you, me, humanity.
Moved by the beauty of these structures,
I began to draw and paint
and sculpt -- landscapes of mortality.
Upon hearing the diagnosis ecancerf,
I went numb with shock.
Everything about my life was to change. The gift of the disease
was an acute awareness of my own mortality. I went to Florence
to study art and a chance tour brought me to an astonishing
place: La Specola.
It is an eighteenth century facility for
the instruction of art and
medical students. The models are life-sized and created of wax
and represent every aspect of the human body. There are hearts
and livers, spleens and uteri, skeletons and nerves, sinews and
joints -- all extremely realistic. I stood in the middle of the
room of the complex and wept at the eterrible beautyf. These
were extraordinary landscapes which house the soul -- structures
formed by expediency and evolution. My mind was on fire with
the intelligence and humanity of what I saw.
That initial exposure to the human body at
La Specola in
Florence led to a several year odyssey from Italy to Vancouver,
Toronto, Cambridge, Vienna and Paris. The generous sponsorship
of professors of anatomy at medical schools in these cities
me to work in their laboratories. At the University of Cambridge,
I drew and painted and sculpted during ongoing medical lectures
for three months.
I was struck again and again at the
similarity of internal structures
of the human body and common landscape features -- trees, rocks,
water and clouds; as though the universe,
recognizing a good
blueprint, decided to use it again and again. So, from the
chalk and ink explorations, I have branched out (no pun intended!)
into sculpture and painting of landscape studies and animal bones
as well as internal human landscapes. I invite you to see the
interconnected beauty of our bodies and our world.