Medical images are often met with anxiety and dread. Artists Karen Rips and Paula Chung raise the question: why are we afraid of our own anatomies?
“A View Within” features artistic interpretations of medical images. The exhibit is currently being shown at the Sierra Arts Foundation.
“I think that people miss the beauty of the body and only see medical imagery as bad news,” Chung said. “The body is really a magnificent machine and has a lot for us to appreciate. It talks across cultures, societies, often genders and speaks to everyone in a personal way.”
“A View Within” has been 7 years in the making. The pieces come from an array of MRIs, CAT scans and X-rays. The images originate from personal connections, friends of friends, people they have met or even from the internet. In total, they have completed almost 200 pieces.
Rips was originally a neonatal nurse, and although she did not use any images from her job, it did encourage an “appreciation of the body itself.”
“You look at an X-Ray or an MRI, you don’t know if that person is male, female, black, white, young, old or what that person’s story is,” Rips said. “We want you to look at that image and appreciate what the body is and how it functions and leave out all the extraneous stuff.”
Some of the medical images used in “A View Within” actually came from Rips’ daughter as she was trying to get pregnant.
“I was invited along to her infertility session and got the images from the doctors,” Rips said. “They were very generous in giving me those images. Then, throughout her pregnancy…she had frequent ultrasounds which she gave me. We were lucky to have a personal connection with those images.”
Each artist has her favorite piece. Chung’s is the visualization of a young teenager that had a stroke and survived. Rips’s is one displaying Alzheimer’s.
“[It] was inspired by my father going through the early stages of Alzheimer’s right before he died,” Rips said. “The personal ones are our favorites [because] we have a connection with them.”
All of the artwork in the gallery is made out of fiber and stitch.
“Fiber is so accessible,” Chung said. “People know it, they wear it, they have it around their bodies, they sleep within it. It’s something that people relate to and it’s something that we’ve always worked with and it’s very versatile. It’s far more versatile than other mediums because you can paint on fiber, you can stitch it, you can manipulate it, you can dye it, you can tear it, you can do almost anything to it.”
Their artistic influences include Agnes Martin and Egon Schiele.
Chung and Rips have been showing “A View Within” throughout the country as an ongoing project. They have presented in Houston, Pennsylvania and Florida. All over, they have received praise and had positive interactions with patrons.
“It’s really amazing when people come up to us to talk about their situation or how the image has moved them, it’s really fulfilling,” Chung said. “Some people come up with tears in their eyes.”
In 2018 they look to move up the West Coast.
“We’ve branched out more into body processes,” Rips said. “We’re doing a series on Parkinson’s, we’re doing a series on multiple sclerosis. We’re doing more disease processes. We don’t see this ending anytime soon. We’re just plugging along.”
“A View Within” is showing at the Sierra Arts Foundation until March 30.