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FACE OFF: Skull-A-Day v. Street Anatomy Gallery Show at the IMSS

I attended the opening to this ongoing show on May 31st (Skull Appreciation Day!). It runs at the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago until August 25th. As I have mentioned in the past, this is a really cool location in its own right and has at least a painting and a statue devoted to skeptical hero Ignaz Semmelweis. Here he is telling med students to WASH THEIR DAMN HANDS after dissecting dead people when they were about to go deliver babies. He got fairly well ostracized for such nonsense, naturally.
Ignaz SemmelweizsHere is a trepanned skull that’s part of the permanent collection. I mean, how else do you suggest we remove the evil spirits??Trepanned SkullThe show was a collaborative effort between Vanessa Ruiz of Street Anatomy and Noah Scalin of Skull-A-Day, meaning that there were individual pieces by artists featured on each blog, but also pieces with each half of a skull coming from two different artists. Talk about your creative curating! The poster for the show was just such a piece with a half from each curator.

FACEOFF Event Poster

Skulls are apparently the closest thing we have to a universal symbol. They are also what tempts me to spend entirely too much money on a scarf when Alexander McQueen accessories show up on Gilt (side note, the Amazing Randi’s walking stick looks to be a McQueen skull-topped one, so jealous). They are, of course, having a bit of a fashion heyday as of late, and not just for bikers, goths, Tim Burton, and pirates. Their orbital sockets are a natural vehicle for rhinestones or more precious gems. There is an undeniable appeal to the the sleek, menacing form; so of course this was a fantastic show.

The roster included Mike Egan, Tom French, Emilio Garcia, Ali Gulec, Joshua Harker, Meyoko, Nicholas Obery, Rx Skulls, Dan Springer, and Rob Tarbell. Here are some selected pieces, some by one artist, some by 2 “facing off.”

Joshua Parker’s 3D printed (!) Skulls: Crania Anatomica Filligris: argentum nero, Crania Revolutis: oro nero 2013

3D Printed Skulls

Melissa Murillo (Meyoko), Anacridium No. 1, 2011


Ali Gulec, Distorted Skull, 2009


Melissa Murillo (Meyoko) x Ali Gulec, Pomponia Imperatoria x Skull 4, 2013


Nicolas Obery x Rob Tarbell, Skull Shine x Pink and Smoking, 2013


Vanessa smashed a life-sized chocolate skull from Conjurer’s Kitchen so that we could all eat it like good little Aztec cannibals. Jamie, Beth and I took advantage of the audience participation portion of the show, where a table was set up with blank skull outlines of different sizes and all sorts of media to draw or make a collage with. Here is Beth working on hers:
Beth working on her skull

And the finished result:

Beth's Skull DrawingMy collage, which resembles Mr. Zorg from The Fifth Element:

Katie's Skull Collage

And Jamie’s collage!Jamie's Skull Collage

There were prints from the artists and jewelry for sale, the jewelry maker was my friend and former classmate, Rachel Stork. Her line, Anatomical Element, is all organs in pendant and earring form. She had a frontal view of a skull in copper that is now one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. Check her out!

IMG_20130703_240100_470Photo Credits: Jamie Bernstein


Katie is an animator and illustrator of human innards living in Chicago.

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One Comment

  1. This was so freakin’ cool. The museum is always there, Tuesdays are free, and the FACE OFF show is open through August 25th.

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