Vandyke print photogram and mixed media,
14" x 29"

Artificial Anatomies


APRIL 28 – MAY 22, 2010
RECEPTION: Saturday, May 1st, 2 - 5 pm

In Artificial Anatomies, Laura Cunningham explores the visual conventions and history of medical and scientific imaging using photograms and three-dimensional wax models.  Aiming both to fascinate and repel the viewer, her recent work combines imagery drawn from medical textbooks and Victorian household science guides.

Cunningham’s process darkly echoes the “ladies work” found in these guides by combining images of point lace patterns with animal intestines. After preparing intestines by washing, inflating and drying them, she forms the translucent material into organic patterns which are pinned along the gallery walls or onto photosensitized paper.  Vandyke prints of lace patterns, coated in beeswax and scraped to a thin sheen, reference the early history of photography when photograms were used to illustrate and reproduce biological specimens such as leaves and other intricate forms.  Combining these varied processes, Cunningham evokes the practice of extispicy – divining the future by examining animal entrails.

Her wax sculptures recall embryological models and wax moulages that were produced widely for scientific education prior to the mid-twentieth century.  These objects incorporate the wax detritus razor-scraped from drawings that were created for a previous body of work about cancer. This creates a loop of reuse, remembrance and repetition, themes and processes intrinsic to Cunningham's own artistic practice and historical obsessions.


Laura Cunningham received her BA from the University of Waterloo and MFA from York University.  In 2005 she participated in the thematic residency Optic Nerve at the Banff Centre, where she began exploring historic photographic processes. She currently works as an objects and paper conservator in Toronto.