Art of Woman

Anatomy For Beginners - SBS

On Tuesday evening 18 May, I watched a programme on SBS TV, “Anatomy For Beginners”.

This has been a fascinating series of documentaries showing how our bodies work by dissecting plasticised cadavers and by skilled painting on live nude models. Presented by pathologist Professor John Lee, Dr Gunther von Hagens expertly and deftly dissects the human body in a way that shows how the various organs and systems connect.

I watched the episode titled “Reproduction” and was amazed at the intricacies of the inner working of a woman’s body. Dr von Hagens had a series of foetuses in different stages of development. I was looking forward to the different phases of the womb during the menstrual cycle.

Yet not one word was spoken about menstruation! How can a programme about human reproduction ignore menstruation??? Menstruation is fundamental to both woman’s fertility and her sexual availability. We were told the full workings of ejaculation. Why not menstruation??

Dr Gunther von Hagens dissected a womb yet did not explain about the lining and preparation for implantation, nor the menstrual cycle that cleans and replenishes the womb.

This oversight confirms to me that there is still a great deal of silence and denial of menstruation. Despite our scientific culture, there is still an unwillingness to acknowledge this important part of a woman’s body. Menstruation occupies up to one quarter of a woman’s life during her fertile years. This is a lot of time and it impacts on a woman’s life in important ways.

But Professor John Lee and Dr Gunther von Hagens did not think it important enough to even mention during an episode devoted to reproduction!!

You can see the episode here.

Body Painting

Medical students have always had difficulty studying anatomy using flat book images. There is a big difference between a flat page and the real living body. The way the organs and muscles fit together, the three dimensional curves, the scale and size and variety of body types. Here is a novel way to bring the body to life and teach anatomy. See this article from Australia’s ABC
Body Painting Helps Anatomy Lessons.

I like the way the body is used as a canvass. It gives the illusion that the skin is transparent. This is humanity in the raw and shows that we are all the same under our skins. There is no racism, no preconceptions. In a way this art is confronting how we experience our bodies and shows us all as vulnerable.

So is this Art? Should the model be nude? Personally, I think the model should be nude as a logical continuation of the painting. The underpants do not add to the learning at all and detract from the effect, they look contrived. The effect reminds me of Damien Hirst, “The Virgin Mother”. I think underpants would look silly on her too and even runs the risk of changing her from a body to a sex object.

However, this body painting exercise looks like a great learning experience. I’m sure it is fun to do also. Perhaps I should learn anatomy!