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Drawings in Gross Anatomy Lab Honor the Art of the Human Body

Table 8, detail

“Table 8,” detail, by Joan Linder

Published October 10, 2011

Joan Linder, assistant professor of visual studies, has created a series of drawings inspired by her visits to the gross anatomy lab in UB’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“Gross anatomy is science, observation, with the unaided eye. Perceptual drawing is, in a way, the same thing.”
Joan Linder
Assistant Professor of Visual Studies

One of her portraits is featured in a faculty exhibition running through Oct. 23 in UB’s Anderson Gallery. It portrays a cadaver with its head covered and turned from the viewer.

A related work, which depicts a section of the lab, was recently displayed at New York City’s Mixed Greens gallery.

Medical, Art Students Learn from Donor Bodies

Linder’s fascination with anatomy began five or six years ago, when she heard that the late Alan Cober, a famed illustrator and UB faculty member, had once brought students to the gross anatomy lab to sketch cadavers.

When she asked facility director Raymond Dannenhoffer, PhD, whether she could bring her own class to the lab, he immediately answered “yes.”

“Just like medical students, art students have a need to understand the human form,” says Dannenhoffer, who also oversees the Anatomical Gift Program. Bodies donated to the program are used—in compliance with donors’ wishes and state laws and regulations—for education and research.

“We have a responsibility to our donors to use these donations as broadly as we can to educate people,” Dannenhoffer adds.

Linder Audited Gross Anatomy Course

Linder has brought two classes of figure drawing students to the lab and plans to return this spring with a third.

Her many hours there have helped her see connections between her own work and that of the medical students. She became so intrigued by gross anatomy that she audited a class in the subject.

“Gross anatomy is science, observation, with the unaided eye,” she says. “Perceptual drawing is, in a way, the same thing.”

Organ Drawings Included in Anatomy Series

Linder’s drawings from the gross anatomy lab include not only renderings of cadavers, but pen-and-ink interpretations of the heart, lungs and brain. She drew them on a one-to-one scale with their subjects.