Inspired by Medical History

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Fall 2015

By Suzy Frisch

You never know what will spark creativity. Three Twin Cities artists were inspired by what they found at the University of Minnesota’s Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine. The library’s collection includes books, anatomical drawings, documents, and medical instruments from the 15th to the 20th centuries—all of it grist for the artist’s mill.

Jenny Schmid, an associate professor of art at the U whose work has been shown nationally and internationally, enjoys looking at Wangensteen’s anatomical prints from the 1500s and 1600s. “The collection is an amazing resource for looking at etchings and lithographs,” says Schmid, owner of Minneapolis-based Bikini Press International. Currently, she is working on a printmaking project supported by a University Imagine Fund grant.

D. Allen, a second-year MFA student in creative writing at the U, has been studying the library’s collection of rare medical manuscripts and drawings. In addition to finding useful material for art and poetry projects, Allen learned more about diseases, including Allen’s own connective tissue disorder.

Ursula Hargens, a ceramic artist, has been using floral decorations recently as a way to examine issues like invasive species and climate change. To prepare for a September show at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, she spent hours at the Wangensteen and the U’s Andersen Horticultural Library poring over their botanical collections. Her show is supported by a Minnesota State Arts Board grant and will feature 14 endangered Minnesota plants depicted on ceramic tiles to reflect the evolving relationship between humans and the natural world.



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