Cindy Stelmackowich is an Ottawa-based artist, curator, and professor. Born in Saskatchewan, Stelmackowich received a M.A. at Carleton University after completing a B.A. and B.F.A. at the University of Saskatchewan. Her artwork and academic research has focused on themes related to medicine and anatomical science and is linked to her Ph.D. dissertation (Binghamton University, New York). In her artwork, Stelmackowich has questioned the methods and meanings of science; how science gets performed on the body; and how the languages of medical science operate. Her artwork often brings together diverse medical-related materials and found objects, most recently through digitally combining photographic images. Stelmackowich has exhibited across Canada and the United States in solo and group exhibitions, and has received numerous grants from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Ottawa. In addition, Stelmackowich has received prestigious awards, residencies and international fellowships, including the 2011-12 Helfand Fellowship in the History of Medicine at the New York Academy of Medicine.
For over 10 years her artwork has investigated the relationship between art and biomedicine. Historical anatomical images have been made into digital collages that ask new sets of questions about medicine; its histories, methods and knowledge structures. Vintage medical equipment has also been integrated into laboratory-themed installations. These artworks allow for an interdisciplinary dialogue between digital technology, contemporary biomedical science and art - three disciplines that are ultimately not as far apart as they initially might seem.
Her recent works are inspired by vintage microscopic slides and anatomical charts. In these series many of the techniques used in medical dissection are applied; cutting, splicing, isolating and preserving individual organs and body parts.
SLICED consists of a series of cut-up anatomical transparencies. Displayed in dangling test tubes, images of the human eye are divided into reduced, yet still recognizable, sections. Each unique set represents one stage in the dissection process. Stainless steel clips reference laboratory instrumentation.
SMEAR is a digital print series of vintage histology slides stretched to the point of abstraction. Using digitization techniques, specimen slides are distilled to their chromatic essence. Rather than keep the image to the small size of a microscopic slide, each SMEAR is expanded to 7-feet in length. These digital prints (that include images of bio-specimen and black border) can be framed or mounted behind long pieces of Plexiglas.
Conjoining the sentimental and the scientific, a number of her artworks have centered on the human body as a site of fragility, mortality, beauty and memory. The Classical medical figure or Victorian monarch is often depicted as neither dead, nor alive – seemingly hovering between life and death. In Extremis: Victoria and Albert the dissected monarchs appear regal and vulnerable at the same time. In Mourning I and II, large photographs of stained pages of dissected bodies appear doubled, as if embodying ghosts.
Cindy Stelmackowich was invited to become the first collections-based artist-in-residence at the Bytown Museum in Ottawa in 2011. During this residency she investigated the museum’s holding of Canadian Victorian mourning objects made of human hair, Victorian “spirit” photographs, mourning attire, and portraits of Queen Victoria. Because Stelmackowich’s art practice has centered on the human body as a site of fragility, mortality, beauty and memory, this residency provided opportunities for her research and the creation of new artwork. In EYE WREATH (2011), hand-painted glass eyes (used in Victorian taxidermy) appear to be sprouting like seedlings from a human hair wreath. As curator of the exhibition Judith Parker has noted, “by re-contextualizing elements associated with the body, Stelmackowich transforms them into a surrealist nature morte.” In her digital prints THE DEARLY DEPARTED, faded anatomical illustrations and plaster medical models are poetically layered with images from a small Victorian mourning booklet comprised of verse and circles of hair braids that marked the deaths of deceased family members. Stelmackowich alludes to the visceral sense of loss experienced during bereavement by conjoining the sentimental and the scientific. In HAIR CROWN SUITE, each Victorian oval frame contains braids of brown or blond hair and is covered with mourning lace to take the conventional place of family portraits. The adorned gilded teester “crown” with its long flowing hair, interior glow, and ghosting shadows, also evokes an ethereal sense of bodily presence and absence. Continuing to use hair as a sculptural element and inspired by Victorian women’s elaborate hairstyles, POSTHUMOUS__groups portraits of anonymous young women from the 1870s with an arrangement of ornamental hair buns on a table covered by black mourning lace, commemorating women’s individual rituals of adornment.
MOURNING I and II
Research of 19^th-century anatomical atlases, resulted in the rare discovery of anatomical figures that appear doubled, as if embodying ghosts. These natural stains haunt Stelmackowich’s large-format digital prints of dissected bodies and function as melancholic transfers. Rather than work with conventional photographic matting and framing, Stelmackowich has surrounded these vivid images with hand-pleated, black silk fabric and thick ornately carved black wooden frames, much like the interior lining of coffins.
In Stelmackowich’s unique sculptural Requiems, numerous butterfly wings are collaged onto the flat surfaces of marble obelisks and pyramids. In selecting to use delicate natural materials that allude to the tragically short lives of butterflies and the fragility of human existence, she refers to both the Victorian fascination with classifying nature, and the spectacles of both death and artistic creation. The small Requiems are enshrined in glass Victorian bell jars, whereas the larger 6-foot wooden obelisk that is layered with hundreds of iridescent wings, subtitled In Paradisum, functions as its own memorial to beauty and the dead. In reference to the Egyptian obelisks and their role as “sun pillars,” one side of the obelisk has bright yellow and green wings to symbolize daylight; the other side has black and blue wings to represent the night sky.
CHOLERA SHAPES AND SPACES SERIES
After the cholera epidemic of 1854, the London Board of Health published a series of reports based on microscopical examinations. The source of disease was widely debated, so both the air and the water were key areas of epidemic investigation. In focusing on the hand-drawn images from these mid-19th century reports of London’s “filthy” air and water, Stelmackowich has incorporated layers of 19th-century black mourning lace that she has collected and digitally scanned. The symbols of mourning
function as a reminder not only of the consequences of deadly decisions based on scientific “evidence,” but the incorporation of ornately-patterned lace against pretty and refined diagrams of diseased conditions reinforces how Victorian science was strongly attached to decoration and aesthetics. This series is a continuation of the artist's exploration into how science and medicine are practices that are obsessed with visuality and making the invisible, visible.
THE DISASTER SERIES
In the 12 works in The Disaster Series (2007-2008) Stelmackowich digitally layers two examples of 19^th-century images; pages from 19^th-century anatomical atlases that were intended to instruct medical students how to visualize the interior of the body prior to dissection, and disaster scenes from 19^th-century illustrated newspapers and graphic publications such as the London Illustrated News. Through various digital imaging techniques, Stelmackowich inserts 19th-century disaster scenes into the deep anatomical regions of the body; shipwrecks swirl inside the cranium, great fires burn in the chest regions, distressing volcanoes erupt in the lungs. In suggesting that tragedies, losses, and sufferings might lodge themselves deep inside our anatomies, Stelmackowich investigates the central role of disaster in the development of Western science’s empirical investigations, notions of “progress” and the construction of identity.
In her re-readings of anatomy, the imagining of disasters and the discourse of calamity are given visual and contemplative space.
BLINDED BY SCIENCE
In the photography-based series Blinded by Science, figures from 19th-century anatomical atlases—displaying highly detailed renderings of the body’s organs, muscles, and minute tissues—are magnified and contained. Colorful glass vessels, which also refer to the world of beauty, magnification, transparency, and fragility, both morph and contain these dissected cadavers. In each of these works, Stelmackowich shows that the Classical medical figure is represented as neither dead nor alive, hovering between life and death. In pointing to this contradiction related to the “undead,” she reminds us that medical illustration is strongly rooted in the worlds of wonder, fantasy and speculation.
2010 Ph.D., History and Theory of Art, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York
1995 Master of Arts, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
1991 Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
1991 Bachelor of Arts, Honours in Art History, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
2013/2014 Research Fellowship, Lichtenberg-Kolleg: The Gottingen Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Germany
2012/2014 "Situating Science" Post-Doctoral Fellowship, SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster, Dalhousie University and University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2011/2012 Helfand Fellowship, New York Academy of Medicine, New York, New York
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2012 Empire, Armory Week, Pfeiffer Loft Project, New York, New York
2011 Cindy Stelmackowich: Dearly Departed, Bytown Museum, Ottawa, Ontario
2010 In Mourning Of, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2009 The Disaster Series, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2009 Anatomized, Bilton Centre for Contemporary Art, Red Deer, Alberta
2009 Anatomized, Godfrey Dean Art Gallery, Yorkton, Saskatchewan
2008 Embalmination, Kristi Engle Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2007 Catastrophic Visions, ARC, Ottawa, Ontario
2007 ANATOMIA, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2004 - 2005 Between Art and Medical Science, The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum, Estevan, Saskatchewan
2004 Medical Imprints, Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2002 Dissected, Artspace, Peterborough, Ontario
2000 Liminal States, Binghamton University Art Gallery, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York
1999 Amazons and Fabulations, The Shanghai, Ottawa, Ontario
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2015 Papier Contemporary Art Fair, Montreal, Quebec
2015 Patrick Mikhail Gallery Montreal Opening, Montreal, Quebec
2014 Bio, Art and In-Between, RDA NY, Berlin, Germany
2014 City of Ottawa Fine Art Collection Recent Purchases, City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2014 Montreal Preview, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2014 Flesh Garden, MILIK Studios, Amsterdam
2013 Model Bodies, Dalhousie University Medical Faculty, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2013 Heart of the Moment, Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2012 Close Up, AGAC, Montreal, Quebec
2012 Art Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
2012 Juxtacombo, NURTUREart Gallery, Brooklyn, New York
2012 Resurrection, Morbid Anatomy Library, Brooklyn, New York
2012 Papier 12 Contemporary Art Fair, Montreal, Quebec
2012 PMG Editions Project, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Prairie Snapshot: Prairie Scene, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Place and Circumstance, City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Geo-Portrait of Sound, Daimon, Gatineau, Quebec
2011 Catalyst: The Art Science Experiment, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
2010 Toronto International Art Fair, Courtesy of Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2010 Science in Art, Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa, Ontario
2010 Triumph of the Therapeutic, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2010 Obsolete Concepts: The Books + Art Show, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario
2009 IPS (In Plain Sight) Gallery, Montreal, Quebec
2009 Toronto International Art Fair, Courtesy of Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2009 Microcosm, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2009 The Collection’s Cabinet, City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2009 Verticality, O’Connor Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2009 Anatomy: In Ruins and Remade, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2008 Toronto International Art Fair, Courtesy of Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
2008 Verticality, Gallery 101, Ottawa, Ontario
2008 Obsolete Concepts: The Books + Art Show, Toronto, Ontario
2007 Science in Art, Galerie de l’UQAM and Department of Heritage, Virtual Museum Project
2007 Splash: OAG Annual Art Auction, Ottawa, Ontario
2007 The New: Part One, Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2006 Interactivity, Enriched Bread Artists, Ottawa, Ontario
2007 Glass, Enriched Bread Artists, Ottawa, Ontario
2005 Interface: OAG Annual Art Auction, Ottawa, Ontario
2002 Out From Under, Galerie d'art de l'Université de Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick
2002 Templates, 14th Biennial conference of the National Association of Women and the Law, Ottawa City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2002 Spirit of Drawing: OAG Annual Art Auction, Ottawa, Ontario
AWARDS AND GRANTS
2014 Ontario Arts Council Visual Arts Mid-Career Grant (also in 2009, 2011)
2014 German Research Council Residency
2012 Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance
2012 The City of Ottawa, Individual Visual Arts “A” Grant (also in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011)
2011 Bytown Museum, Artist Residency
2011 The Ontario Arts Council, Exhibition Assistance Grant (also in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010)
2009 The Ottawa Council for the Arts, Mid-Career Artist’s Award
2007 Centre de production Daimon Photography and Digital Imaging Research and Creation Residency
2005 - 2006 Dissertation Year Fellowship, Binghamton University
2003 The Canadian Council for the Arts, Visual Arts "C" Grant (also in 2001)
2002 The Canadian Council for the Arts, Travel Grant
2002 The City of Ottawa, Individual Visual Arts "B" Grant (also in 2001)
2002 The Ontario Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant
1999 The City of Ottawa, Project Grant
1997 SAW Video Jumpstart Award
The Canadian Council Art Bank
The City of Ottawa
The Ottawa Art Gallery
York University, School of Arts & Letters, Culture and Expression
2015 Curator, Anatomica, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2013 Curator, Model Bodies, Tupper Building, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2013 Interdisciplinary Symposium Coordinator, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2011 Research Consultant, Medical Sensations, Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, Ottawa, Ontario
2003 Curator, Mindscapes, West Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario
2001 - 2003 Board of Directors, Gallery 101, Ottawa, Ontario (also in 1993 – 04)
2002 Curator, Fluid: Emerging Artists from Canada, Gallery 101, Ottawa, Ontario
1999 Conference Organizer, Generations and Feminisms, SAW Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
1998 Curatorial Intern, Artists Space, New York, New York
1998 Visual Arts Consultant, The Canadian Consulate, New York, New York
2003 - Present Lecturer, Art History, School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
2003 - 2005 Part-time Professor, Visual Arts Department, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
1998 - 2001 Graduate Teaching Assistant and Sessional Lecturer, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York
1994 – 1998 Sessional Lecturer, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
1991 – 1993 Graduate Teaching Assistant, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
1990 – 1991 Sessional Lecturer, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
SELECTED ARTIST TALKS AND LECTURES
2015 Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2014 Hunterian Museum, London, England
2014 CIHR/SSHRC Workshop, Ottawa, Ontario
2013 Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Gottigen, Germany
2013 SSHRC Workshop, Calgary, Alberta
2013 Harvard University, Cambridge, U.S.
2013 University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2013 Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), Halifax, Nova Scotia
2012 New York Academy of Medicine, New York, New York
2012 Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Bytown Museum, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
2011 Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
2010 McGill University's Osler Library for the History of Medicine, Montreal, Quebec
2010 University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
2010 Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2008 Kristi Engle Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2007 CAA, College Art Association Annual Conference, New York, New York
2007 School for Studies in Art and Culture, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario
2006 International Victorian Studies Association, Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indiana
2006 UAAC, University Art Association of Canada Conference, NSCAD, Halifax, Nova Scotia
2005 Culture and Expression, School of Arts & Letters, York University, Toronto, Ontario
2005 UAAC, University Art Association of Canada Conference, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia
2004 Ottawa Art Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2004 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec
2003 University of Ottawa Visual Arts Department, Ottawa, Ontario
2003 University of Ottawa Women’s Studies Department, Ottawa, Ontario
2002 Artspace, Peterborough, Ontario
2002 A Dinner Party for Jane Doe, SAW Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario
2001 University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia
2000 Uncommon Senses: An International Conference on the Senses in Art and Culture, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec
SELECTED EXHIBITION REVIEWS AND CATALOGUES
2015 Gessell, Paul, “Artful Blogger: Ottawa body parts shipped to Halifax,” Ottawa Magazine, (Ottawa), Jan. 8, 2015.
2014 Hatzi, Vasia, “Cindy Stelmackowich: Profile,” MEDinART, (Athens, Greece), Winter 2014. web feature.
2012 NUTUREart, “Juxtacombo,” (Brooklyn, NY), Spring 2012. exhibition brochure
2012 Alday, Sean, “Curating Means What? Review of NUTUREart’s Juxtacombo Exhibition,” Bushwick Daily, (Brooklyn, NY), June 15, 2012.
2011 Bond, Diane, “The Big Hairy Workshop at the Bytown Museum,” Apt. 613, (Ottawa), Nov. 18, 2011.
2011 Ottawa Magazine, “The Bytown Museum hosts craft-creepy Hair Workshop,” Nov. 14, 2011.
2011 Parker, Judith, “Mourning Evidence – Artist Residency: Mining the Bytown Museum,” Bytown Museum, (Ottawa), 2011. exhibition catalogue
2011 Martins, Tony, “Whispers of of-so-delicate death,” Guerilla-Gallery, Oct. 26, 2011.
2011 Simpson, Peter, “Good Mourning,” Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 22, 2011, C1. front page and video
2011 Carleton University Magazine, “Dark Art,” (Ottawa), Fall, 2011. front cover and feature
2010 Academic Medicine, Vol. 86(2) (February 2010) and Vol. 85(4) (April 2010), front covers and artist statement
2010 Bond, Diane, “Revealing Bodies, Revealing Books,” Apt. 613, (Ottawa), Nov. 12, 2010.
2009 Jenkner, Ingrid, “The Disaster Series by Cindy Stelmackowich,” Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, (Halifax), 2009. exhibition brochure
2008 Matthews, Kevin, “Embalmination,” Kristi Engle Gallery, (Los Angeles), 2008. exhibition brochure
2008 ISSUES in Science and Technology, Vol. XXIV, No.3, (Spring 2008), front cover plus pgs. 6-23.
2008 Lam, Olivia and Melissa Bennett, “Obsolete Concepts: The Books + Art Show,” A Space Gallery, (Toronto), 2008. exhibition brochure
2008 Goddard, Peter, “At the Galleries: Obsolete Concepts,” Toronto Star, May 17, 2008.
2008 Mizota, Sharon, “Bodies as History’s Landscape,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 28, 2008.
2007 Canadian Journal of Communication, Vol. 32, Nos. 3 & 4, (2007), front cover.
2007 Gessell, Paul, “Stunning Body of Work,” Ottawa Citizen, October 18, 2007.
2007 Gessell, Paul, “10 to Watch in 2007: Cindy Stelmackowich,” Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 6, 2007.
2007 Sibbald, Barbara, “Beyond Basic Anatomy,” Canadian Medical Assoc. Journal, 177 (11), Nov. 20, 2007.
2007 Guerilla, Issue 14, Vol. 4, (Winter 2007), front cover and artist statement.
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