Welcome to the opening on Thursday 22nd February from 17.00-19.00!

Guided tour on Sunday 10th March 1pm.

This exhibition is an exploration of the strict gender roles embedded within historical anatomical imagery through the anatomical Venus, a Venus-like life-size wax figure from the 18th century. Johanna Naukkarinen uses photography, digital drawing, and collage to examine this phenomenon intersecting the history of art and medicine. To showcase the absurdity of gender roles in the history of anatomy, she brings together various imageries from different contexts in an analytical and playful way.

The anatomical Venus wax figures were first made in Italy during the 18th century. These figures were used for teaching anatomy to the general public and were moulded into the form inspired by the portrayal of Venus in the visual arts. They were decorated with pearls, long human hair, and eyelashes. The figures were placed to lie on silk, with exposed guts and sensuous expressions on their faces. The beauty of the Venuses was meant to distract people from thinking about death while learning anatomy.

As a medical object the anatomical Venus reflects the blatant power relations in the history of medicine. The exhibition widens to trace the common pictorial language of visual arts and the history of medicine. Historical anatomical imagery was meant to take people to the core of humanity, but to the bodies assigned as female they leave only the role of a passive nude painting.

The photography series Body Worlds: The Anatomical Venus (with Tiia Kasurinen) reimagines the Body Worlds exhibition by putting the anatomical Venus into poses that only bodies assigned as male were allowed to take in the history of art and medicine. The series is made in collaboration with dance artist Tiia Kasurinen.

The two sets of works Studies on Science and the Feminine Figure and Lying Down trace the passive characters similar to the anatomical Venus common in the various eras and contexts. The photography series They Used to Wear Pearls examines the combination of beauty and the grotesque by using the embellishments from the anatomical Venus on contemporary neutral anatomical models.

Johanna Naukkarinen (b. 1988) is a Turku-based visual artist and photographer. She has worked with themes related to the history of medicine since 2015. She graduated in photography from the Arts Academy at the Turku University of Applied Sciences and earned a Master of Arts degree in media studies from the University of Turku. Her solo exhibitions about female hysteria have been seen in Turku Art Museum’s Studio and Galleria Huuto in Helsinki. The exhibition Anatomical Venus has previously been seen in Yö Galleria, Galleria Rajatila and GalleriA. Naukkarinen’s works are included in the collections of the Turku Art Museum, Turku City Art Collection and Kuopio Art Museum.

This exhibition has been supported by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, Turku Art Society and Turku cultural board. The contemporary anatomical has been photographed in Turku Vocational Institute and the real anatomical Venus has been photographed in Palazzo Poggi Museum in Bologna.