In the 1790's in Germany, the Göttingen Collection began as an assortment of obstetrical instruments at the maternity hospital of Göttingen University. The most avid contributor and director of the collection was Johann Frederich Osiander (1787-1855). Osiander's inventory of the obstetrical instruments and anatomical specimens eventually included over 5000 pieces. Until 1860, the collection was used solely for clinical documentation and academic instruction. However, today the display chronicles the technical progress of western medicine. Yet every historical instrument in the collection, with various design modifications, is still used today.
In an effort to overcome both fear and ignorance of my own body, I began to research gynecology as a gender-specific metaphor. Although most scholars respond to their research in writing, as a visual artist the results of my critical analysis of the feminine body are expressed in works of art. The first artwork I made in response to my research was a series of obstetrical and gynecological instruments based on the study of the Göttingen Collection at the University of Göttingen, Germany. After studying the form and function of each historical instrument, I gained a deeper understanding of the tool’s significance through the artistic process of recreating it. However, instead of simply remaking, I elected to use common household objects to parody the gynecological instrument, while retaining, to some extent, its original function. I often employ humor in my work to reduce the level of discomfort I experience when conducting my research which renders the subject more approachable by my audience. Since that initial foray into the subject of gynecology, I have studied collections of instruments, anatomical models, historical texts, and anatomy theaters at institutions and museums throughout Europe and the United States.
The Domestic Science Collection
60” x 30” x 16”
stainless steel cabinet, glass, acetate, instruments fabricated out of mixed metals and found objects