Monday, December 27, 2010

A 10 year-old's take on hospital stay, c.1950

In 1950, the sister of 10 year-old John Davidson was admitted to Lakewood Hospital for an appendectomy. John chronicled her stay in drawings, both real and imagined. On the front of a sheet of paper, entitled “My visitors today,” he depicted the daily routine of nurses, meals, recuperation, and visits by family and pastor. On the reverse John caricatured a far different nocturnal hospital experience, entitled “What goes on when your asleep.” In these drawings John envisioned multiple instrumental interventions, with tools more suited to workshop than hospital. John’s sister must have been amused by his imaginings, for she kept the sketches and almost a half century later they found their way into the archives at the Dittrick.

Dittrick 1993.42.2 obverse
Dittrick 1993.42.2 reverse

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hospital Handi-Notes c.1950

For the coming holiday season I thought that something kid-oriented should be in order. One of the more charming items in the Dittrick archive is a c.1950 boxed set of Rust Craft greeting cards for hospital-bound children. We are normally inclined to think only of get-well cards sent to the infirm and ill. The cards depicted here turned the table, and were intended to let young hospital patients keep others apprised of their well-being, and hopefully improving health. Such cards provided family and friends with an update on their recuperation.

All this struck me as pretty remarkable, yet a tad surreal. What poor kid could/would provide family and friends with a meaningful report on their recuperation? And was this something “normal” in the sphere of greeting cards? The search to learn something about these cards resulted in a phone chat with Anne Stewart O’Donnell, a decorative arts scholar steeped in greeting card history. Anne cited The Romance of Greeting Cards (1956) by Earnest Dudley Chase as a key source, but it offered little illumination regarding this genre of cards. A bit more looking online confirmed that the cards could be credited to Marjorie Cooper of Three Little Kittens fame, as well as a full oeuvre of artwork for Rust Craft Greeting Card Company and other publishers of children’s books in the baby boomer era. Should I learn more, I’ll pass it along. For the moment, I will post these images and hope that you enjoy the charm of Cooper’s artwork.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anatomica Aesthetica exhibition at the Cleveland Institute of Art: images from the opening on November 5.

Images from the opening of Anatomica Aesthetica, November 5, Reinberger Galleries, Cleveland Institute of Art.

Anatomica Aesthetica showcases more than a decade of work by contemporary fine-art photographers from the Mütter Museum and the H. F. Aitken biomedical llustrations from the Dittrick Medical History Center. The exhibition includes images from the Mütter Museum’s renowned historical photography collection alongside contemporary images that extend the boundaries of traditional photographic subject matter. Guest curator Laura Lindgren brought together aesthetically diverse photographers including Shelby Lee Adams, Max Aguilera-Hellweg, Gwen Akin and Allan Ludwig, Candace diCarlo, Dale Gunnoe, Steven Katzman, Mark Kessell, Scott Lindgren, Olivia Parker, Rosamond Purcell, Richard Ross, Ariel Ruizi Altaba, Harvey Stein, Arne Svenson, William Wegman, and Joel-Peter Witkin. The H. F. Aitken collection comprises some 2000+ sketches, drawings, paintings, prints, and books from the estate of Hamlet Frederick Aitken (1872 - 1939), an artist and medical illustrator from Massachusetts. Maggie Pierce, a senior in the CIA biomedical art program, selected fifty works from the Aitken collection to be featured in this installation.

The exhibition runs from November 5 to December 18, 2010.

Related events include:

December 8

Amanda S. Almon, C.M.I. Associate Professor and Head of the Biomedical Art Department at The Cleveland Institute of Art and Adjunct Assistant Professor in anatomy at Case Western Reserve University, will provide a brief history of Biomedical Art, and the important role artists play in imaging medical science, in conjunction with Anatomica Aesthetica from 12:30-1:15pm. Meet near the entrance to the Reinberger Galleries.

December 15

James M. Edmonson, Chief Curator, Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, College of Arts and Sciences, Case Western Reserve University and curator of Anatomica Aesthetica along with co-curator Maggie Pierce, senior in the Biomedical Art Program at The Cleveland Institute of Art, will give an informal gallery talk followed by a book signing for Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, co-authored by John Harley Warner and James M. Edmonson. 12:30-1:15pm. Meet near the entrance to the Reinberger Galleries.

Photos courtesy of Robert Muller, Cleveland Institute of Art.