December 07 2016

Tracing the Remains: Exploring the art of decay

Opening Reception: January 12, 2017 6pm

Exhibit Runs: January 13 – July 6, 2017

Two Philadelphia artists will be exploring the art of life, death, and decay in a unique new exhibit opening early 2017 here at The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Tracing the Remains is a mixed-media art show closely aligned with the themes of our renowned medical history collections: Pathology, disease, and the human condition.

This viscerally introspective exhibition by Sabrina Small and Caitlin McCormack explores transformations of the living body and its decay post mortem. Detailed embroidered and crocheted pieces adapt the Mütter Museum’s collection into captivating personal narratives.

McCormack’s willowy skeletal forms are distilled to gripping memories pinned to stark, inky backgrounds, shielded by Victorian style framing.

McCormack says of her crocheted pieces, “The act of stiffening intricately crocheted cotton string with glue produces material that is structurally similar to delicate bone tissue. The string utilized in this process can be viewed as the basic cellular unit of fabrication, and by implementing media and practices inherited from my relatives, both living and deceased, I aim to generate emblems of my diminishing bloodline, embodied by each organism's skeletal remains.”

Small’s works are the result of a personal mission to have her art displayed at the Mütter Museum. Swarming with intricate beadwork, layered drawings, and thousands of stitches, infirmed figures struggle against consuming pathologies. These evocative pieces advocate for a more personal perspective of the Mütter Museum collection, addressing the effects of chronic illness.

"When I first stepped foot in the Mütter Museum in 2012 I felt completely at home, engrossed by the collections and the stories behind them. I knew then I would make it my mission to exhibit there one day,” says Small. “I have had a life-long fascination with the intricacies of our biology and the workings of the human body; had I a mind for it, I likely would have become a surgeon. Instead my response has been to "dissect" the body with meticulous line drawings and hand-stitchings on vinyl and felt, slowing time if only for a little while, allowing me to live as long as I can within each piece and the human body."

Tracing the Remains will be on display in the Thomson Gallery at the Mütter Museum from January 13 – July 6, 2017. Entrance is included with admission to the Museum. Visitors should check opening hours at or by calling (215) 560-8564.

Explore artwork available for sale on the Mutter Museum store; and note that 15% of all sales from Tracing the Remains pieces will benefit Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, which provides health and wellness services in an LGBTQ-focused environment.

Note: Due to renovations taking place at The Mütter Museum in January - February 2017, access may be limited to certains areas of the building. 

The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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