Tracing the Remains
Exploring the Art of Decay
Two Philadelphia artists explored the art of life, death, and decay in a unique exhibit which opened in 2017 here at The Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Tracing the Remains was 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 explored transformations of the living body and its decay post mortem. Detailed embroidered and crocheted pieces adapted the Mütter Museum’s collection into captivating personal narratives.
McCormack’s willowy skeletal forms were distilled to gripping memories pinned to stark, inky backgrounds, shielded by Victorian style framing.
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
– Caitlin McCormack
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. 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.
– Sabrina Small
Artworks from the exhibit
A selection of artworks by artists Sabrina Small and Caitlin McCormack displayed in the exhibit.