Canadian artist Shanell Papp works in many mediums, but it’s her eye-catching crochet art and fascination with anatomy that led her to create Bawdy, a life-size model of the human body’s inner workings. This research project was started in 2005, when she crocheted the anatomically correct figure with removable organs during her time as an art student at the University of Lethbridge. Papp worked for eight months on the design, spending an equal amount of time on the skeleton and the internal organs.
The final installation featured the crochet skeleton laid on a gurney, with other crochet organs installed to create the look and feel of a real lab. “Before making this work I had a keen interest in medical history, Frankenstein, Enlightenment thinking, the Victorian period, the birth of industry (textile production), crime investigation, mortuary practices, and museums,” Papp shared. “I made the work to explore my interest in the human body.”
The work is a triumph for Papp, who taught herself how to crochet at the age of 9. The incredibly detailed, accurate anatomy shows just how much can be done with wool and crochet needles, as the textile sculpture is both a work of technical skill and fantasy. Papp’s interests follow a long history of mingling between medical science and art. From Leonardo Da Vinci using cadavers to make precise drawings of the human body to contemporary artists creating anatomical drawings with a twist, the human body continues to fascinate artists.