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VCU Libraries exhibition showcases incredible medical, scientific illustrations by VCUarts students, alumni

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Hannah Huddle, a 2016 graduate of the School of the Arts, created this study of a beetle specimen found in Virginia Beach.

A new art show at the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University is featuring medical and scientific illustrations by students and alumni of the Department of Communication Arts in the School of the Arts.

“Intersections II” features the work of 16 students and alumni of the Department of Communication Art’s scientific and preparatory medical illustration track, which requires a rigorous set of science courses hosted by the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and VCU Life Sciences in addition to their art courses.

The exhibition, which opens today, is free and open to the public at Tompkins-McCaw Library, located on VCU’s MCV campus at 509 N. 12th St. Images from “Intersections II” also will be displayed on the James Branch Cabell Library Big Screen beginning Monday, Feb. 27.

Dan Catalin Nacu created this 3-D model and render of what a cell looks like when it is rupturing and breaking apart.
Dan Catalin Nacu created this 3-D model and render of what a cell looks like when it is rupturing and breaking apart.

The show features incredibly detailed and colorful illustrations of insects, birds, flowers, human anatomy and even diseases like norovirus.

Sarah Faris, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Arts and head of the scientific and preparatory medical illustration track, is curating the show. The artwork, she said, showcases a unique set of skills that blends critical thinking, storytelling and scientific and medical communications.

“It requires the fast and accurate acquisition of technical understanding, consideration of various audiences through a pedagogical lens, and ability to draw based on experiences in observation,” said Faris, a certified medical illustrator. “Scientific and medical illustrators serve as communications liaisons between highly specialized experts and a variety of audiences.”

“The need for rigorous investigations into the nature of reality highlight the unintuitive aspect of factual information,” Faris added. “The construction of images to convey these ideas appear to be rooted in observation. However, what is framed, abstracted, and left out are highly delicate considerations with large impacts to the audience.”

Malcolm Sackor, a senior communication arts major with a concentration in scientific and preparatory medical illustration and a biology minor, is among the artists whose work is being displayed as part of “Intersections II.”

My love for biology, drawing and fitness led me down this path.

“Medical illustration is something I have always been interested in … I just didn’t realize it was an actual major until I came to VCU, which just so happens to be the only school in Virginia that has this degree at the undergraduate level,” he said. “My love for biology, drawing and fitness led me down this path. As hard as the field is, I’m very excited about it. I look forward to learning and growing with the help of the amazing mentors and teachers I have met along the way.”

Teresa L. Knott, director of Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences and associate university librarian, said VCU Libraries is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the medical and scientific illustrations by students and alumni of the Communication Arts Department.

“It is remarkable to see how an artist brings a concept or procedure to life through developing or creating an image that can range from highly realistic to a simple line drawing,” she said. “In conversations with those who visited the first exhibit, it was clear to me that an artist can clarify and educate through their work. We are fortunate to work in a university where art and science so readily come together to advance our understanding of the world.”

This illustration of a Japanese flying squid was created by VCU student Lohitha Kethu, a senior in the School of the Arts.
This illustration of a Japanese flying squid was created by VCU student Lohitha Kethu, a senior in the School of the Arts.

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