Aug 1st 2021

Brushes with Death: Examining the Human Condition is a solo exhibition by artist Kathleen Gallo in collaboration with the International Museum of Surgical Science collection. This fascinating exhibition intertwines interactive installations, social commentary, fine art, medical/anatomical illustration, and forensic art into one show that examines what it means to be human. In this personal body of work, Gallo leads an expedition into her own mental and emotional capacity around the cyclical nature of destruction and birth. From highly rendered oil paintings to post-mortem facial reconstructions of the skulls in the IMSS collection, Gallo shares her passion for science, anthropology, and the arts.

With her technical and artistic abilities, Gallo records osteological/archeological artifacts as well as recreate faces from the past. A post-mortem facial reconstruction is the artistic approximation of the facial characteristics of an unidentified deceased person based upon the person’s unique skull structure. This visual process can be done digitally, drawn by hand, or sculpted with clay. These flesh reconstructions can be used for museum displays, education, and identification purposes. In this context, Gallo has created hand-drafted 2-dimensional reconstructions on skulls from the IMSS collection located on the 4th floor of the museum. The collection of the museum provided a fascinating body of work investigating ancient cultural practices such as trephination and cradle-boarding, as well as creating faces for members of a pre-colonized civilization.

Alongside examining death in an anthropological or forensic nature, Gallo also finds inspiration through her journey with confronting mortality. From studying women’s reproductive health to articulating her struggle with mental illness, and sharing her journey as a caretaker to her grandmother with stage 4 cancer Gallo draws conceptual inspiration from all periods of life as well as death. This show illustrates her duality as an artist, showing both her anatomical/forensic aspirations alongside her more personal and intimate fine art.

By examining death every day, Kathleen Gallo has managed to find success in her body of work and to exercise her passion for history and justice. Gallo pushes herself to explore her emotional capacity, giving herself over to the fascination with things long past and examining humanity’s relationship with life to capture its qualities and its gravity. Gallo hopes that her artwork may continue to give faces to the individuals who have had their dignity and identities stripped from them, as well as open a dialogue surrounding the subject matter of human morality and mortality.

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