Museum Anatomy is an ongoing photographic exploration, which began in 1995 by artists, Chadwick Gray and Laura Spector. (Chadwick and Spector).
Their artwork goes through a significant process until reaching the final outcome, a photograph of Chadwick, sometimes unrecognizable as a human form, with an elaborate, detailed painting covering a portion of his body.
The process begins in the store rooms of museums in locations such as, Italy, Spain, The Czech Republic, South Africa, England, Thailand, Japan and the U.S. Chadwick and Spector receive permission to review selected archives of the museums’ storage depositories taking note of paintings which may relate to specific aspects of the culture, social and/or political history. In addition, they request to view paintings specifically 19th century portraits of women created by native artists and/or paintings which have been stored and hidden from public view due to controversy within the culture.
From the images, Chadwick and Spector decide on a painting that will be resurrected on to the human canvas of Chadwick’s body. The paradox of culture is reformulated — the original 19th century painting of a woman, which was painted by a man, is now re- painted by a female on a male body in the 21st century. Furthermore, Chadwick admits the process can be painful in order to endure the 12 to 15 hour body poses that require him to stay completely still, almost in a meditative trance. Spector also concentrates deeply from the visual of the painting to her methodology and ideology of painting on skin transforming the flat painting onto a temporal surface. The area in which the painting is recreated depends on coincidences in the physigotomy of the human anatomy in relation to the artwork being recreated. Sometimes the controversy which kept the original painting hidden in a museum is brought back to life in another significance due to body parts assimilated in the human canvas painting.
Once the intensively executed body painting is completed Spector photographs Chadwick and the resulting Vibrachrome prints are developed to the same size as the original painting. The photographs reveal a new work of art where the painting takes on curves and sometimes camouflages the human form.
In the photograph, The Model Aline Masson (after R. Madrazo), 1999, Chadwick's head and upper torso are evident but his arms are posed in the same manner as the model in the painting creating a somewhat distorted mirror image. The recreated body paintings of these 19th century portraits seem to hold a secret of time and the resulting photographs reveal a unification of art combining antiquity, history and technology in a contemporary context.