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Medical images transformed to art in Laupus exhibit

By Crystal Baity

Catherine Billingsley, left, and Maria Modlin will display their art work in an exhibit beginning Tuesday at Laupus Library. Here, Modlin shows a top and shorts she made from fabric digitally-printed with microscopic images of ovarian cancer. Billingsley?s purse is made from images of her own hand x-ray. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
(May 5, 2011)   —   Images from routine medical tests, X-rays and diseased cells have been transformed into art for an exhibit opening May 10 at Laupus Library at East Carolina University.

The exhibit, “Wearing Our Insides Out: Women’s Health and Art,” is a two-woman show of digitally-printed, medically-related textile work that will be on display on the fourth floor of Laupus Library through Aug. 11.

The artists, Catherine Billingsley and Maria Modlin, are graduates of ECU’s fine arts program in textiles in the School of Art and Design, where Modlin is a technology support technician. They will talk about the making of their art at an opening reception 4:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 11.

Billingsley has used images from her own routine medical tests - eye, mammogram, ultrasound, and bone density tests, and dental, chest, hand, hip and knee X-rays – to transform them into different art forms.

She made a purse, which she calls her “hand bag” because the imagery is from an X-ray of her hand. Her eye tests and dental X-rays are woven with hundreds of beads, but most of her images have been manipulated in Photoshop and printed on fabric, then pieced and quilted.

Except for a skirt and vest, Billingsley has done all her printing on her desktop Epson printer. She has about 20 pieces for the exhibit.  

“I am drawn to the abstract quality of these images, or the abstract quality I can create by repeating or manipulating the images whole or in part,” Billingsley said. “I became aware of the beauty within each of us when I saw the digital image of my eye. What you see here is the result of my efforts to show the inner me.”

Modlin has concentrated on family-related health concerns and has printed microscopic images of cancer, heart disease and diabetes in repeating patterns on fabric to make clothing. Images of destructive cells have been turned into something beautiful.

“Considering this dichotomy is what we as human beings deal with in our everyday lives, seeing both the beautiful and the ugly,” said Modlin, who printed her fabrics on an Epson 9800 Stylus Pro, which can print up to 44 inches in width. She has eight items that will be displayed on dress forms.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Laupus Library will be sponsoring a panel discussion by local doctors who will speak about women’s health issues on Tuesday, July 26. The discussion will be held 4:30-6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Panelists will be Dr. Laura Surles of Medical Park Family Physicians, Dr. Christopher Hasty of Orthopedics East, Dr. Jan H. Wong of East Carolina Breast Center, and Dr. Rachel Raab, assistant professor of hematology/oncology in the Brody of School of Medicine.