My work is all about the body. I work from the inside out to convey the feeling of inhabiting inner space, and the ways that personal identity and even consciousness are rooted in physical experience.
I became attuned to this inner body consciousness through the experience of living with scoliosis (curvature of the spine), and found intriguing visual possibilities in the image of a body that was beautiful but flawed. I want to make images of my body that tell the truth about pain but are still beautiful and sensual.
I see myself as following in the Renaissance tradition of Leonardo da Vinci and his great anatomy drawings, making an artistic investigation into the nature of human experience. Acting as scientist of my own perceptions, I’ve learned to detach myself and experience pain as simply an intensity of sensory awareness, that brings me to a deeper awareness of other inner body states. In anatomical terms, this is the realm of proprioception and the kinesthetic sense: the network of nerves in our muscles and joints, the inner body signals and sensors through which the body stays aware of itself, moment by moment – maintaining balance, orchestrating movement, relating to space, time, gravity and all that is other than the self.
I begin my original process by floating oil paints, mixed with bronze powders, on water. The drops of color spread out on the surface as if magnified under a microscope lens, forming patterns that echo the forms of nature. Then I transfer the floating image to paper, and repeat the process many times, slowly building up translucent layers of color and texture. I use these textured papers as the foundation for overlaid figurative drawing, with charcoal, pastel pencil, and oil crayon. Drawing becomes a process of revealing, as the transparent layers suggest or reveal those aspects of life that lie beneath the surface.
Artist Bio / CV
Laura Ferguson’s drawings, prints, and artist’s books have been widely exhibited in galleries and museums in New York and around the country, including the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC, the Museum of Science in Boston, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and the Chicago Cultural Center. Her work is represented in the collections of the National Library of Medicine, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine. Ferguson’s “Visible Skeleton Series” was the subject of a special section in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, and was featured in Alice Dreger’s One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, and Bettyann Kevles’ Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the 20th Century.
In 2008 Ferguson became the first Artist in Residence at the NYU School of Medicine. There she has access to the anatomical source materials that ground her work in scientific reality: human skeletons and cadavers in the Anatomy Lab and cutting-edge medical imaging technologies in the 3D Imaging Lab. Her ‘Art & Anatomy’ seminar offers medical students a hands-on experience of the learning, observational, and expressive powers of drawing, and an opportunity to go deeper in their study of anatomical structures.
A graduate of Brandeis University, Ferguson also studied art and design at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons, and anatomy with Irene Dowd, all in New York. Since 1995 she has been working with radiologists and orthopedists to have medical images of her own body made for the purpose of art.