Anatomy 101: Megan Duffy in the StudioFebruary 12, 2016
“One of my most cherished possessions is my copy of The Atlas of Human Anatomy and Surgery,” says Art-in-Ed Workspace resident Megan Duffy. She goes on to describe the hyper-realistic colored plates and the surreal medical procedures illustrated in the book published in the mid-1800’s. “It’s so creepy but it is so cool. These are cut bodies, but you wouldn’t think of them as violent. The action of cutting isn’t important.”
Megan has always been fascinated by the human body, and has always explored this interest through different types of imagery. In high school she drew realistic interpretations of skeletons. In college she printed dissections of familiar body parts like thumbs and legs. At WSW, she questions what the body even is, slicing open unfamiliar, colorful shapes and printing monotypes of abstract, fleshy masses.
Megan recently graduated with a degree in printmaking and a special fondness for woodcut. Through it, she acts as a surgeon, cutting into the woodblock with her scalpel and dissecting the image of the body. But in her last semester at Skidmore College, Megan took an interest in mixed media and collage, and began incorporating themes from her collages into her prints.
“I feel like I’ve always been thinking in terms of collage,” Megan says. “I have such a hoarder’s collection of magazines and unusual books.” A gem in her collection is a 1952 yearbook she found at a library book sale. From it, she’s pulled smiling lips and shining eyes into her collages, both in past work and in an ongoing project. As she cuts, disassembles, and reassembles these pieces, Megan dismantles the form of the body to create something new and interesting out of something familiar.
After graduating and losing access to a printmaking studio, Megan began creating small paintings that continued to build on her abstract interpretation of the figure. While working in WSW’s Etching Studio, Megan set out to try monotyping, a printing practice she never tried in school. “It’s very immediate, which is weird for me coming from relief printing,” Megan says. “One woodcut could take me weeks while I can make several of these monotypes in an afternoon. I’m free to play with it more.”
Where the woodcut is rigid, the monotype is looser and more open to experimentation. With this new process, both Megan’s formal and conceptual approaches to the body have shifted. In her first series of monotypes, she creates impressionistic masses. Megan says, “I wanted to bring together the things I explored in my relief prints with the more fluid aspects of the paintings I made after I graduated.” By fully breaking down the form itself, she is free to explore line quality and color relationships. The fleshy colors suggest a nude, hunched over and melting into the paper, and the tan paper completes the open lines of the collapsed figure. The sharp browns become dark shadows, adding pictorial depth to the relaxed interpretation.
In her next series of monotypes, Megan continues creating indistinguishable masses but moves away from the gestural and towards the solid forms of her woodcuts. Misshapened blobs of bright, pulpy colors are sliced open to reveal red, meaty centers. Likewise, the collages Megan makes at WSW move away from distinctive body parts like hands and faces, instead highlighting obscure spaces like the crease of the elbow and the space between shoulder blades. By dismantling the idea of what the human body is, Megan is able to look closer and more critically at the human form.
Every foundational art class begins with figure drawing, familiar and safe. Megan subverts the figure by taking it apart, piece by piece, in her collages and prints. Her artistic style and methods are continually evolving, but her subject matter has remained constant. When posed with the question every recent graduate is excited to hear—“What’s next?”—Megan shakes her head and smiles. “I’m just going to keep printing.”
Megan Duffy is an emerging printmaker and mixed media artist from New Jersey. She graduated with a BS in Studio Art from Skidmore College. See more from her residency on our Flickr.