Slifka exhibits mixes art and science

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Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

A new exhibit at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale aims to explore the inner beauty of a woman.

“Only in a Woman” features approximately 20 enlarged microscopic images of tissues found only in the female body. The images have been edited by Harvey Kliman, M.D., Ph.D., who works in the Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences Department at the Yale School of Medicine. The exhibit, which opened in the center’s Sylvia Slifka Chapel on Tuesday, includes images from the uterus and placenta, explained Lucy Partman ’14, the Slifka Arts Curator.

“Sometimes the images are so captivating that they become something other than the scientific data,” Partman said. “And that’s where the art comes in.”

Kliman explained that each print in the exhibit was previously a stained scientific image used for clinical or research purposes, adding that when an image particularly struck him, he transformed it into a piece of art by using Photoshop to change colors and add filters. Kliman also noted that he chose images based on their aesthetic appeal as opposed to their medical significance.

The exhibit’s purpose ventures beyond aesthetics, explained Partman, a double major in biology and history of art. She added that she thinks some viewers may see the images as purely scientific and others may experience them only as works of art. This show is Slifka’s first to display scientific work, and in exploring the intersection between art and the natural sciences, the exhibit may attract a new type of audience, she said.

“There aren’t many exhibits on campus that have this [scientific] element, and I really want scientists to feel they have a place in the visual arts,” Partman said.

Given that many of the images present tissues that are crucial to pregnancy, Partman said that the show may present an interesting lens through which to explore female identity and the role of women and mothers.

Rabbi Leah Cohen, Slifka’s executive director and senior Jewish chaplain, said that she thinks the exhibit highlights the careful mechanics of the human body and shows the details of how we function — something that many take for granted. She noted that “Only in a Woman” explores religion in addition to the overlap of art and science.

“Part of religion is inquiry, and this is an exhibition of inquiry,” she said. “Once you start inquiring, you’re in the land of science, but you’re also in the land of religion. And here the answers are coming through art. There’s an incredible beauty and artistry in the creation of humanity.”

This exhibit will be Slifka’s last this semester, before the beginning of the alumni reunion shows, Partman noted. Rabbi Cohen said she considers the exhibit an excellent way to end the arts revival that has happened at Slifka over the past year.

“Only in a Woman” will remain on display through the summer.

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