THE BODY AS CANVAS
anatomical body painting by artist savannah mohacsi
"I find the medium of body painting so compelling because the most fundamental part of this whole artistic practice is the same as in medicine—the human body."
During Savannah Mohacsi’s senior year at Stanford, she created “The Body as Canvas,” where she used body painting as a means to simulate the patient-doctor relationship. As an artist and an aspiring physician, Savannah feels compelled to refer to the individuals she paints as her “model/patients.” Her work traverses through the ambiguous facets of being human, and allows the people that she paints an opportunity to share and reflect on their lived experiences linked to identity, health, illness, and mental health. Each model/patient is cared for with the same respect and diligence one would hope to receive when being treated by a healthcare professional. This is Savannah’s priority as she strives for her artistic practice to mirror clinical experience.
To get to her incredibly detailed anatomical works, she must first compassionately interview her model/patient about their relationship with their body, while upholding their confidentiality. The personal stories that come out of the interview then allow Savannah the creative liberty to emulate that narrative into a physical anatomical design that is tailored to their body and their story. Navigating the painting process almost mirrors surgery—her brush operating like a scalpel. In the moment of body painting, she observes the model/patient’s body to make sure the individual’s bone structure, muscles, and joints form synergy with her design.
Savannah develops such a strong connection with her model/patients through this process and in her own words she explains how “they trust me to touch them, understand their anatomy, and allow me to listen to their most vulnerable stories.” She spends multiple hours with her canvases, testing her endurance to create these beautiful anatomical artworks. Her practice only adds to the pressure of artmaking because her canvas is a living and breathing individual. There is so much satisfaction and fulfillment when the person sees the art on their skin for the first time–it is as if they are finally confronting their organs, but from a different perspective. The challenges, strife, pain, or discomfort their body has caused them, is now a temporary tattoo on their skin for them to visualize and wear as a marker of strength and resilience.