Jing Jiang / Sun Staff Photographer

A student represents a bodily system in the HUMAN fashion show.

October 28, 2018

‘Art Meets Science’ at Medical Fraternity’s First Anatomy Fashion Show

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Half her chest was painted with lively red and blue blood vessels. The other half was painted dark, mottled with black spots indicative of lung disease caused by smoking. The model strutted through the audience gathered in Klarman Hall Atrium. At the end of her walk, she looked over her shoulder to shoot one side of the crowd a cheeky look and take a Juul hit. The defiant irony was not lost on the audience, which erupted into applause punctuated with whoops and cheers.

Medical fraternity Phi Delta Epsilon hosted HUMAN, its first annual anatomy fashion show, on Saturday evening. The show, which lasted just under an hour, featured the dynamic work of student artists in the form of body paint and fabrics.

Phi Delta Epsilon president Anum Hussain ’19 organized and co-hosted the event. She sported a dark blue jumpsuit reminiscent of surgical scrubs. According to Hussain, the event was meant to represent the interdisciplinary nature of studying at Cornell.

“This event is meant to be something that people not just interested in science can enjoy,” Hussain told The Sun. “The premise of it is that we have artists from all over campus ranging from fine arts majors to [biomedical engineering majors] to [human biology, health and society majors].”

Bailey Willett ’20 served as planning committee chair and co-hosted the show. During her introduction, she described the fashion show as a “celebration of the human body where art meets science” and “an art form that is appreciated universally.”

The fashion show featured various systems of the human body, beginning with the brain and nervous system and ending with the digestive system. Each model featured a different aspect of the human body.

The art played with concepts such as butterflies in the stomach — depicting vibrant butterflies on one model’s abdomen — and an artistic interpretation of the circulatory system with blood vessels transforming into vines and flowers on a model’s limbs.

At one point, a model walked out accompanied by ominous music and clad in a head-to-toe outfit comprised of Ikea bags, bright fabrics and other odd materials. He represented the immune system, dragging a weighty garbage bag attached by rope to his shoulder and stepping purposefully on thin black heels. According to Willett, this was the model’s own representation of the heavy impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on society.

On the day of the show, artists, models and planning members of the fraternity began preparing the art and setting up the runway at noon. Rupal Khaitan ’20, one of the show’s artists, described the preparation as spontaneous but exciting.

“There’s a lot of figuring out just on the spot. I didn’t really know what to do. We were just painting people and brainstorming,” Khaitan told The Sun. “It was so fun!”

Phi Delta Epsilon is an international medical fraternity with chapters around the world, according to Hussain. The Anatomy Fashion Show is an event that many other chapters host, which inspired Hussain to bring the show to Cornell for the first time this year. She first heard of the show concept in 2016 at a Phi Delta Epsilon regional conference and began planning the event when she became president of the fraternity in 2017.

“Two years ago, we were talking about it and I thought it was a really cool idea, especially because I thought it would be a way for our organization to have our own niche on campus. It’s such a unique event,” Hussain said. “It definitely was a large undertaking. We wanted to invest in this event. It’s a lot of moving pieces, a lot of parts going on.”

In organizing the event, Hussain and the Phi Delta Epsilon executive board reached out to several different classes on campus to recruit artists and models. According to the event program, the show included 37 models who displayed the work of 13 artists.

Hussain said that the event attracted about 150 audience members. At the end of the show, she and Willett announced that ticket sales had raised about $1100, all of which was to be donated to Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. The hospital is part of the Children’s Miracle Network, Cornell Phi Delta Epsilon’s partner philanthropic organization and co-sponsor of the fashion show.

As this was the first time hosting the show at Cornell, Hussain said that publicizing the event to the Cornell community was a challenge but felt the event was largely successful.

“It’s not going to be perfect, we know that,” she said just before the show. “But it’s going to be as good as it can be. We’re really excited — even my parents are coming.”

In her closing remarks during the show, Hussain described the pieces as extreme, adding that “extreme measures are where science ends and art begins.”

Hussain said she expects the show to continue in the following years and described this year’s event as a learning process and “something that’s only going to be better with time” despite logistic hurdles this year.

“I would so do this again,” Khaitan said. “I hope they keep it going because it’s a really cool event.”