Three Ways to Explore Art about Bodies

Art often examines the inner emotional and intellectual dimensions of life; sometimes, though, it considers what its like to be a living creature, an animal with a body that is beautiful, functional, or, at times, diseased. Chicago is full of art that explores themes of health, beauty, sex, and other bodily functions. Here are Storied Chicago's suggestions for looking at a few, somewhat-unconventional works of art about bodies.

 

1. The International Museum of Surgical Science

 Ancient Skulls from Peru in the collection of the IMSS

Ancient Skulls from Peru in the collection of the IMSS

Consider the inner workings, and malfunctions, of the human body at the International Museum of Surgical Science.

The museum documents the successes and, in some cases, grim failures of surgeons over the centuries.

 Sketch by the Swiss "father of modern physiology" Albrecht von Haller

Sketch by the Swiss "father of modern physiology" Albrecht von Haller

Located at 1524 N. Lakeshore Drive in an early 20th century mansion, it is modeled on one of the buildings at the Palace of Versailles.

The museum's 10,000 square feet of public galleries feature surgical instruments and skeletons as well as paintings, drawings, and photographs of human anatomy, medical equipment, and surgical procedures. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free on Tuesdays and $15 on other days.

 

2. Shit Fountain

 Shit Fountain

Shit Fountain

Contemplate one of our less savory bodily functions at Shit Fountain.

In 1917, French artist Marcel Duchamp shocked the art world with his Fountain, a porcelain urinal, which challenged traditional aesthetics and even suggested, as one critic noted, "art is something you piss on." 

 Duchamp's Fountain

Duchamp's Fountain

Chicago artist Jerzy S. Kenar has made a Duchampian contribution to the urban landscape with his sculpture Shit Fountain. The sculpture begs the question: does a rendering of a piece of excrement count as art? Is it funny, thought provoking, or just plain vulgar?

Born in Poland, Kenar moved to Chicago and opened a gallery in 1980. He has since become an internationally renowned artist, particularly for his religious-themed works. Kenar's pieces decorate the walls of O'Hare International Airport, the Harold Washington Library Center, and several churches throughout Chicagoland.   

Shit Fountain sits in front of a private residence in East Ukrainian Village at 1001 North Wolcott Avenue. Kenar says he hopes it will inspire dog owners to clean up after their pets. He and his pit bull live in the neighborhood.  

 

3. Naughty Little Cabaret

You can admire the male form for its strength and its athleticism at the Naughty Little Cabaret. 

Chicago has a lively burlesque scene, but the Naughty Little Cabaret at 26 Division St. is the city's only show with an all-male cast.

Stop in at 8 p.m. on Saturday and select Friday nights to see scantily-clad men and drag divas sing, dance, and perform stunning acrobatic feats.

 Pole dancer at the Naughty Little Cabaret

Pole dancer at the Naughty Little Cabaret

The show is for all adults over 21 who appreciate burlesque and the male form. General admission for the show is $30 and comes with a shot. VIP admission is $40, which gets you a seat in one of the first three rows and a shot.