Exhibitionists·Video

From strokes to heart attacks, Trinley Dorje uses art to make what happens to our bodies beautiful

Dorje shows us what our bodies look like on the inside — and her art may help us better understand them.

Dorje shows us what our bodies look like on the inside — and her art may help us better understand them

(CBC Arts)

Toronto-based artist Trinley Dorje has always had an interest in anatomy. Even as a child, she was fascinated by it and followed that curiosity to a career in forensic anthropology. Now, she's a physiotherapy assistant at Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto, where she helps patients get up and moving again after heart surgery. But in 2016, Dorje found she needed a creative outlet to help her relax after work. That's when she began to explore the artistic side of anatomy.

The result? She makes anatomical art, and her work offers a new perspective on how our bodies function and what they look like that the public wouldn't normally see outside of a hospital setting. "That's why I really decided to use medical imaging as a form of focus for my art, because it's a way that people don't normally see their anatomy," Dorje explains. "A lot of people don't actually know what the heart actually looks like." She aims to educate people about their bodies and believes that learning about your inner workings can help you be prepared for unexpected medical outcomes.

Watch the video:

Physiotherapist assistant/artist Trinley Dorje takes you through her rendering of what happens to our insides. Filmmaker: Michal Heuston. Camera operator: Melinda Tse 3:15

In this video, Dorje takes you through why she makes her art and some of the things she has to work around. Because she tries to keep her art as anatomically correct as possible, her biggest challenge is finding ways to illustrate anatomy while remaining true to its structure. There is something to be learned from each piece she creates, and it's not unusual for her to hide a diagnosis within her artwork. These are things that she encounters every day at the hospital, and creating these pieces helps her manage the emotions that come from what she sees in her profession.

"Sometimes days are rough, things are hard, you're seeing people at their most vulnerable," says Dorje. "I think it's almost a therapy for me to be able to create these images which display sometimes which would be catastrophic events even, like strokes and things like that within an artwork. But at the same time, I'm making them as pretty as I can."

Follow Trinley Dorje here.

"Love Yourself." (Trinley Dorje)
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Watch CBC Arts: Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

A recent graduate from the RTA School of Media, Michal is a filmmaker currently based out of Toronto with a passion for exploring different ways of storytelling. Michal is interested in creating accessible digital content that people can connect to, and promoting inclusivity in their work. On days off, Michal can be found painting or on a hiking trail.