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Canadian Artist Creates Anatomically Correct Crochet Skeletons
April 30, 2013
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Shanell Papp's art project has an interesting hook - she crochets skeletons.

Using anatomy textbooks as reference, the Alberta artist has reproduced anatomically correct knits, even including details like bone marrow and half-digested food.

The impetus for her show Lab (Skeleton) was this: making her own version of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein'.

Papp tells the Order of the Good Death blog, "the greatest part of the work is that it is a conversation starter, it gets people to comfortably talk about uncomfortable subjects."

"It is really great to watch people talk about the work, I sometimes pretend like I didn't make it.....they always wanna put their hand into the intestines, it is very strange, like some kind of a dissection urge?!" she says.

She says her creations are "way nicer" than the chickens she helped slaughter as a young girl. She lived on a farm for a few years, after only growing up in the city.

It was those experiences that helped form Papp's perceptions and fears about her own body and partly how she became interested in the body and death: "This came from discovering that someday I would cease to exist."

Papp continues, "I made [this art project] to understand my body better and I think this is why people like it."


Her grandmother, who ran a flea market/junk store, taught Papp the art of crochet, when she was around 8 or 9 years old.

And there's a reason she uses this incredibly labour-intensive medium: it takes patience, skill and commitment, "pretty uncommon in the internet/cell phone era," she says.

To create her work Papp borrowed a human skeleton from the local medical school and even snagged a morgue gurney to add a bit more life, so to speak, to her displays.

The crochet skeleton creation, done while Papp was completing her BFA from the University of Lethbridge, took 4 months to make. Incredibly, it took another 4 months to construct the internal organs.


Her latest book project is called 'BAWDY'. Papp says it was inspired by an early interest in the history of medicine. She's crowd-funding the book on Indiegogo.

In 2012, Papp was offered a residency at the Banff Centre and currently curates for the local Lethbridge library. She also does craft fairs and works for the University of Lethbridge and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG).


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