About Art Hx

Art Hx is a digital database of objects that can be filtered by tags and used as a research tool. As a research platform Art Hx has three areas of focus: Pathologies of Difference maps the ways medicine and race shaped colonial expansion and traces their impact on perceptions of racial difference, disease and health today. Cultivating Care considers the many meanings of care in the practice of (historical) interpretation and the practices of health and medical treatment. Medicalized Space focuses on the ways medicine as a field of knowledge was used to interpret, categorize and circulate meanings about humans and their environments.

Art Hx centralizes the importance of visual sources, recognizing that their aesthetics were also tools of empire. We have highlighted this in our website design. One of the most common typefaces used in the publication and circulation of medical texts was Caslon, a familiar typeface that remains popular for its readability. You will notice however that our headings have a blip. This is Pathologized Caslon, a font Bhavani Srinivas created through experiments with a scanner, a tool used for copying and circulating information in our contemporary institutions.

The font is a good reminder of what Art Hx aims to show: art was integral to the production and circulation of colonial and medical knowledge. However, art is not only a mode of communication or illustration. It has activated and acted upon its environments and continues to do so. Art opens up the past. It reveals important transhistorical and transregional connections, and, it can focus our attention—in unexpected ways—on the impact these intertwined histories of colonialism and medicine have on how we see and value each other today.

The database we have created for this site contains objects we have published with permission from the museums, archives and artists studios in which they are housed. We have included copyright information and links to these sites with each entry. We have also indicated when images are in the public domain and free to use, republish and modify. However we cannot grant or deny permissions for the material on this website. If you require further permissions information or higher resolution images you may contact the institutions and artists directly using the links we have provided.

Art Hx is a collaborative endeavour. Led by Professor Anna Arabindan-Kesson, it came into shape through the work of Jessica Womack, Phoebe Warren, Bhavani Srinivas and Sydnae Taylor. This site was created by Ben Johnston, Senior Educational Technologist at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton and designed by Bhavani Srinivas. The body is set in Adobe Caslon Pro, by Carol Twombly, and the headings are set in Pathologized Caslon, a font made by Bhavani for this project by distorting the semibold weight of Adobe Caslon. You can download and use the font here. Art Hx is sponsored by the Rapid Response Magic Project of the Princeton University Humanities Council and the Addressing Racism Funding Initiative, Princeton University.

Team


Anna Arabindan-Kesson is Assistant Professor of African American and Black Diaspora Art at Princeton University, and jointly appointed in both African American Studies and Art and Archaeology. Prior to completing her PhD in the United States, Anna was a Registered Nurse. She trained in NZ, and worked in Australia and the UK. This project grew out of a course Anna taught in Spring 2020 which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. It brings together her professional background as an art historian, and her experiences in healthcare where she was taught by, and worked with, First Nations women who modeled how to see critically and think reflexively about the inequities of a system that did not address the health disparities of First Nations Communities and people of colour. Seeing critically is also what art historians do as they address how representation shapes social relations and claims for equality. Art Hx’s emphasis on the visual bridges these two different, yet connected, forms of analysis in order to redesign harmful ways of seeing, thinking and treating each other.

A photograph of Bhavani Srinivas, an Indian-American woman with curly hair.
Bhavani Srinivas is an artist and recent graduate of Princeton University’s Department of Art and Archaeology. In her senior thesis exhibition, Bhavani surfaced relationships between family ritual, trade, food histories, and craft techniques through installations in fiber, metal, glass, found material, and other media. On campus, she was a Co-Convener of the Religious Life Council, a member of Students for Prison Education, Abolition, and Reform, and a Peer Arts Advisor for the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Bhavani designed the Art Hx website as a response to the histories aggregated in the Art Hx Database and to contemporary norms in institutional website design. Bhavani is particularly interested in researching the ways in which difference and perceived ugliness have been medicalized. Through working on Art Hx, she has also been able to learn more deeply and critically about histories related to her family, which includes several physicians.


Sydnae Taylor is a sophomore from Kingston, Jamaica at Princeton University majoring in Medical Anthropology with a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy. On Campus, she is a Davis International Center Leader and the Vice President of Logistics of the Princeton Africa Summit. She is passionate about engaging with her local and international community through entrepreneurship, the arts and healthcare.

This project is incredibly important to Sydnae because it has allowed her to learn more about Jamaica’s colonial history and the experiences of her ancestors. When thinking about a future in healthcare, Sydnae is passionate about gaining and sharing knowledge about how our past impacts our future. This work has taught her, and hopefully the people who choose to engage, about the importance of amplifying the experiences of the voiceless as well as finding new ways to research and interact with our pasts. She hopes to continue to grow professionally and personally through powerful projects such as Art Hx.


Phoebe Warren is an undergraduate student in the Department of Art and Archaeology and is pursuing a certificate in Dance. Her undergraduate independent work has focused on intersections of art and medicine. Her senior thesis examines the production and transmission of images to communicate medical knowledge in the context of disease outbreaks in the nineteenth century within and beyond the U.S., and will assess the lasting influence of nineteenth century visual strategies on images circulating in the COVID-19 pandemic. After graduating from Princeton, Phoebe plans to attend medical school, and hopes to continue thinking about medicine’s visual histories as a medical student.

Phoebe is inspired by the Art Hx project’s role in facilitating new ways of seeing and caring. She hopes to continue learning about the historical contributions of colonialism, scientific racism, medical education, and reproductive health to current conditions of severe inequity in healthcare for Indigenous, Black, and Brown communities in order to think about ways in which new practices of care might chart a way forward.


Jessica Womack is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology and is pursuing graduate certificates in African American Studies and Latin American Studies. She studies modern and contemporary art from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the United States with a focus on African Diasporic religions and their iconography and visual culture in postcolonial and post-revolutionary contexts. She is especially interested in nation-building, identity (re)formation, diaspora, and performance. Her dissertation focuses on Jamaican art after independence in 1962 and examines the connections and negotiations between artists, arts institutions, and Jamaican, British, U.S., and Cuban government officials; her work has been supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art and the Social Sciences Research Council. She received her A.B. in art history from Dartmouth College in 2014 where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and her M.A. from Princeton University in 2019. Before starting her graduate work, she held curatorial and programming positions at the Hood Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and she recently participated in the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Museum Education Practicum.

Jessica is motivated by ArtHx’s commitment to visualize and emphasize how colonialism has shaped modern-day medicine and science. She is particularly interested in thinking about colonialism, racial capitalism, sugar, and diabetes as well as the disparities in prenatal healthcare that overwhelmingly impact Black, Brown, and Indigenous women and lead to disproportionately high rates of maternal and infant mortality around the globe.

Art Hx