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Crochet skeleton

An artist crochets a perfect skeleton and internal organs


A figure carefully presents the skeleton and organs of the human body in colored yarn (touching even our innermost anatomy).

Shanell Papp is a skilled textile and crochet artist. She spent four long months crocheting a life-size skeleton in wool. She then filled it in with the organs of the human body in an act as patient and discreet as it was heroic.

The work was intended to be accurate in anatomical terms. Thus, Papp made a natural-size skeleton, and used several anatomy books to achieve it. She also used a real skeleton as a model, on loan from the University of Lethbridge. For the organs, she sought as much realism as possible (at least as much as could be achieved in making an anatomical model in crochet). The brain contains gray and white matter, the bones have marrow inside them, the stomach contains half-digested food and the intestines can be unrolled to the length of a true intestine.

The project excels for multiple reasons. One of them has to do with patience. A work that took the time it took to exist, necessarily, carries an implicit a sense of serenity and mettle because crochet is also a form of meditation. Papp’s skeleton reminds us that many of the worthwhile things, those that are valuable, take time to come into existence.

As though it were the patient in a hospital, the skeleton is displayed on its back, lying on a stretcher Papp got this for free during the renovation of a morgue. It reveals some of the Alberta-based artist’s obsession: the history of medicine, criminal investigation, mortuary practices, and the legendary Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

The artist understands that crochet isn’t often recognized as artistic, but rather as a craft technique. What she hoped to achieve through this figure in wool yarn is a commentary on the history of textiles and their manufacture, as well as a history of the working classes and their struggle. Papp brings the material—a technique representative of the 1970s and of female liberation—to a new and refreshing context to talk about equality: human organs are shared by all human beings without exception, a fact which doesn’t invite taxonomies nor hierarchies.

Papp’s crochet skeleton might have been macabre if not for its sweetness. The work, almost childish and essentially feminine, exposes the most fragile, common, and invisible inside of everyone, as the artist assured was her intent.

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