New Readings in Female Anatomy

NRFA at the AGNL, St. John’s, 2001. Photo by Justin Hall.

New Readings in Female Anatomy opened at the AGNL in St. John’s in 2001. A large and layered installation representing 6 years of work, it consisted of a series of 28 panels called Fragments from a Re-Constructed Gynaeopedia – three cabinets filled with objects called the Body Boxes – a Reading and a Writing Table, on which were presented finished bookworks and blank ones – and a three-track sound scape which populated the room with the low murmurs of women’s voices.

The exhibition was mounted at the Carleton University Art Gallery the next year, and parts of it have been installed in Vancouver, Montreal and Providence, RI. The hard cover catalogue for this exhibition was published by CUAG in Ottawa and The Rooms, in St. John’s, and is available for purchase from the artist or from Art Books Canada.

This body of work was both speculative and interogative in intention – a complex and personal mapping of the complexity and diversity of female embodiment and its historic construction by western history and science. It is a dense installation, about which Sandra Dyck writes in the catalogue essay:

“Part of the great pleasure of NRIFA is its wide-ranging representation of the female body, veering as it does from empirical to fantastical, from disdain to reverence. Hall’s catholic outlook and aesthetic ingenuity have resulted in a cogent meditation on female embodiment — past and present.”

What follows below are small excerpts from the Gynaeopedia and from the Body Boxes. The book works, part of an ongoing project, can be seen in the section Re-writing the Body.

Fragments from a Re-constructed Gynaeopedia (1995–2000)

All works in the Gynaeopedia are 30″×44″ panels, usually grouped into pairs or triptychs. They are all hand coloured, and incorporate multi-plate etchings and engravings, drawing, and original text by the artist. Some also incorporate transferred text or images generated by computer. There are 28 panels forming 11 works.


The Body Boxes, 2001 – 3 cabinets, 44″×20″×10″ each.

Below are selected objects from all three cabinets. Hall found during multiple installations of these works that any of the objects could be placed in ANY of the cabinets, and though some were actually created to “belong” in the ANXIETY, or AMBIVALENCE or DESIRE cabinet, she continues to alternate their arrangements.

The scale of the objects can be judged from the life-sized hand which was cast from the artist’s. The materials from which the objects are made include plaster, dental stone, latex rubber, and wax, and the found materials incorporated include shark’s teeth, taxidermy eyes, rubber doll parts, condoms, pins and needles, eggshells, and human hair.