Ferndale artist’s anatomical pieces explore human behavior

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 22, 2013

 Lindsey Harnish, a 33-year-old Ferndale resident, stands next to a few of her pieces of art from her show, “Interiors,” Dec. 17 at Café 1923 in Hamtramck.

Lindsey Harnish, a 33-year-old Ferndale resident, stands next to a few of her pieces of art from her show, “Interiors,” Dec. 17 at Café 1923 in Hamtramck.

Photo by Joshua Gordon


FERNDALE — Hanging on a wall at Café 1923 in Hamtramck is a piece of art that depicts the subject floating in the air with parts of its respiratory system exposed. As the subject floats, the character is watching a large clock as if it is waiting for something to happen.

Lindsey Harnish created the painting to depict a feeling she goes through every time she has an asthma attack.

Dealing with the breathing issue for 20 years now, Harnish, a Ferndale resident, said whenever an asthma attack breaks, she feels like she is floating, trying to catch her breath as she just looks at the clock, waiting for her inhaler to kick in.

The painting at Café 1923 is part of Harnish’s solo art show, “Interiors” — curated by Hatch, a Hamtramck artist collective — where most of the pieces have to deal with the human anatomy.

“I use what is going on anatomically to illustrate what is going on in the paintings,” Harnish, 33, said. “I have been doing anatomical art for about four years, and I have worked up quite a cohesive body to round out for the show. It includes mixed media, some acrylic and oil paintings, and encaustic.”

Despite drawing and painting for her entire life, Harnish said she really got interested in anatomical art when she began dating her now-husband in 1999 and he gave her some anatomy books.

Going through books like Gray’s Anatomy and several for kids, Harnish said something stuck out to her.

“Over the years, when I have been looking for ideas, I look at these old books and I am amazed at how everything looks so beautiful,” she said. “The interior parts, most don’t know how they look or are grossed out by them — they look elegant and delicate and they have strange patterns going on. Most people aren’t aware of how some of these things look — I certainly wasn’t — but over the years, I have just been drawing them.”

Katherine Montalto, a show coordinator for Hatch, said Harnish’s anatomical work is something very different and the collective thought it would make for a good show.

Hatch has been around since 2006, and Montalto said they hope to bring art to the community through shows in the area, like “Interiors.”

What is interesting about (Harnish’s) art is the anatomical stuff is very technical, but she takes all this technical imagery and puts it in a dreamy-type quality so it feels like a fairy tale or story,” Montalto said. “It has been a very popular show, and most patrons at Café 1923 have really liked it.”

That Harnish’s art looks like a story isn’t by coincidence. While she enjoys creating art, Harnish also has a day job at the Ferndale Public Library as a circulation specialist.

Some artists only look for inspiration in everyday life, but Harnish enjoys opening a book and seeing what inspires her, making her job at the library a helpful resource.

“I have always had a love of literature and art, and you can see in my art the use of literature and books, as I reference books heavily,” Harnish said. “I used books to learn to paint, as I didn’t have any formal training. Being in the library is a wonderful and organic place to be. People I interact with at my desk job inspire ideas and pieces, and I have unlimited access to books that foster ideas in the most random ways.”

Harnish also has tried to blend her day job with her passion for creating art. At the library, she has helped begin an artist round table, bring in art exhibitions and set up lectures from the Detroit Institute of Art.

One of her favorite endeavors has been a circulating sketchbook that people can check out and sketch in while looking at what others have drawn.

Harnish acknowledges that the art she does is risky and it doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, there is no other feeling like it. She hopes those that check out her display at Café 1923 will have a similar feeling.

“There are some days I am sure wondering why I am doing this because there are times people certainly don’t want to buy the work,” she said. “But I find the process of working with materials and exploring ideas so exhilarating, and there is a challenge with each piece I make. How much that resonates with other people — that is what I love. I know the idea behind my piece, but when people see it, they may find something completely different and it helps to expand their experience, and art helps us know who we are.”

Café 1923 is located at 2287 Holbrook St. in Hamtramck. Harnish’s show will run through Jan. 11. The café’s hours are 7 a.m.-9 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekends.