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Every Body Is a Canvas

How one artist explores our insides.

May 31, 2022

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Body art of exposed abdomen

Photography by Savannah Mohacsi

In her first year at Stanford, Savannah Mohacsi, ’20, took the Art of Medical Diagnosis, a course in which students draw anatomical sketches, using cadavers as models. They also apply the medical skills of observation and diagnosis to art at the Cantor Arts Center and at the Anderson Collection. Those experiences inspired Mohacsi’s path through Stanford: She would pursue premedical coursework, major in human biology and minor in art practice. And when senior year came around, the Honors in the Arts interdisciplinary capstone program presented the perfect opportunity to combine her passions.

When it came time to submit a project proposal, she took inspiration from Skin Wars, a body-paint competition show she had binge-watched with her mom. The series illuminated the intersection between Mohacsi’s preferred medium—paint—and medicine’s canvas. Her capstone became a way for her to simulate the patient-doctor relationship. She conducted in-depth conversations with her subjects prior to painting on them, then highlighted body parts with which they had special, or perhaps complicated, relationships. On one person, Mohacsi painted knotted intestines as a physical representation of the patient’s struggle with abdominal pain.

Body art of an exposed leg and hand

Most people don’t encounter their insides visually. Mohacsi says her favorite moment is when “people first confront [the body painting] in the mirror and see their whole stomach displayed on their skin. I’m giving them a fresh and new experience that they never would have had.”

Mohacsi now lives in Los Angeles, where she coordinates COVID-19 compliance in the film industry while continuing her body painting, which she documents on her Instagram, @thebodyascanvas.


Evan Peng, ’22, is an editorial intern at Stanford. Email him at stanford.magazine@stanford.edu.

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