Does the name Chevalier Jackson ring a bell? No? Then you’re probably not a laryngologist or obsessive fan of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum and its collection of medical oddities — in particular the flat-files in which Dr. Chevalier Jackson obsessively-compulsively aranged his 2,000-piece archive of: “Foreign Bodies Removed from the Food and Air Passages.”
But you don’t need to know Jackson or have visited the museum to appreciate the work of San Francisco artist, collector, and jewelry designer Lisa Wood, who has created her own imaginative interpretation of the eccentric doctor’s collection using dinner plates, Victorian tintypes, and various esophagus-sized trinkets.
Each of Wood’s “Swallowing Plates”, published in her book The Swallowing Plates, Objects Swallowed and Recovered From the Human Body, serve up its tiny portion of doom along with matched narrative spun from the artist’s imagination — such as that of little Marion Pickering whose game of catching jacks in her mouth, claims not only her own life but the right arm of her guilt-ridden mother who flings herself before a train.
Those interested in a more literal (yet notably poetic) account of things that go down the wrong way and the doctor who loved them, may want to consult Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them, by award-winning author Mary Cappello.