Former radiologist's artwork goes on sale
By Matt Russell
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
No, Jennifer La Forgia of Rochester often tells people who stop by her booth at fairs, the pictures I’m selling of flowers and sea shells aren’t pen and ink drawings. They aren’t black and white photographs, either.
"That’s part of what makes it fun, is watching people’s reactions," she said.
Last year, La Forgia started selling x-ray artwork created by her father, Dr. Andre Bruwer, a former Mayo Clinic radiologist. The name of La Forgia’s company, Skiagraphics, comes from the Greek words for "shadow" and "drawing," a nod to the fact that x-rays depict interior shadows as opposed to photographs, which capture light bouncing off an object.
"It offers a new view of nature, or a view of nature that people wouldn’t see otherwise," La Forgia said.
X-rays were invented in 1895, and the earliest attempts at using x-ray images as artwork apparently happened in the 1930s. La Forgia said her father started experimenting with x-ray artwork in the 1960s when he obtained a low-powered x-ray machine the size of a small filing cabinet.
"He’d throw in a flower, or a shell, or a bean pod every once in awhile to see what that would look like," she said. "He figured out what would x-ray well and what wouldn’t."
What x-rayed well, he discovered, was a wide array of plant and sea life — daisies, roses, hibiscus leaves, cactus thorns, sea horses and sea shells were all fair game.
Bruwer, who died in September, was a native of South Africa who studied and worked at Mayo Clinic in Rochester for 10 years in the 1940s and 1950s before moving to Arizona, where he practiced in Tuscon for more than 30 years. A noted radiologist, his published works include a two-volume history of radiology, "Classic Descriptions in Diagnostic Roentgenology."
While his work was featured in exhibitions around Tuscon, he told a public television interviewer in 2007 that he felt "sort of embarrassed and honored" at being called an artist.
"I don’t think he really considered himself an artist," La Forgia said. "It was a hobby."
La Forgia’s collection of her father’s work includes shadowy and delicate images of 70 to 80 different objects that she hopes will find homes in gallery exhibitions around the Midwest or in exhibitions at places such as arboretums.
"It’s an opportunity to keep his work alive, so to speak, and to keep his work in front of the public," she said.
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