Mixed-media mosaics of the human body, inspired by Frankenstein

Eight-foot-tall mosaic monsters lay on top of the complete text of Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel about the unintended consequences of heedless scientific ambition.

- By Kris Newby

Medical student Nick Love used plastic, wood, precision laser cutters and pages from the novel Frankenstein to create pieces for an art exhibit on the medical school campus.
Kris Newby

Third-year medical student Nick Love, PhD, combined his passion for art, literature and medicine in creating an art exhibit at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge that commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.

While the fictional Dr. Frankenstein stitched his monster together from cadaver parts, Love built his monsters with plastic, wood, precision laser cutters and pages ripped from an old copy of the novel.

“My inspiration began when I started thinking about skin as the canvas of the human body,” said Love, who has an interest in dermatology.

Love drew the outline plans for his creations with software, using the shape of the human form in an “anatomic position” — arms out to the side, palms facing front — and then inscribed each with three sets of anatomy lines that he learned as a medical student.

The dermatome lines map skin regions linked to specific branches of the nervous system. The Blashko lines show how skin fuses together during embryonic development. And the Langer lines delineate differing tension forces over the surface of the skin, useful information in deciding how to orient a surgical incision and closure. When he layered the lines on top of the monster templates, they created pleasing shapes that he then inlayed with a playful assortment of materials and colors.

Two of his 8-foot-tall mosaics were mounted on top of the complete text of Shelley’s novel, which he laser-etched on the surface of metal, wood and acrylic-mirror sheets. It took months of precision laser cutter time and the use of shop resources at the Stanford Product Realization Lab to complete this artwork. He said these two large assemblages symbolize the layers of biomedical knowledge that have occurred in the 200 years since Frankenstein was published.

Love’s monstrous creations, 32 in total, will be joined by other artistic interpretations of Frankenstein at the International Health Humanities Consortium Conference on April 20-22 at the Li Ka Shing Center.

His work was supported by the Stanford Medicine & the Muse Program’s Frankenstein@200 Initiative and by the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Funds at Stanford.

Love said the work he created for the Frankenstein bicentennial is available for sale, and that all proceeds will go to a nonprofit foundation that supports children with chronic skin conditions. 

More of Love’s work can be viewed online.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit med.stanford.edu.

2023 ISSUE 3

Exploring ways AI is applied to health care