Explore | States of Health: Visualizing Illness and Healing

“Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born

holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick.”

—Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor (1978)

Just as Susan Sontag used language to explore the representation of physical illness, this exhibition investigates the manifold ways that suffering, care, and healing are represented in the visual arts. States of Health: Visualizing Illness and Healing complicates understandings of health and disease by examining globe-spanning works of art from antiquity to the present from interdisciplinary perspectives. Largely drawn from the collections of the Princeton University Art Museum and the Princeton University Library, the works on view consider how culture, history, and power inform the ways artists represent health and illness, and question how we define these very terms. The Maya figure of Chak Chel marks both the beginning and end of the exhibition, appearing alternately as a fearsome agent of illness and as a compassionate protector of pregnant women.