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U.S. healthcare debate inspires artist to create morbid sculpture

December 2, 2009 | 12:40 pm


Don't fret: That's not a real body lying on a hospital gurney in the photograph above. As you may have surmised by now, it's actually a realistic sculpture that is intended to make a statement about our country's debate on health care.

The artwork, titled "Pre-existing Conditions," is set to debut at the Art Basel fair in Miami this week. The life-size sculpture was created by Milwaukee's Marc Sijan, who specializes in figurative and realistic art.

Sijan, 62, said a friend agreed to serve as a model for the polyester-resin piece, adding that his friend stands approximately 5 feet 10 and weighs about 300 pounds. The finished artwork was made through a combination of sculpting, modeling and casting, according to the artist.

"I was considering placing an unpaid invoice in his hand," Sijan said in a phone interview. But he ultimately decided against it.

The artist described himself as a political moderate on the healthcare debate. "I'm independent on the whole thing," he said. "I'm not a Republican or a Democrat. By the time it's all done, I just hope I have some coverage."

However, a press release issued today took a more heated tone when describing the sculpture, saying it is an indictment of the insurance industry that "regularly rejects healthcare claims, especially pre-existing health conditions."

Sijan said he likes "to report visually on the human condition of normal people." He added that the sculpture has a price tag of $80,000. Who would want to buy such a morbid work of art? "There are collectors in the world who are looking for something cutting edge, something that emotionally has a spike to it," said the artist.

And in case you were wondering: The artist said he buys his own healthcare insurance. "It's Blue Shield," he said.

-- David Ng

Photo: "Pre-existing Conditions" by Marc Sijan. Credit: Shamin Abas