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School of Medicine student Zachary Michaels turns study technique into anatomy-inspired art

‘Fire and Wood’ exhibit on display at Lamar Soutter Library through November

By Colleen Locke

UMass Medical School Communications

October 29, 2020
Zachary Michaels' exhibit "Fire and Wood" is on display in the Lamar Soutter Library through November. 

Fourth-year medical student Zachary Michaels had just begun his studies at UMass Medical School when he started drawing as a way to study anatomy. At the same time, he was burning designs into the longboards he makes and sells.

Michaels decided to apply the pyrography technique to his anatomy and mental health pieces. His work is on display through November in the “Fire and Wood” exhibit, the latest installment of the Artist in Residence Series at the Lamar Soutter Library.

“I see anatomy as a beautiful work of art, and strange that this art makes up everyone!” Michaels said. “I hope that viewers make this connection, but also connect to it in whatever way their own minds lead them. For the mental health pieces, I hope that viewers connect with them on a more emotional level, as they are emotional scenes. I am passionate about mental health and want to continue to depict mental health in any medium I can to raise awareness and understanding.”

He burns his designs into wood by touching it with a heated piece of metal shaped like a pen.

“For shading I take a lit match, flip the piece upside down and use the rising ash to create that effect. Sometimes I will put ash on the entire piece and then scratch out a negative image as well,” Michaels said.

Michaels is taking a research year studying suicide in the community before completing his studies and applying to psychiatry residency programs. Samples of his work can be seen on his website.

Through its Artist-in-Residence program, the library hosts student, faculty and staff artists for eight-week installations. To apply or learn about the program, contact Becky Baltich Nelson at