History master’s student Mya Kraus combines her passions for science and art in her study of 17th century anatomical drawings

Mya Kraus

Mya Kraus

By Emily Willis, CLA Student Writer - June 14, 2024

Early modern anatomical drawings weren’t necessarily what history student Mya Kraus planned to focus on during her master’s studies, but her current research agenda is the result of a convergence of interests and ideas in the fields of visual art, science, and history. More specifically, Kraus is researching the connection between the convergence of medicine and art, understanding of the body in its societal context, including what art can tell us about culture and society during that time period.

Kraus’ road to studying illustrations started from an early age. Originally from Laguna Beach, California, Kraus was brought up in an artistic household and around art. It only made sense that she’d grow up with the same type of knowledge and inspiration.

“I have drawn in the style of scientific illustration from the beginning,” said Kraus. “Even landscapes or up close pictures of flowers, all fell into scientific illustration. Now, my work gravitates towards different types of nature and plants, mostly what’s around me, in watercolor.”

During Kraus’ undergraduate studies at California State University Monterey Bay, she earned her B.S. in marine science and B.A. in visual and public art. Her capstone projects focused on marine illustrations and identifying oceanic diatom (algae) concentrations using satellite images, but it was a fascination with museums that pushed her to continue in that direction.

“During my undergrad, I loved museums and could see myself working in one, but it was a trip in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, which I was grateful to be a part of,  that truly solidified my passion,” said Kraus. “I was blown away by the variety of museums and how people chose to represent their history in the cities I visited.”

Kraus chose to apply to the School of History, Philosophy, and Religion’s M.A. history program, because after speaking with students and faculty, she knew she would be accepted in making her own path bridging science and art. Now, Kraus is finishing her first year in the program and has begun working on her thesis, a case study analysis of Juan Correa, a Mexican painter in the 1600s. Kraus describes Correa as a baroque painter, who worked with the Catholic church in Mexico, but became one of the most prolific and prominent artists in New Spain. Correa’s father was a Spanish barber-surgeon who worked within the Inquisition. Kraus hopes to examine the connections between Correa’s art and his father’s work for the anatomical basis of his illustrations.

In addition to being part of the master’s program, Kraus shares her time with other positions on and off campus dedicated to improving her process of learning, creating, and appreciating all that the natural world gives her, as well as furthering her future career working in museums.

“I work in the Memorial Union’s creative studio as a graphic designer, as well as in the art collection,” explained Kraus. “I manage all of the art pieces you see on the walls in the MU, in addition to overseeing the gallery and participating in restorations. I also work at the Benton County Museum in Corvallis, which has been huge in helping me to better understand the ins and outs of running a museum.”

Kraus is also working with a team of interdisciplinary graduate students under Kelly Bosworth, the Horning Assistant Professor of Public History & Ethnomusicology, at PRAx. The team is dedicated to an exhibition to come to PRAx in the Fall, addressing water issues and the visual expression of art. This graduate student team is focusing on a diverse array of responsibilities that fall in conjunction with the exhibition including creating programming, structuring tours, and connecting the exhibition to various departments and classes.

“In my artwork, academic work, and just how I carry myself, a big part of me is that I am a Palestinian-American,” said Kraus. “My teta [grandmother] was a survivor of the 1948 Nakba, so it’s ingrained in me to be grateful for what we have, care for those around me, and work towards any goal with the utmost intention, always giving 100 percent.”

La Pascua de Maria by Juan Correa, 1698

Images from the Fabrica | Credit: Regents of the University of Michigan