To Susan Summerton, MD, a medical scan isn’t just a detailed image of the human body, it’s a form of artistic expression. Summerton is the brains behind Xray Artistry, an ever-growing collection of collages comprised of MRI, CT scans, x-ray, and ultrasound images.
About 20 years ago, Summerton began collecting scans and using them to create an “x-ray alphabet.” To her, the lungs are not just an organ, they’re a shape, symbol, design, or letter. Over the years she had accumulated images that spanned the entire alphabet.
At the 2014 Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 100th anniversary conference, she submitted her first public piece to the RSNA’s Image Contest. Her collection of images resembled the letters RSNA, and was titled appropriately, “Letters to the RSNA.” Her work received an honorable mention and was awarded the “Best New Exhibitor” distinction.
This initial reaction to her work resulted in requests from colleagues and friends asking her to make them personalized art using the medical scans. She later started experimenting with mounting the images on light boxes, so they more accurately depicted an x-ray on an illuminator.
Like many artists, Summer needs to keep her day job. She works as a radiologist at the Delta Medix Breast Care Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania and teaches anatomy and radiology at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. Not only is her work prominently displayed in medical offices across the world, but it can also be found at the Mütter Museum’s gift shop in Philadelphia. She’s also open to commissions.