Never say that artist Laura Ferguson has no backbone. When the artist's work was banned from the Russell Senate Office Building three years ago after lawmakers objected to its views of nudity, Ferguson displayed the work elsewhere in the city. Now she's back, with a bold new exhibit at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Ferguson, a New York-based artist who has had scoliosis for more than four decades, uses her condition as inspiration. The "Visible Skeleton series" exhibit displays 50 bronze-tinted paintings that depict the internal features of Ferguson's body as seen in X-rays and medical scans. With titles such as "Turning Ribcage," Ferguson's work offers views with "detail that only dissection allowed before," the artist said.

The exhibit also provides a rare opportunity to see four human spines from the museum's collection. Three specimens, which were bought between 1868 and 1916, are from people who had scoliosis. The fourth is a normal spine.

Ferguson acknowledged that her paintings may be "disturbing to some," but said she hopes to show the beauty of the skeleton and expects that people will not shy away. Museum director Adrianne Noe said the exhibit offers "a unique and intimate perspective of spinal deformity, while at the same time exploring the emotions that accompany it." For details, see the museum's Web site,

-- Rebecca Adams