Tag Archives: art

Bioartography: Art Inherent in Science

Microscopic slides = masterpieces.

Bioartography is a joint venture by scientists and artists across the University of Michigan campus. This program identifies the artistic nature of scientific studies and illuminates them through a microscopic lens. A panel of artists and scientists contribute their perspectives, and the profits of these sales fund scientific research. Some of these creations have even been adapted and pieced together as quilts by the Healing Quilts in Medicine program. By far, an art fair favorite.

Inspired by Bioartography, I created this collage.

A collection of tissue slides in the shape of a heart, although ironically not from the heart.

I <3 Histology

<kidney, mammary glands, liver,  prostate>

A collection of tissue slides in the shape of a heart, although ironically not of the heart.

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Filed under Visualizing Illness

Regina Holliday’s The Walking Gallery: Connecting the Dots Between Policy and Patients

Sometimes the tendency to wear your heart on your sleeve, to openly express your emotions, can be suffocated by  the medical profession. But wearing your heart on your back is becoming increasingly appreciated.

The Walking Gallery is “the Gallery that walks. The Patients that wear our stories on our back” (Holliday).

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

It’s this revolutionary idea that art can provide a window into the patient experience, one that can be displayed by the clothes on a person’s back. This offers mobility to art, a method of transportation that escapes the confinements of wall hangings and pervades into inevitable lines of vision. This increased accessibility allows “patients,” as embodied by this artwork, to enter into places and discussions that they have never before been a part of. Now, patient experiences can be visible and  actively remembered in the decision spaces  that often influence but do not include patients.

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA

Image courtesy of Ted Eytan under a Creative Commons license: BY-SA.

The work of Regina Holliday, the artist who brought this exhibit of sorts to life, is inspirational. She not only has a way with art, but also a way with language: her overwhelmingly powerful talk at Stanford incredibly moved me, and she has piqued my interest in exploring the place of art in medicine. Holliday is one of the first artists that I’ve come across in the field of patient advocacy, and her creations have gathered incredible force for this movement.

What I love about the Walking Gallery is that it takes a step forward to putting a story to the patient experience. These jackets and the images that they bear evoke emotions buried within medicine.  And The Walking Gallery is not limited to patients: physicians, policy makers, and others associated with health care all have stories to share. Despite the distinct roles in medicine, art overcomes these boundaries with brushstrokes and splashes of color. We can wear our experiences, the good and the bad and the in-between, the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and trials. Boldly.

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A Summer Reading List

A friend asked for suggestions for a booklist, so I figured I’d craft one here. This particular list focuses on historically contextualized texts and artistic representations.

Books for History of Medicine Enthusiasts:

1. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee

A comprehensive documentation of Cancer’s transformation over the years. Mukherjee skillfully weaves the narratives of patients, physicians, and researchers with the political, social, and scientific evolution of the disease.

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

A canonical work about the famous HeLa cells. Skloot digs deeper into the woman behind these immortal cervical cancer cells: Henrietta Lacks, who never knew that her cells were taken, grown, and sold without her consent. This book explores the racial inequities of health care in the US, and tells the story of the Lacks family and how they have been impacted by this experience.

3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman

Another canonical book in Medical Anthropology, one that provides a more cultural spin on health disparities. Fadiman tells the story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child in California, whose severe epilepsy illuminates the cultural clashes between her Hmong family and Western doctors.

4. Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

A gripping piece of fiction that follows the story of the Stone family over the years. With a cultural backdrop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a focus on the art of surgery,the reader is immersed into a different realm of medicine. 

Books for Art of Medicine Enthusiasts:

5. Stitches, David Small

A potent graphic novel set in Detroit about how cancer physically stripped Small of his voice and its psychological effects. As a talented artist himself, Small uses imagery to fill in the spaces where language falls short.

6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (literature and film)

These works coupled together provide a good portrayal of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s experience with full body paralysis. I suggest reading the book before viewing the film to approach the viewing experience with a more authentic perspective.

Happy reading!

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Filed under Miscellaneous Musings

Life is Black and White and Grey

An incredibly beautiful, tragic, word-less journey. As told through greyscale photography.

The Battle We Didn’t Choose: My Wife’s Fight With Breast Cancer.

~

I don’t even feel obligated to say anything about this. It speaks for itself.

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The Art of Illness

What I find fascinating about the idea of using art to express the illness experience is that it translates the physical and mental components of illness into a visual image. While some illnesses are often visible, others remain invisible. Art has the power to visually illuminate the visible and unveil the invisible.

As I explored artistic depictions of illness, I found that art seemed to be used in three main ways: to encourage another person’s illness experience, to express one’s own illness experience, and to depict the illness experiences of others.

Fiber Arts and Loose Ends includes a series of quilts created as tributes to survivors, an uplifting collection for sufferers. While some are more abstract, including depictions of plants used in cancer treatment, others incorporate language into this artistic medium. Words of Love by Annabel Ebersole incorporated the words “Courage,” “Love,” “Faith,” “Belief in Miracles,” “Hope,” and “Trust.” These encouraging words reminded me of the triumph narrative, but they also embody an optimistic take on the quest narrative.

While art is sometimes turned to for relief and encouragement, it can also be used as a space for self-expression and release. William Utermohlen used art as a form of narrative, to tell the tale of his transformation with Alzheimer’s. His drawings reflect his gradual loss of self and identity through the distortion of his facial features. Incorporated colors seem sporadic (the fourth drawing in particular seems to reflect the chaos narrative), until ultimately Utermohlen has become a faceless black and white charcoal sketch.

In addition to providing support for the ill, art can be used to spread awareness to the well. The Scar Project is a particularly powerful photography collection of breast cancer survivors, especially depicting women who have had mastectomies and are redefining the female body. With the motto “Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon,” these works are a direct resistance against the pink ribbon that has become the face of breast cancer (and is also a form of the triumph narrative). These works also revise the restitution narrative of breast cancer by suggesting that rather than a return to normalcy, breast cancer can result in a redefinition of the female body and female identity.

Just as Frank’s narrative categories often overlap and intertwine elements of illness, art seems to transform and evolve illness, achieving a multiplicity of narratives within a single work of art.

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Filed under Independent Study, Visualizing Illness

Narrating Illness through Dance

This week, I’m on the look out for non-narrative illness narratives. Expressions of the illness experience that occupy any form of media.

I’m beginning my exploration of multimedia illness narratives with dance. As someone who has danced forever, I have always been fascinated by movement. Recently I have learned about dance therapy and movement programs, and I love how dance and movement have been adapted to help with coping.

I began with a youtube search for ‘illness dances’.

This first video is called Schizophrenia, and is “loosely based” on the illness.

These movements embody the marriage of chaos and calm, of sharp and fluid, of control and collapse.

Another video I found is called “An Interpretation of My Illness- Crohn’s disease.” Unlike the previous one, this dance is choreographed by an individual who has the illness that the dance expresses.

Her incorporation of movements on the floor demonstrate the “falling” aspects of her illness, the numerous head rolls reveal her anguish. An interesting aspect of this dance is the song chosen: “Her Diamonds” by Rob Thomas, a song written for his wife who has an auto-immune diseases.

Last but not least, how can I forget my own dance loosely choreographed about autism? After seeing this video, I was inspired to choreograph a dance last year to “Fix You” by Coldplay.

It’s interesting to look back on my own choreography through the lens of illness narratives. I didn’t even realize that I was depicting the light of triumph narratives. At the time, I described the circle as a moment of “chaos,”; now it seems like those movements express the “chaos narrative” that words cannot capture.

Haven’t had enough dance illness narratives? Here’s an epic production of “Childhood Illness…Our Story”, Part 1 and Part 2, telling the tale of “a mother and young daughter’s journey through chemotherapy.”

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Filed under Dance, Independent Study