The more you wish to describe a Universal the more minutely and truthfully you must describe a Particular. – Brenda Ueland
Wednesday’s adventure begins early as Amy picks me up and we make our way to the College of Medicine. Amy is Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Director of Medical Humanities. Her and I have been organizing today’s workshops along with Marianna at the Tucson Museum of Art.
We arrive to the college, art supplies in tow, and head to the University of Arizona Health Sciences Library where the plan includes picking up 3D anatomical models. We learn models cannot be taken out of the library. We want them for a drawing workshop. Amy makes a phone call and locates some elsewhere.
We proceed upstairs (or maybe downstairs), across a ramp, down an elevator (possibly up an elevator), getting closer to…I’m not exactly sure where. Eventually, I find myself walking a brightly lit, purple hallway, lined with (too many to count) larger-than-life reproductions of Andres Vesalius’ series, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body).
I’ve always admired the compositions and now this wonderful series of dissection drawings appear as escorts down the long walkway.
We arrive to our classroom and as I organize supplies, people come in. The group is working self-portraits this morning, not an easy undertaking. Medical school teaches anatomy, it helps that most everyone I have encountered in this sort of environment has an understanding of the bone structure and muscles of the face. I give some direction, everyone picks out a paper and a sharpie marker (no erasers!) and begins drawing. I notice there is no hesitation.
James, introduces himself as an infectious disease MD. The question of the primary focal point: Is the mask coming off or is it going back on? The secondary focal point is his bow tie.
Brianna, Palliative Medicine, calls her portrait ‘Tejido‘ and because this is her title, it’s appropriate she add a bit of color.
Amy brings a cut of fresh jasmine from her front porch, to include into her portrait.
Yumi’s portrait will include a blue-stoned necklace that represents aspects of her mother’s life.
Before closing for the morning, everyone shares their drawing, both form and content. I/We learn something relatable about each person present.
Unbeknown to me, we will be moving to another classroom in another building. Before leaving this area, we need to pick up medical models for the next workshop.
Down another hallway, a male awaits. He and Amy speak before going through double doors. Amy steps back out and waves, signaling with her hands and asking if I would like to come in. I am rolling a crate of supplies which forces me to back into the room. I enter and naturally prop one door open. I turn and slowly realize…I…am…in…THE…anatomy…lab. (Hindsight: Vesalius’ art should have been a clue.) It feels necessary to close the propped door, so I do – meanwhile moving back in awkwardly and uncertain. I pause to look at my surroundings. I feel…a sense of…reverence…for the rows of bodies (donors). It is a large lab and Amy has disappeared into the back which is darkened and seems far away. I note a slight drop in temperature as well as a tad cooler lighting. Though, to my left appears a bright, warm glow of studio lights. Two groups of students are studying (Are they dissecting?) two bodies. Time. Stands. Still. I recall classic “Anatomy Lesson” paintings by both Rembrandt and Galon. I feel stunned and yet honored. I wish I had my camera. I do have my camera. Don’t pull it out. Don’t get distracted. Stay present.
My name is being called; Amy wants me to look at the available models. I walk to the back where she is gathering pelvis bones and shoulder blades. Before we exit the lab, she calls out to the students telling them they are welcome to join us for the drawing workshop and lunch. A few say they may come. We rush out, now rolling a cart as we head (walkways, elevators, ramps, elevators) to the other side of the medical school. We arrive to a large classroom where students are gathering, chatting and eating lunch.
I set out a materials, introduce myself, give instruction and watch as activity begins.
This afternoon’s study focuses on an organ or system of the human body. Everyone has access to a lot of supplies including a variety of mediums.
I move through the group asking questions and sharing thoughts. I want to know the what and why. A personal story surfaces for each work created.
Amy, who had no plans to draw, picked up one of the medical models and completes a beautiful pelvis. It’s my favorite bone, she says.
She’d shared something with me earlier in the day. Amy! I call out, Tell everyone why you didn’t like your anatomy class. She waves a hand back and forth saying, Because the body is messy!
Today, in the studio, as I work a new drawing – a life-size human study – I cannot help but think about Amy’s words. #BiologicalSystemsAreMessy
Thank you Amy, for the invite and for the great adventure. Thanks for sharing your world with me.
Thank you to all of you who brought your full selves to the drawing table, made art and shared story.
Thank you to Marianna and the Tucson Art Museum, for all the cool art supplies.
A special thanks to the College of Medicine and the Medical Humanities Program and everyone who made this experience possible.
#NothingInStasis #YouGottaHaveArt #OutsiderInsiderWithNewEyes
©2023 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BY MONICA AISSA MARTINEZ