Arriving to the University of Arizona, College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix, I recall Gillian, who was in last year’s workshop. She’d described first-year, medical school experience to be like drinking out of a fire-hose. Her words are with me as people begin filing into the classroom.
It’s the noon hour and some students arrive with lunch in hand. Others stand in the classroom as it is being set up for art-making. They’re still considering whether they might stay and make art or use the time to study. Several let me know they plan to draw but will be leaving early because they have a class. I welcome all of them to come in for as long as they can manage.
I’ve been coming in to work with first-year med students since 2017. They are completing their first semester as well as preparing to host their annual Celebration of Appreciation. The evening honors the individuals who have donated their bodies to the anatomy lab. I work with students to create a work of art that will hold an experience and honor their donor. I like working with this group. I enjoy coming to know the unique way each and every one of them experiences their anatomy class and their donor.
I feel like I stand at two ends; I teach the workshop and I learn. #AboutBeingHuman
I make my way to a table where one person ↓ paints the small intestine. I’m curious about the color. Why yellow? She tells me about her donor’s small intestine and describes how bright and floral-like they appeared. The female sitting next to her explains they shared the same donor. She carefully draws the bottom of the brain. She also tells me everything was bright. They both decide the color and form they experienced with this particular person probably had to do with her age. She was young, they inform me. I respond with more questions. What does this mean? What is young? She was 66 years old.
Somehow we begin discussing the blood-brain barrier. The male at the table says he’d thought it a separate layer or membrane enclosing the brain. Meanwhile, he stands up and uses his hands to imply the curve of the head, the outer edge of the brain. I’m surprised. Do you mean it’s not!? He tells me, in no uncertain terms, it is not a separate membrane, the blood brain barrier is a ‘property’ of the blood vessels! My minds quickly formulates a picture of endothelial cells lining the inside of the brain’s blood vessels. He repeats himself, both times emphasizing the word property.
I move to another table where everyone is working bold compositions that include bright line, both contour and texture, on black paper. One student has a set of medical lung models in front of her ↑. She describes the experience with her particular donor. The cancer was in different areas of the body including in the lungs. It is the latter that had the strongest impact and now directs her drawing.
Another student ↑ introduces me to the filum terminale. I can tell by how he has laid marks down, that he is working an area at the base of the spine. I sense his excitement as he shares first noting the fibrous tissue.
At another table someone paints ↓ an (beautiful) eyeball on stretched canvas. She was quick to start and I’m impressed at how she’s pulled it all together in such a short amount of time. We discuss mixing a few colors and laying in different quality of lines.
Next to her another student ↓ focuses on the Circle of Willis. She’s decided that it resembles an alien. I agreed after looking at her drawing.
I make my way back to the first group and to the student who’d informed me about the blood-brain barrier. He’d completed several fine hand studies ↓ using graphite. He shares his very real and very human reaction to his donor’s hands.
At the end of the afternoon, I can’t help but consider the ways we can be confronted by our humanness. Certainly, studying human anatomy is a unique way to learn about another. It’s also a very unique way to learn about one’s self. #ArtMakingDoesThisToo
Thanks everyone, for showing up, and sharing your experience. #artmaking
Thanks Cindi, for inviting me to come back. #artinemedicine
#CeremonyOfAppreciation #ProgramOfArtInMedicine #UniversityofArizona #ArtAndAnatomyWorkshop #GottaHaveArt