Art in Medical Arts: Show It, Don’t Tell It

Studying anatomy was never something that I took seriously or practiced much in art school. In fact, I kind of sucked at it. So as a result I’ve gone with a very mannerist approach with distorting anatomy of my figures here and there.  It is all very strange, considering my new fascination the last four years is with detailed and gorgeous medical illustrations of the 17th and 18th centuries. They reveal what fragile beings we truly are, and yet the macabre and gruesome nature of the subject is surrounded by baroque columns and fussy drapery worthy of an aristocratic country house. Although they might be gorgeous, these illustrations were meant only for an elite set of physicians, not the patient. Today, technology has made it easier for patients to have a doctor show them what is happening, not just tell them. This is especially helpful for someone like myself, who thinks in pictures, not words.

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My work changed drastically in two ways in 2010. The first was when I found myself creating surreal biomorphic organisms. Although I started from a place of abstraction, they became filled with strange hybrids of flowers, cells, and symbols that appeared like organisms from another planet. It was only later that I found out I had a tumor that had grown tentacles crawling through my body at an alarming rate. When my doctor showed me the scans, it looked almost identical to what I had been painting – tentacles and all. In the process of being treated for what was a rare and aggressive cancer, I wondered what it would have been like to endure the cures and surgeries of the past — especially as a women. Here at Cleveland Clinic I got used to being poked, prodded, getting naked, and having fingers in…well, all the places you could imagine! But, a few centuries ago if I were a woman of means, doctors wouldn’t dare do such things except a very superficial examination. Modesty over accuracy.

After having a chunk of my leg removed — as well as some interesting restructuring– my work changed a second way. I began researching medicine from the Middle Ages onward; finding paintings that showed even the “cure” for my particular cancer was still amputation. Artwork depicting Saints Cosmas and Damian were the first I came upon, and none of it was reassuring. This all bred a series which I called “Ephemeral Antidotes” was a good way for me to work out my anger and be even more thankful that what I was going through is nothing compared to old remedies and techniques. It makes one wonder which medical practices today will be viewed as cruel and obscene to future generations. Will we be lambasted in 20 years for chemotherapy? It is injecting poison directly into a person’s veins, after all, so how is that different from the doses of mercury people took for syphilis? The emotional content was too much to resist.

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Both series bring together a new interest in medical illustration, microbiology, disease, and the evolution of cells. I explore the particular roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play, all while creating from my own imagination and instinct. I have since painted yet more tissues and masses that resemble what is found to be growing inside me; perhaps this is a bizarre way of attempting to control the cells and viruses in my body.

Transforming those emotional impressions and having it stare back at me on an MRI has been quite an experience and highlights the importance of images for both medical professionals and patients. What the patient says is the truth, might not be what the body reveals as the truth. Perhaps this is why more medical schools are looking at applicants with artistic skills such as drawing and painting? Medical illustration has enlightened us that the human body is a machine; enzymes, cells, viruses, and tissues. I don’t know if each of these entities has a mind of its own, but I have learned to look objectively and be slightly detached when it comes to the viewing of human bodies and their inner workings; it lessens the rage I feel at times whenever my health takes a bad turn (a regular occurance these days), and helps me to understand my own body better. This is especially useful when I come upon an imaging tech who assumes I don’t know what I’m looking at. In fact, these days I’m often asked if I work in radiology, or am a nurse myself.

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A new section of my library is forming.

Once my surgeons and oncologists learned I was an artist, they steered away from saying in words what was happening to me in too much detail. Instead, they say, “Come over I want to show you these images because I know you’ll understand.” And it is true, it will be something I spot right away but would have been difficult to explain over the phone.

By the way, after all these years painting people and looking at medical art, I still suck at anatomy.

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Girls, Drips, and Altar Pieces: Artists I Like Right Now

Rogier van der Weyden

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Rosson Crow

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Handiedan

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(bought this print below recently)

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Los Angeles Trip Recap

A little while back I went and made a seemingly quick trip back to L.A. for my friend Susan’s wedding. It was a shindig.

In-between there was some epic record store shopping; tours of Highland Park; McDonald’s billboards that mimicked Raymond Pettibon artworks; Pauly Shore following us around Silverlake; a Mount Washington BBQ; slow dancing to Wooden Shjips new; a few glasses of wine at the 101; meet-up with my parents at Cat & Fiddle; a dinner at The Dresden Room; and a show at the old Spaceland …sorry I will always call it Spaceland, I have been going there since I was 16!

Ben hadn’t been back in 10 years, but that didn’t stop him from randomly run into some musicians from BJM and The Warlocks on the eastside! We hadn’t seen a lot of people for a really long time, actually. It was great to stay with our friends Hunter and Charity and to get to know parts of Mt. Washington. Looks like we will be making another trip out in February. Amazing how much one can like L.A. so much more as a tourist and not an inhabitant. Pro tip: Memorial Day = reduced traffic to the max! It was amazing, everyone had left town and it wasn’t a pain to drive on the freeways as much as it usually is. Amazing.

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Treat time.

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Henry loved Ben, but hated me at first. I get more respect from big dogs it seems.

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When you stay in the guestroom of a stylist, you find all sorts of things.

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Record store time!

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Yay, medical art in random shops!

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All goth all the time, even sometimes a record store will suit my mood (photo by Charity)

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I can’t imagine having to lug equipment up these stairs to play an in-store!

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This place was super cool and out early when the other stores were closed. Check them out www.beatcruiser.com

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Came upon artwork by Casey Weldon, even!

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R.I.P. Rik…

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I forget the name of the band, I only caught the last 2 songs, and then everyone but me ate from a food truck in front of Satellite and we danced to Neneh Cherry. Like you do.

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Mary the day of rehearsal.

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Proof I can go into a church and not go up in smoke! (Photo by Bianca White)

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Reunited after 10 years! Ben and his old boss and pal Lee from Dionysus. Lee walked me down the aisle and was the MC for the wedding reception. Funny because he met Suzi when she was the maid on honor at my wedding 13 years ago!

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Time for the reception, but not here…

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Here! Everyone has stories of shows they went to at The Palace. It’s now called The Avalon + Bardot but dammit it is ALWAYS going to be The Palace.

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And, I never thought I’d be on stage at The Palace eating in front of a crowd, but there we have it.

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I think this photo sums up the late evening at Bardot, yep.

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This is just a tiny video I took, but everyone really needs to check out the band The Neumans. They were amazing doing all sorts of covers.

Anyway, after all of that….

My mom had me make a reservation for brunch at a place near Hollywood and Vine that seemed pretty swank. In fact at first they told me they were booked (until I used OpenTable.com). When I walked up to the place, it had a velvet rope in the front…at 12:30pm. I said I had a reservation and was granted entry. The place was empty, but I heard music from the patio. When I got to the patio, it looked like a wannabe South Beach club and had a very loud obnoxious DJ thumping beats right at the table they were trying to seat us at. “Yeah, my mom will not dig this at ALL” I told the waitress, so they put us back inside. Empty, like I said. We bailed and decided to go back to our old haunt Cat & Fiddle. Note to restaurants: a velvet rope is stupid and makes me not want to give you business. Unless you are catering to 22 year-olds, lose that shit!

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The Best Western at the 101 had this lovely picture I woke up to in the morning….

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And her in the elevator….

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Across from my old apartment. Man, what the hell happened!? This place used to be so chic and wonderful. I’m actually appalled at how Hollywood has become. The high rise condos and the chain store retail that is even worse than before. I loved my apartment and location but I can see now we would have moved on eventually. The neighborhood had changed and not for the better.

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Oh Hai Dresden! Sorry, no Will Farrell sighting of him narrating “The Spoils of Babylon”.

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Awww, Dresden bar and listening to a hilarious cover band.

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Ray & Suzi and us and Charity & Hunter. Despite me being away so long and having only sporadic trips back to L.A., I’m at least very glad I was there the night Ray and Suzi met over a Thanksgiving holiday at a club some friends were DJing at. I think the whole wedding reception echoed the the way they got together. The groomsmen all wore Pucci ties worth a billion dollars, an epic garter toss to Led Zepplin, and Tony the Tyger DJ’d a few sets as well. A shindig indeed.

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Old CalArts buddy Lance and I at Verdugo. Because beer beer beer!

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Oh, in the end, Henry that little shit stirrer decided he liked me after all….

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Of Books and Icebergs and Princes and Horses: Artists I’m Liking Right Now

Alice Wellinger

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Chad Wys

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Marc Burkhardt

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Jonathan Wolstenholme

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Sofa Problems

One of the great things about my husband is that he is sort of a dandy; he can dress well and has an eye for design, generally speaking. He wouldn’t be caught dead in cargo shorts (or any shorts for that matter) and he can’t stand furniture that looks like it belongs in a dorm room. We have pretty similar taste, but unfortunately, it tends to be an expensive taste.

It’s taken a long time for us to get past furniture that wasn’t thrift store yuckies, hand-me-downs, or IKEA. So there other day he declares, “we are re-decorating this damn living room!”. Not that it is terrible, but we’ve had the same IKEA couch for over 12 years that has been falling apart, and it’s time to get a few things reupholstered. In general I think it has all gone ok being that we rent, and can’t do anything about the paint color, curtains, or the PLEASE, SPILL RED WINE ON ME carpet…

 

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He wants the books off the floor as well. Most people think it looks cool, but it is driving him crazy. So, I’m in the process of freaking out about what I can sort of afford and yet not be stuck buying cheap stuff — again. Buying a couch is my first world problem stresser right now. I always feel like if I buy a heavy piece of furniture, something will happen where I have to move suddenly. Then I think about how the cats will destroy it. The cats are really why I can’t buy nice things. Damn cats.

First things first is we decided we are getting this rug, no question!

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Initially he wanted this union jack loveseat, but I know the velvet fabric will be a problem to maintain, and I think it will engulf the room. I mean, aside from zebra what the heck kind of rug would even compliment it?

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So I was leaning towards this puppy. Except I heard these were sort of crappy, despite good online reviews…

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I may make a trip down to Parma to go over some of the newer furniture left at the furniture bank, but I don’t think I can stomach a used couch again. I won’t even begin to go into the ways I tried to salvage the infamous Alternative Press velvet couch that passed through at least 3 owners. I tightened the springs and re-stuffed the foam in the seat cushions. It was all futile.

I know the couch I’ve picked is boring, but it is well under $1,000 and my plan is to give my man his union jack, after all, with some pillows like this…

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But then I come across something like this, and also have found that I can order a custom mid century mod sofa from www.FunkySofa.com with jaguar print or faux black crocodile. Uuuugh. Both options out of my budget but then again, will it be worth it? And now, I think we finally decided on this because the legs match my dining room set… but it is a bit too long.

I have gone through every dang mid century modern sofa list on Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, RetroRenovation and more that I think I could find when trying to get something under $1,000. The site Design Within Reach? So not within my reach. Some places a good looking couch might have looked decent in photos but had really bad reviews, some shot up in price if you wanted a different color, some were just no longer available. I really don’t want to go through Ebay, either. I want something new new new. So if you have any suggestions or resources, leave it in the comments because I’m having a hard time pulling the trigger on anything right now!

First World Problems, I get it.

Book Tour Recap: Dixie-Narco edition

It’s been a while since I got back from my husband’s book tour, but a lot of photos later I am finally updating about it. Needless to say it was a blast and it timed well with our 13th wedding anniversary. Got to see a lot of old friends and made some new ones, too.

We did 7 dates in total. Of course, everyone at first thought Ben was also a musician or that we were also in a band. Anytime we saw bands who were clearly on tour at a rest stop, they looked us up and down trying to figure out who we were and our deal was. Every stop on the tour went well except for Birmingham, AL thanks to tornadoes (which being from Michigan I would say they were weak). At the same time I can’t call that night a total dud, because one woman came out just to see Ben, buy some books, and get a photo with him! We ended up at a dive — who weren’t afraid of the storms enough to close — where a man asked me if I wanted to smoke pot with him out of a toilet paper cardboard tube, outside in the rain, near an underpass. He was not happy I said no to this offer. In the end, the lights did go out in the dive, all except the jukebox which was on a Thin Lizzy kick, and we did not complain about that one bit.

Charlotte was a great time as always, and it turned into a karaoke Odessey of sorts by the end of the night. I had some video footage of Ben doing 24 Hour Party People at Snug Harbor, but I deleted it to spare him the embarrassment. Bryan Pierce who runs the karaoke at Snug did a great job of picking songs to go with Ben’s book. He had just tried out for “The Voice” and judging by what I saw, he should make it onto the show no problem! Benji Hughes also came out that night, and he bought Ben’s book as well!

The real start of the whole trip was my brother’s wedding in Chapel Hill. And why yes, my husband and I DID shut down the reception slow-dancing to AC/DC if you must know. We figured a while back that we may as well extend it into a book tour if we were going to be driving anyway; the West Virginia stretch being the most painful. But, driving in the South is a lot more pleasant than any other routes I have taken, and aren’t half as boring. Of course the desert is the best, but I take what I can. After years of traveling cross-country on multiple occasions, I also ate at a Waffle House for the first time ever, in S. Carolina. It wasn’t bad, actually. The only weird thing was people were allowed to smoke in there, and it was so…damn friendly. I’ve learned since that the company is owned by the Ritz-Carlton and this may be part of their success as a chain? If you are wondering, no, I didn’t get a waffle but I did try the hash browns.

Next we went on to Meridian, MS which of course I can’t ever talk about without referencing “Hell on Wheels” and the main character doing his whole “ever been to Meridian?” thing. We were treated like royalty thanks to our friend Bill who owns not only several cemeteries and a flower shop, but did a full-on “Bar Rescue” on a place called the Brickhouse that had 64 regional beers on tap. The bar in it’s previous incarnation was a haven fro bro’s and had a reputation for roofing girls. Not anymore! In fact there was a running joke how the Brickhouse was the werewolf bar and the place across the street was the vampire bar (yes forgive the “True Blood” reference) and thus clear lines had been drawn. Despite the clear sections of poverty mixed with a slight college town feel, Meridian had an almost desolate downtown that looked ripe for a comeback. We hope it will rise the way the rest of the South has been doing.

Onward then was New Orleans (duh!) where we got to meet up with many of our friends, some who flew in to meet us, others who had been there, and some who had just moved to the city. Ben’s book event was at Bailey Smith and Greg Dulli’s, R Bar, which had made up a special cocktail menu just for us. Three Sheets to the Kevin Sheilds was an absinthe base, and the Swervedriver was Ben’s favorite which was mezcal based. If you are into shoegaze music, you get why these were so exciting to us. Sure, Ben was the “opener” for the crawfish boil but that is still better than opening for a puppet show — not to mention he got free crawfish! Terrible street side vegan burritos; brunch at The Columns; nuns at an art show; drinks in the 9th; a brunch fight club I may or may not have joined; poolside at the W hotel; record shopping between Desire Street and Piety Street (that must be a punchline to something); and all the usual we seem to get up to when we visit are just some of what I can remember. This was also my first time driving in New Orleans and I’m happy to say it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. Sure we missed JazzFest and NoizeFest, but I was a little sad we missed AzzFest. Only after driving past the Hi-Ho Lounge as the girls lined-up for that event were we a bit sad we didn’t go after all. Next time perhaps?

Onward to Nashville! I had never been and we met up with an old friend of mine from high school who showed us around. We were staying a bit out at Opryland, which is a bizarre site that seems a bit like the Trinity Broadcast Network campus mixed with Graceland or Six Flags. The good thing was the free shuttles and the fact that cabs can be found everywhere as means to encourage tourists to go downtown and beyond. The bookstore Howlin’ Books was amazing and also part of the infamous Grimey’s record store. A music town it is for sure, not that I expected less. We toured the Johnny Cash Museum which is small but somehow perfect. We also went to Jack White’s Third Man Records which was nice enough but gave me a creepy Scientology vibe! It didn’t help that the women on staff all had the same red color and hair style to go with their uniforms (yellow and black is his new white and red, btw). I never got around to buying some cowboy boots, but we’ve been invited back to the bookstore for the next tour, so I’m sure I’ll find something when the time comes.

A typical Tuesday night at Robert’s in Nashville, even my husband got up to dance for a moment. I was surprised not only how crazy it was on a Tuesday on all of Broadway, but also the fact that at 3am we had cabs lined up to take us back to the hotel! We met some interesting rockabilly guys from Germany who were on a tour through Vegas, Memphis, and Nashville, so of course we shut Robert’s down with them. But I tell you, that’s the last time I let a couple a Germans buy the beers late at a honkey tonk; my head was pounding fierce the next day.

The last stop was in Cincinnati where we got to hang out with dear old friends. I feel dumb I didn’t get a picture of us all. The DJ for the event played all the great old and new shoegaze-inspired bands, and I think I had one too many bourbon and ginger ales! I liked that the venue had a medical theme going on as well. Someone who my husband hadn’t seen in 30 years even came out to buy a book. Crazy.

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The Rake’s End in Cincinnati.

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The Verve print at our host’s home.

At the distillery for the liquor we got each other drunk on the weekend we got together, 14 years ago that week. Romance!

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If you are thinking of doing a book tour I would suggest to make it coincide with a vacation you had already planned, or other trips you feel you could tie it in with. I have heard from some very well-known authors and very not well-known authors about how your experience and the sales can be all over the map. For instance, the Meridian, Mississippi date was the most sales because a book club was meeting and librarians came; I expected that date to be the dud — not Birmingham. I’ve also noticed people just really don’t dig book signings the way they do rock shows or even art shows. It just isn’t exciting. We did our best to make it about rock ‘n’ roll and have raffle prizes and drink specials in the non-bookstore venues, and I think those went way better. So, unless you are a best-selling author or a cult hero, I’d look at your book tour as a vacation. We were lucky in that we knew people in each city who helped us decide on venues and all of that — especially cities we didn’t know well. It is much like being a touring band: get a thick skin and if a city is a dud, you go back next time anyway! Every book store and venue treated us well, so there is no reason not to.

Also be prepared for crummy amounts of press no matter how far in advance you do it. Calendar listings are fine, but the fact I sent out review copies of the novel that were requested and I got no results was annoying. This was to both to every arts & culture events blog I could find (most did at least post a listing), as well as print media to the literature editors and the music editors. Then again, one bookstore owner told me that when a rock critic starts to write fiction — let alone gets it published — those who are also music writers or rock critics get resentful and won’t write about it or promote it because that’s what they aspire to do. A musician writing a book seems to be no problem, but music writers writing a novel apparently isn’t welcomed by certain journalists. Hmmm.

Whatever the case, it was nice to hear people had read it in one sitting or gotten copies for their friends. As a rule men tend to not read novels as much as women do, and it was funny to hear over and over again, “no you have to read this, I know you don’t like books but you’ll actually like this one!

My Painting of Daft Punk

Here is a my piece for the Daft Punk “Deux” show which is available thru Gauntlet Gallery.

“Splendor in the Outlands”, 13×10″

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The show opens on Saturday, May 31st in San Francisco.

As you can see, I sometimes like to take my sarcasm to the canvas.

 


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My current case of "Daphne" I'm sporting. #art #redhead #popsurrealism #leopardprint #portraiture #painting #phonecase #accessory #society6 Daphne, 5x7" oil on panel. #art #artists #artdaily #redhead #leopardprint #popsurrealism #painting #oilpainting #punkfashion #gothfashion #portraiture Interests, I haz them. #design #books #fashion #art #vogueparis

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