Are orthopaedic surgeons artists or surgeons? In many cases, they’re both, as the Academy’s 2001 eMotion Pictures: An Exhibition of Orthopaedics in Art proved. Now, as part of its 75th Anniversary, the AAOS is sponsoring a new exhibit of eMotion Pictures, featuring artwork by both surgeons and patients. The project, which will be showcased at the AAOS 2008 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, includes a traveling exhibit, a book, and a Web site.
Two of the orthopaedic surgeons whose work will be a part of the exhibit are profiled here.
Drawing on experience
As a child, William R. Loscher, MD, wanted to be a cartoonist. He attributes his interest in art and his talent to his father, a dentist who also did oil painting and photography. He was discouraged from this particular career path by Walt Disney, one of his father’s dental patients. According to Mr. Disney, there wasn’t any money to be made in cartooning.
Dr. Loscher took his advice, turning instead to orthopaedic surgery in his pursuit of a “hands-on” career. It was a “perfect match.” But he never gave up on art.
Art became his “R and R,” as he puts it. He chose drawing over other artistic mediums for purely practical reasons. “After dinner, we’d put the children to bed,” recalls Dr. Loscher. “I didn’t have time to get out the oil paints, create something, clean everything up, and still get to bed by 1 a.m. Because of the time limitations, I used graphite pencil and drew. That was my way of relaxing.”
In the late 1970s, his wife and children encouraged Dr. Loscher to focus on developing his artistic skills. He studied with two distinguished graphite artists—Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt and Charles Veteto. Since retiring, he has started working with oil paints and has studied with Chris Safer.
Dr. Loscher’s commitment to the physician/patient partnership is clearly evident in his piece “A Plea for Independence.” This graphite drawing of an elderly woman’s hands “depicts a ‘silent cry’ for the doctor’s understanding of her strong desire to remain independent,” says Dr. Loscher. He believes that this partnership is “without question the primary key to a good outcome.”
Art from the OR
Growing up in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s, David F. Bovill, MD, was shaped by the many artistic influences that surrounded him. “Art stuff was always around,” he recalls, both at home and in his community. He, too, attributes his talent to a parent—his mother. He would watch as she created beautiful ceramic pieces by “throwing pots” on her wheel.
While in junior high school, he “plastered the art teacher’s room” with his watercolor art work, even though he wasn’t enrolled in art class. Watercolors was his favorite medium until he saw an exhibit of works done by a former graduate—Alexander Calder. Calder’s wire “faces” captivated Dr. Bovill, who soon began to experiment with the medium.
When legendary jazz pianist Willie Pickens was honored at his son’s school, Dr. Bovill was asked to sculpt Mr. Pickens’ face in wire. “So a piece of my artwork is hanging in Willie Pickens’ house,” says Dr. Bovill.
Dr. Bovill has found an ample supply of wire for his sculptures in the operating room (OR)—anesthetic endotracheal tube stylets. “My brother is a set designer. He said what I needed was aluminum wire because you can bend it. One day when I was in the OR, I watched as the anesthesiologist threw away this wire…this malleable aluminum wire, coated in plastic. You take the plastic off; all you have is the wire,” says Dr. Boville. “So, all of a sudden I had an abundant supply of aluminum wire. Most of my work is made of it.”
He finds that his art “serves as a bridge” with his patients. “It makes you more human to your patients. You’re more than just a surgeon.” He adds that these sculptures help him remember that he is treating people, not simply bones or joints.
To see more of Dr. Bovill’s work, visit his Web site: www.permanente.net.