Like most artists, my creative ideas can come from anywhere. The idea for this show began last February in a darkened room at a seminar for Pathologists in Snowmass, CO. I was in charge of the projector during a lecture including hundreds of slides by the renowned pathologist, Dr. Lawrence Weiss. Just as I began to wonder if I would survive 4 hours of huge, indecipherable images, two slides appeared on the screen, side by side. A diptych? In my eyes I saw a beautiful pair of images that looked like art. Suddenly, in between the mysterious, multi-syllabic medical jargon I heard words I understood: "architecture," "spatial relationships," "clusters" and "edges". He was, I realized, describing a landscape. I quickly began sketching the image and making notes on a 4 x 5 inch notepad. I still have that piece of paper, the first physical evidence of this show, with the rough sketch and the words "colorful", "large", "BCL2, CD21," "normal lymph node, tumor" and "hairy cell leukemia". Well, artists are known for finding beauty in unexpected places.
The idea of combining pathology slides and art was not a new one to me. My late husband, Dr. Paul Bozzo, a dermatopathologist and University of Arizona professor, often borrowed my Western art slides to add to his lectures, in his view, to "Wake 'em up and clear their minds." He loved art and learning, so this combination was merely an expression of his own passions. If we'd had a chance to talk about this show, I'm certain that we would have traded terminology and points of view that would have benefited both his practice and his teaching, and my own descriptions and understanding of art. In fact, I created my first "pathscapes" for Paul's new lab in Tucson. I consider them the preliminary studies, or "prototypes" in scientific terms, for this show. I take great comfort in the fact that Paul got to see them, and I'm happy to say, loved them. Even my last valentine to him was a pathscape—a romantic, frivolous and loving view of one of his slides.
The idea of presenting this show at Ventana Medical Systems was a natural. In addition to a strong commitment to supporting the arts in our community, VMS is in the business of image analysis. They have developed the world's first and finest "image analysis system". Artists, from the cave man to the present, are image analysts, too. The similarities continue with the description of VMS's newest product "Symphony" as "advanced information management." Whether their art is representational or abstract, 2D or 3D, artists are dedicated information managers. It's what we do. We look at our world, at all the many details, colors and shapes before us, and we decide what needs to be emphasized (or stained, in the cased of biopsies). Both artists and pathologists look for the patterns of light, color and detail necessary to communicate the essence of the landscape before us. The landscape may be miles across or smaller than a spec of dust, but the point of view—and beauty—is still filtered through the eyes of the beholder, whether artist or pathologist.
If I could have a conversation with Paul about this commonality, we would marvel at the fact that although the patterns and views seem endless, experience teaches both the artist and the pathologist to recognize and identify those details that make them familiar. Both professionals need to develop a trained eye. Familiar patterns enable us to do our job—that is, to recognize and identify what we see and then pass the information on to the world. But the best part of our jobs is that no matter how many landscapes or slides we view everyday, year after year, every view has something new and surprising within it. Whether your point of view is from the ridge above Honeybee Canyon or the pressed against the viewfinder of a powerful microscope, Nature offers combinations that guarantee you'll never be bored.
Just as I discovered the synergy between the work of the artist and the pathologist, the slides that I chose exhibited a strong visual or spatial connection with a series of plein air paintings that I produced over the past few years. I liked the idea of making the microscopic images large and the "real" landscapes small, which reinforced the idea that in art, as in life, it is far more interesting to keep one's point of view fluid rather than locking into the ordinary or conventional. Perhaps someday artists will be brought in to Medical Schools to help educate the eyes of future pathologists and the next Jackson Pollock may be a practicing pathologist. The first step is simply to take the time to stop and look.
The smaller, plein air landscape paintings were painted in oil on site in various locations.
The slides for the "Pathscapes" were provided by Ventana Medical Systems and PBC Laboratory, founded by Dr. Paul Bozzo. The biopsy slides were scanned and printed as giclées on canvas by Arizona Lithographers. I then painted over them in oils. In art, "pentimento" refers to signs of reworking the surface, often referred to when paintings are x-rayed and there is revealed an image under the surface image. I was very conscious of maintaining the underlying cell structure of each pathology landscape and in some areas I left the original giclée, or biopsy layer, untouched while painting over the rest of the surface in oil to describe the connection between the biopsy and plein air landscape.
My heartfelt thanks to the many people were enthusiastically involved in making this show a reality: Ventana Medical Systems, (Cande and Tom Grogan, Cathy Gawronski and April LeGate), PBC Laboratory (Dr. Paul Sagerman), the University of Arizona (Dr. Ron Weinstein), Arizona Lithographers (John Davis and Gail Ballweber), photographer Jack Kulawik and computer wiz Stephanie Reynaga, Godat Design (Ken Godat, Trina Feltz, Leticia Craig-Welch and webmaster Brett Turner), Lewis Framing (Beatrice Mason and David Brown), Judy Miller/Giclée Prints. Last, but never least, I thank my daughters and head cheerleaders, Julie and Beth Barton.
I dedicate these paintings, large and small, to my late husband,, Dr. Paul Bozzo. On a personal level, we shared a deep appreciation of the beauty of the world around us. As a professional, Paul was truly devoted to his work and shared his fascination with a "microscopic" but very important world with his students.
Profits from this show will be donated to the Paul Bozzo Memorial Fund for the benefit of the Pathology Residents at the University of Arizona.