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Monday, February 11, 2013

Self-portraits give UK transplant patients
chance to reflect, communicate life stories

Eight transplant patients from UK HealthCare participated in a four-day workshop creating canvases of their bodies that described their experience with transplantation. The workshop was facilitated by visual artist Xavier Verhoest of the Art2Be organization. (Photo from UKNow)


 

By Allison Perry and Whitney Hale
Special to KyForward
 

Eight transplant patients from UK HealthCare are using art as part of the ongoing recovery process after surgery.
 

Dr. Michael Karpf and the UK Arts in HealthCare program partnered with Dean Michael Tick from the UK College of Fine Arts, the UK School of Art and Visual Studies, Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates, the Ruth Hunt Wood Foundation and the Art2Be organization to hold a body mapping workshop and exhibition under the direction of artist Xavier Verhoest Feb. 4-8.
 

The eight transplant patients from UK HealthCare created canvases of their bodies that described their experience with transplantation. All patients are from Kentucky and are recipients of a variety of donated organs. Verhoest of the Art2Be organization from Nairobi, Kenya, led the intimate workshop in the Tuska Center for Contemporary Art at the UK Fine Arts Building.
 

“It’s been very inspiring; I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” said Carolyn McCall, a UK transplant patient who received a liver in January 2012. “It’s been tiring, but very inspirational. I loved hearing and communicating with all the other transplant patients. I think we’ve all enjoyed it immensely.”
 

Body mapping is a creative therapeutic process that allows participants to reflect on and creatively communicate their life stories. It involves painting a life-size representation of one’s body onto canvas and using pictures, symbols and words to show the path that one has taken through life. The painting of the body maps takes place in a safe and confidential group setting and is interwoven with personal story telling, group discussions, guided visualization and body work.
 

“The idea is to take people back into their own body and create a representation of their own lives in a life-size painting,” Verhoest said. “We helped people here to recognize that they have a very strong and beautiful treasure inside them.”
 

Dawn Nelson, who received two lungs and a heart at UK last year, is shown putting the final touches on her canvas. (Photo from UKNow)

The workshop was initially developed by Verhoest in South Africa to address the isolation and stigma experienced by people living with HIV/AIDS, but body mapping can also be used with other groups that experience social marginalization and physical and/or psychological trauma. It provides a creative vehicle for expression that is not dependent on literacy levels, and enables participants to rediscover their bodies as a source of strength and healing.
 

The UK workshop was the first time Verhoest had provided the service for a group of transplant patients. These patients, though given a second chance at life, can experience a myriad of physical, mental, and psychological challenges during both the initial recovery process and for the rest of their lives.
 

“The self-portraits being created in this project clearly demonstrate how transplant recipients fully embrace life, often more than the average person,” said Donna Slone, client services coordinator for Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates at UK HealthCare. “In the workshops, they each have expressed their deep respect and appreciation for their donors and donor families who gave them this opportunity for a rich, healthy life.”
 

UK came across the project under the guidance of Ruth Hunt Wood and the Ruth Hunt Wood Foundation, a Lexington nonprofit. In the past, the foundation under Wood’s leadership and financial support has brought 10 Kenyan artists to the UK School of Art and Visual Studies for a semester-long residence that featured lectures, workshops, exhibitions and study. Many of the artists identified by Wood have gained international acclaim.
 

Teresa Schladt's self-portrait is titled 'Connected.' (Photo from UKNow)

“A partnership that began with Music Therapy has evolved to the point where UK HealthCare and the College of Fine Arts are dedicated to collaborative initiatives such as body mapping, which are not only transformational for our community, but also for our students,” Dean Tick said. “Both organizations are indebted to Ruth Hunt Wood’s sustained vision in bringing Kenyan artists to UK.”
 

Wood, a Lexington resident, formed her foundation in 2000. She has long been interested in African culture and particularly Kenyan artists since the late 1990s, when she was surprised to find a struggling local art scene in the country.

To celebrate the culmination of the workshop, the patients’ canvases were unveiled in a special ceremony this past Friday, in the UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital Pavilion A East Gallery. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and it will remain on display through Feb. 24.
 

The East Gallery also houses the Gift of Life memorial, dedicated in 2012 to honor those who upon their death gave organs, tissues and eyes for transplantation. Currently, there are 240 donor names on the wall.
 

For more information on the body mapping project, click here. For more information on organ donation, click here.
 

From UKNow
 

You might also be interested in reading KyForward’s UK hospital’s expansive art collection helps enhance healing, ease stress, add comfort.
 

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