I enjoy working with textile arts because they have another dimension. They are tactile. They are rooted in something with utility. But whether weaving a tapestry or embordering a gown or crocheting endless loops of lace doilies, there is something that feels luxurious about using such materials to create something so painstaking for the sake of beauty.
I chose embroidery as a medium for this health humanities project because, even though the stitches are not the same, the hand skills that I hone while doing this work are translatable to the suturing and other hand skills required for procedures and open surgeries. I added two common sutures where a signature might go, a simple interrupted and a mattress stitch, for juxtaposition. Additionally, working on a piece that requires so much repetitive movement allows for my mind to wander and reflect. Even in just choosing a shape for this piece, I had to sit with the uncomfortable ambiguity of not knowing how it was going to turn out. Engaging in a traditionally feminine pastime also brought up reflections regarding my entering of a field that is currently about 90% men.
In this piece, I chose to outline a liver, filling it with floral embellishment. In class, we engaged in a prompt asking us to write about an organ or system. Having experience with liver research and being one who appreciates its hard work each day, I gravitated towards that option first. However, I found the topic difficult to write about, so I chose to depict it instead.
The colors were chosen to correspond to the different fluids flowing through the amazing portal system of this organ – cherry red for arterial blood, blue for venous blood, as is standard in anatomy texts. Maroon represents the nutrient-rich, oxygen-poor portal blood, and finally the green represents the bile dripping as a product from the liver’s detoxification. The gold gallstones were a whimsical touch, a nod to the time I stayed late on a surgery rotation to observe a cholecystectomy, only to be rewarded (?) at the end with the chance to open the slippery and quite full gallbladder and then suture it closed again (with stones intact) prior to sending it to pathology.
— Marie-Louise Kloster, University of Illinois College of Medicine Chicago, Class of 2022