For those of you who don’t know, I am a painter and nurse. Now I add leukemia and stem cell transplant survivor to my informal title, which by the way, is the real reason for starting this blog…to chronicle my journey in recovering through organic gardening, pickling, and making art objects for the garden. See “What’s It All About” in the menu to read more. I think I’ve done a fairly decent job with the recovery and organic gardening part, but lacking in the creating art for the garden part.
I’d like to tell you the story of a painting that I completed in May 2008…it’s titled “stem cell garden.” But first, a bit on my creative process. For me, the process for a painting is to save bits and pieces of information…articles, pictures, phrases or words, books, objects found in nature, anything. These pieces of information/data sit in small piles, and the piles grow. The piles serve as the source for ideas that percolate in my brain on an unconscious level for months, sometimes years.
For the “stem cell garden” painting, I had read an article in a science magazine years before the painting, about naturally occurring stem cells that grow into mature cells of the heart, blood, and nervous system. Liken immature stem cells to a human embryo that grows into a female or male infant into a human adult…a dog embryo that grows into a female or male puppy into an adult dog, a chicken embryo into either female or male chick into an adult chicken. Human stem cells are immature, undifferentiated cells and have the ability to mature into different types of cells as our bodies need them. For cancerous blood cells (leukemias, lymphomas, myelomas), the birthing place is the bone marrow. Long story short, I had saved this article years ago (I’m guesstimating 15-20 years) and used it as the base for further research on human stem cells because I found the topic so fascinating. And the painting evolved from those pieces of information swirling around in my brain, and here it is…”stem cell garden.”
If it looks childlike in technique and appearance…it was purposeful. Stem cells are immature and I wanted to present the painting that way…childlike, innocent, simple. The white glittery circles are the stem cells sitting on top of needles. The sky is expansive to represent their unknown future development into adult cells like red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, cardiac (heart) cells, and nerve cells.
Fast forward 8 years from 2008. In April – June 2016, I was diagnosed with leukemia (AML & CMML) and had to have a stem cell transplant or I probably would have died within the following year or so. I don’t remember much from that dreadful period, but I do remember my oncologist-hematologist, Dr. Holland, explaining the stem cell transplant and likening it to a garden. The irony of it all!
Interested in reading more about stem cells and their medical potential?
Can’t get enough and want to see ‘stem cell garden’ again?
Check out my website martihand.com/portfolio/synergy-series