The Wall

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In February 2018, my friend Darren reached out to me regarding a project at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren is the recipient of a kidney & pancreas, and I am a liver recipient. (I have a chronic condition known as Budd Chiari Syndrome, for which there is no cure. Because of this condition, I received my first liver transplant April 16, 1995. Unfortunately, I needed a second transplant on August 5, 2011, due to recurrence of BCS.) Darren and I have worked together on a number of organ donation-related causes, and this one sounded especially interesting.

Still living in Tampa at the time, I traveled to Orlando Regional Medical Center. Darren introduced me to Debbie Alexander; Debbie brought together a small group of hospital staff with the hopes to find suitable artwork for a wall that had been allocated for a project.

The project is called “Wall of Heroes” and was designed by a caring physician named Jeff Sadowsky. Dr. Sadowsky believed something needed to be done to honor organ donors and their families. He explained that when someone passes, and they choose to donate, their families leave the hospital with their grief and a plastic bag containing their loved one’s belongings. They return to their lives within the community without distinction – but they are heroes, their loved ones are heroes, and they deserve recognition.

Dr. Sadowsky chose to act, founding the organization GR8 to DON8 in 2009. Merging his love of fitness to the cause, he formed the GR8toDON8 8k Run for Organ Donation. Contributions from the GR8toDON8 8k Run were allocated for a second passion project of Dr. Sadowsky’s: The Wall of Heroes. Dr. Sadowsky thought families and loved ones should have a place to go in which they could honor and memorialize their hero. A wall within Orlando Regional Medical Center was designated for the memorial.

Currently the Associate Director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center, he was initially impacted by the power of donation during his early years in training, where he often saw very ill patients in need of transplantation.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives (hence the 8K Run for Organ Donation) while tissue donation can improve the quality of life for dozens more. Last year, nearly 31,000 lives were saved due to the generosity of organ donors. Today, more than 120,000 children and adults await that precious gift. Hundreds of thousands more patiently wait for the gift of tissue donation.

Dr. Sadowsky’s vision for the wall was a piece of artwork that would somehow convey gratitude and honor for organ donors. Darren and I brainstormed on an interactive project that educates the public about the importance of organ donation and will hopefully inspire individuals to choose life and register to become a donor (if they have not already). Meanwhile, Dr. Sadowsky and the collective group of Team Orlando assigned the concept of the ripple effect. How would we create – and fulfill – the vision of these caring people?

The blank wall

As a liver recipient, the mission to honor donors resonated deeply. I sketched a few designs but the painting that was ultimately selected came together quickly. I named the painting “the Odyssey” in honor of my beloved physician, Dr. Michael F. Sorrell, after something he said many years ago.

The Odyssey. The droplet signifies the act of donation, which triggers the ripples to begin moving. Like water, emotion runs deep, with each ripple representing the different aspects of the donation and transplantation process.

Dr. Sorrell is now retired, but in 1994, he saved my life. I was an eleven-year-old child with an undiagnosed disease. I went from being a healthy kid to deathly ill and spent a year bouncing through countless doctors and tests, to no avail. My parents had heard of Dr. Sorrell, and although he did not typically deal with pediatrics, agreed to see me. My family traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet him, and I was finally diagnosed with Budd Chiari Syndrome. Due to the advanced state of my disease, I learned that I would need a liver transplant to survive. I’ve always appreciated Dr. Sorrell’s kind but matter-of-fact way of speaking, and he described the transplant experience as an “odyssey”. In all the years that have passed, I’ve yet to find a better term. This odyssey begins as a patient, hoping you’ll qualify to be listed, despite that your opportunity at life means tragedy for another. Then the call comes that the transplant team located a match: you’re simultaneously so many emotions that it leaves one breathless. It’s an experience in extremes.

My painting is a simple design: a cascade of ripples that are created by a single water droplet, comprised of a bold but limited palette of blues against a bright white background. The water droplet represents the action of an organ donation, and the ripples are all the lives positively impacted. Some ripples will be organ or tissue transplant recipients, some represent organ donors. There are eight definitive ripples that represent the eight transplantable organs.

Darren and I contacted an organization called Intermedia Touch to take the second part of our idea to fruition. We wanted to fulfill the message of the project through means of a digital and interactive product. This piece is especially unique in that while it resembles static artwork from a distance, it is live and interactive on a 70” monitor. The painting was animated so that the water droplet falls, causing the eight ripples to move. As viewers approach, they’ll notice the soft sound of water moving. Users can touch any one of the eight ripples to learn about organ or tissue donation, to dispel the common myths and misconceptions about donation and transplantation, to register to become a donor, or to register for the GR8 to DON8 race. The piece honors donors by allowing families to recognize their loved ones in the Heroes gallery, where they may share up to five photos as well as video. It is a place where families can honor their loved one and by sharing their story, hopefully pass on a message of hope to others.

The project went live January 7th at Orlando Regional Medical Center. It will be officially revealed in April for Donate Life month.

The painting remains in constant motion

Meanwhile, I have been trying to put The Odyssey into words:

The Odyssey.

IV’s embedded: in your hands, the tender flesh at the crook of your inner arm, in your neck, a port in your chest.. they go on.

 Labwork at 4am, or some timeframe like that; the phlebotomist going in before you can fully wake, lights suddenly on, elastic tourniquet snapping around your arm, searching for and hopefully finding an irritable vein.

Transplant Team arrives, you get bad news. They leave in a flock-like formation, white coats, sympathetic smiles and heads nodding. An hour later, the door bursts open, a uniformed aide whips a wheelchair into your small room. They usher you out of bed, filing your attached IV cart in sequence with the awaiting chair. They wheel you and your IV down the hallway, into an elevator, and into a freezing cold, darkened room. A tech awaits with an ultrasound, CT or MRI, or some machine. You cooperate as they direct, the test is performed, and you come and go. An aide rolls you back to your hospital room. As you ride through the crowded hallways you notice that most people do not look at you, or make eye contact, with a person in a wheelchair.

You take a moment to recognize your own slim, jaundiced face in the mirror of your hospital room bathroom.

The hospital at night, quiet finally falls, the pace slackens. You try to sleep.

But the worst.

Beyond any physical pain or anything a patient endures;

Is watching others watch you.

Seeing the effect it has taken on the people you care about, that care for you. You identify sorrow, grief, deep worry, bone-deep fear.

There are no plans for the future. A baby shower for a baby you hope to live to meet; an engagement party for your best friend — and she asks you to be a bridesmaid. I think to myself, I hope I am still alive to see my best friend on her wedding day.

And then the call comes, perhaps the most significant in your lifetime: we found a liver, it’s a perfect match for you. In disbelief — As the news washes over you, you realize with your heavy, heavy heart that another family has arrived at their darkest hour. It is a surreal feeling; you are being given a chance.

Despite the heartbreak and pain, something miraculous is taking place. So many people come together, no matter the hour of day, they rise to the occasion, they are at their best. An orchestra plays beautiful music.

You wake on the other side. You have crossed over.

A new kind of fight begins: The journey to recovery: who knows what life will become? Will life be like it was before all the illness and pain?

It will be better; Each day, you strive for that. It’s difficult, there are setbacks, but there is the victory that you are on the other side and you can look forward to things again. There are lots and lots of small victories, like the first day in months that you can sit properly at a table and enjoy a simple meal with your family. There are the first stairs you ascend, wobbly and quite weak but determined.

Is He okay? I made a pact, took a vow, that I am going to be the Guardian of this new liver, and I’m going to LIVE!

So many put their hearts into saving your life, so go LIVE your life, gratefully humble. ion(e){retur

New Artwork & New Scenery!

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We’ve just relocated to Albuquerque, NM, from Tampa, FL.

It was daunting to leave Florida: my roots: my friends and family, my love of the water, everything. But, change can be a good thing, and it will be what I choose to make of it.

Before our big move, while Mike and I were house-hunting, one of the items on our wish list was a space of some sort for my artistic endeavors. About a year ago, I decided to dedicate myself to painting, and made it a priority. I had not anticipated how much art I’d be making, and before long, one small easel was joined by two large, free-standing ones. (Being that I work in oils, I usually work on three paintings simultaneously because of the time it takes them to dry.) Well, before long, my canvases and materials took over the living room, and beyond.

 

My beloved husband has always supported my artistic endeavors, but I was still flattered that he made my art a priority in our house search. (I still have a hard time referring to myself as “an artist”. Mike’s endorsement gave me a much needed infusion of confidence.) Anyway, we ended up finding the perfect home with the most amazing loft space! A few weeks later, in the tedium of unpacking, I had an “a-ha!” moment, realizing how art has both carried and delivered me. About six months ago I learned that my artwork was selected for use in a very unique, public memorial that will debut in April of 2019. Furthermore, the loft in our new house is the most wonderful studio space! I’m beyond thrilled!

But — I didn’t set out for this — and I initially fought the change from corporate career woman to independent writer and artist. Of course I did; what foresight could have told the twists and turns to come? But alas, here I am, feeling as if I’ve found not only my groove but something that is congruent to my soul. In many ways, this journey has been a spiritual one, teaching me to believe in myself and to trust. About two months ago I heard a saying, and it has uplifted and empowered me ever since:

Let go
and Trust
that you are
Always Guided.

May it bring you the same peace. ❤

Eight new paintings have been added to my Etsy shop. A preview is above, or you can view at the Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/poeticflight

As always, thank you for visiting! – Julie

When Creativity Visits

The welcome mat is always out, inviting inspiration. I believe that the creative process is a unique experience for every person. I’ve read stacks of books advising how to nurture the artist within. One of the best is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Her conversational format was enjoyable to read and her advice something like practical and sisterly. I really identified with her bit about ideas coming to us by means of us inviting them – but if we don’t act upon them, they will move on to someone else. This explains how someone may have had the idea, only for someone else to bring it to life at a future date. So, when we have a wonderful idea, we must act upon it, or at least explore it, lest it be lost to the sands of time.

I gather a lot of inspiration from magazines: rich colors, glossy paper, the effort that goes into the photos with all the styling and originality. Heeding the advice of one of my favorite authors, Julia Cameron, I indulged my inner child and started cutting out photos of my favorite things and rubber cementing them into an oversize sketchbook. The result is a “diary” brimming with color swatches, extravagant floral arrangements, sweeping landscapes, photos of horses, and other creative “knick-knacks”. The result is two-fold; I find it creatively stimulating to indulge in the simple act of focusing on interesting objects; the other is a “tangible Pinterest”. These pages have inspired several dozen paintings, some successful, some tossed in a pile to be gessoed over. Either way, it has been fun. I think that’s the most important part of the creative process. Julia Cameron talks about this extensively in The Artist’s Way: she recommends that we allow ourselves the freedom to explore the fun and/or beautiful aspect of art with child-like delight, giving ourselves permission to simply enjoy ourselves.

creativity 4

I’ve employed these tactics for about a year now and my creative process has evolved from intermittent and somewhat forced into a garden bearing fruit. I’ve learned about my own creative “triggers” (I’m obsessed with color and design) and that I need a fair amount of privacy. I’ve heard this often, in various forms; contemporary artist Brian Rutenberg unapologetically stresses the requirement of aloneness in his book Clear Seeing Place.

creativity 1

This “new-school” way of thinking about the creative process is terrific in the sense that it strips away any pretentiousness about art and focuses on the why: why do we create? It’s like the cool art teacher you may have had as a child, the one that always encouraged you and saw the good about your invention, no matter the level of artist you were. It’s the freedom to dream, to put your brush to canvas without fear of flaw or failure.

Thank you for reading. I wish you that freedom, wherever you are in the creative spectrum. – Julie

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Perfect Design

I had a bit of an epiphany today while walking one of my two adorable dogs, Stella Mae. In Florida, where we reside, this time of year brings lots of falling leaves and foliage. The sidewalk was littered with heaps of brown leaves, sticks and other plant matter. It had rained recently so I was trying to avoid the squishy and slippery globs of leaves and didn’t pay them any mind until one in particular caught my attention. About twelve inches long and a camel-tan color, it’s like a smooth, elongated pinecone. It was absolutely beautiful and reminded me of a textured leather bracelet or the handle of a well-made handbag. And so, the epiphany is that my love of art comes from my obsession with design, and more particularly, beautifully designed objects.
Perfect design

My great uncle Eugene Lux was a fairly successful packaging designer during the 1940’s. Compact cases were one of his specialties, and this was during an era where little compacts and mirrors were a trademark of luxury and class. He made other things as well like packaging for children’s toys, but I’ve always regarded compacts with a special fondness. What an elegant and lady-like little luxury – a beautifully designed little piece, like jewelry! They’ve been out of style for many years now, but a few cosmetics companies still carry beautifully designed compact mirrors, meant as a special treat and a nod to an era of supreme elegance.

Eugene was an avid collector of art and even collaborated with some very chic artists of his time, including the incredibly famous Piet Mondrian. His rubbing elbows with the likes of such incredible fame and talent were as natural as any peers that you or I have in our lives today. As a designer and art collector living in New York City during the 1940’s, they all ran in the same circles.
The 1940’s are an era that have always fascinated me; we took our time, we made things with quality and pride, we made things just to be special things. I do get a thrill when something comes in great packaging. Side note: I’ll hand it to some of the present-day cosmetics companies, as I feel there has been a noticeable shift toward elegance with some of the new palettes at Sephora and Ulta!

Nature is the master of utterly perfect design. Nature is the creator and root to many artists’ inspiration. Artists toil to replicate soft petals, their delicate shape and sumptuous colors in perfect balance. The colors we name things come from nature, such as rose, peach or avocado. As an artist, I’m always looking at beautiful things, which are everywhere. I started seeing how we replicate nature in design in nearly all things, ranging from our clothing to home design and so many other things. I believe our pursuit of beauty leads us to make great things, and those that resent or reject the notion of beauty are missing a sensory opportunity that’s unparalleled.

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Turquoise Everywhere

Do you ever feel compelled by a specific shade of color? It could be a piece of jewelry made out of a colored stone that you cannot get enough of wearing, or your favorite flower in a distinct hue (periwinkle!). Over the past few weeks, I’ve been obsessed with turquoise, especially in painting. I have several projects going, as usual due to the long drying time, and they’re all featuring the color to some degree. It began with the panes of glass in the window with the roses (unfinished).. I felt that contrast to the reds and ruby shades was really nice in a subtle way. Turqoise floral

Next up, a blank canvas that I’m not sure what will come of it. I really love making subtly complex backgrounds. At first they appear to be a block of grounding color, inferior to the main composition. The background doesn’t compete for space, but tells its own story — for those that are willing to look for it. Anyway, before I knew it, I was mixing turquoise (relishing the smell of the oil paint as a new shade came to life on my palette).Turquoise oil

A subtle backdrop should contrast nicely with the vase of flowers, which will be slightly abstract in white and pink hues.Turquoise acrylic flower outline

.. and…Turquoise acrylic

Yep. I’m ate up! Turquoise can be pure, like a Colorado sky, or moody when there’s deeper colors aside, or fun if purple or pink wanna come hang. Regardless of how any of my paintings turn out, working with color brings me an of-the-moment sort of satisfaction, that embodies the joy of working with art materials and the overall aesthetic gratification.

Art: Brushstrokes or the written word

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Welcome!

I’ve been writing since childhood. As I grew, those simple stories evolved into sharp and concise advertorial copy, compelling outdoor features, blogs and more.

Inspired by colorful objects and personalities, I paint life as I view it, creating cheerful images using oil, acrylic and watercolor mediums.

This site is just one more way arts and letters allow me to communicate with the world. I hope you find inspiration in my work and I always appreciate your feedback! Enjoy!