Two Jackson doctors get creative with sculpting class at Armory Arts Village
In the operating room, Dr. Pramit S. Malhotra is limited by his patients' tissues, muscles and bone structure.
But in the sculpting studio at Armory Arts Village, Malhotra has complete freedom to create a face out of clay.
"I'm learning different notions of beauty. How should curves in the face meet? What makes one curve more beautiful than another?" said Malhotra, a Jackson plastic surgeon. "This class is helpful even more than I thought because I'm learning a softer, more natural way of working with a face."
While it sounds unusual, the concept of doctors using art to make themselves better at their day jobs is a popular trend. Medical schools at Harvard and Yale both require medical students to take an art class. Early studies show it improves observation skills, which can help in coming up with accurate diagnoses.
Malhotra and Eric Schonhard, a Jackson chiropractor, have been working with sculptor Brandon Irish on Thursday evenings since fall.
"This is an escape for me," Schonhard said.
Schonhard likes to make things out of galvanized fence wire. For instance, he created several spinal columns in this manner that are displayed in his Jackson office.
"I take spooled wire, and it takes human forms. I started with the nervous system, and it evolved from there," he said.
Schonhard and Malhotra both say they were looking to expand their interests, and sculpture seemed a good fit.
"I was looking for something outside science, and sculpting reinforces what I do," Malhotra said. He added that it is becoming more popular for plastic surgeons to sculpt, since much of their training is two-dimensional and not three-dimensional.
"The hardest at first was getting the dimensions right, between the eyes, side to side. Without hair you realize how much of the cranium is back here," Malhotra said while rubbing one hand over the back of the clay head.
At a recent class, Malhotra is stumped because he thinks his clay face looks too masculine, and the class uses a live model, a young woman.
Irish takes a tool with loops at either end and slices paper-thin layers of clay off one cheek, like he's using a cheese cutter. Then he pinches a thumb and forefinger to remove some clay from below and above one eye, making it more feminine.
"It helps getting down and looking up to get a 3-D look," Irish said as he and Malhotra crouched beneath the clay face, then stepped away as the plastic surgeon turned to duplicate Irish's work on the other side of the face.
Irish, a 26-year-old Hillsdale College graduate, moved into the Armory Arts Village in December 2007. He studied anatomy in college because sculptors have to define the muscles, bones and other intricacies of the human body.
"The study of anatomy and form is secondary to the study of life, hence the importance of a live model," he said. "A sculptor captures the essence and spirit of life."