In Dr. Jack Ratliff’s shop, surrounded by tools, pieces of iron waiting to be formed into art, welding helmets and more, sits a small box of surgical equipment, some pieces used, some not.
The clamps may have a little nick on them or have become dull and the prosthetic knees and hip sockets may have become obsolete, replaced by something new or just discarded because of age. They aren’t in Ratliff’s shop to be used for any medical reason, but are picked through and used to make welded sculptures.
Ratliff and his welding buddy Dr. Patrick McMenamin spend time in the shop together welding and creating, and their art will be open to the public, along with the art of around 20 other physicians starting Thursday evening.
Aiken Regional Medical Center and the Aiken Center for the Arts are working together to exhibit around 80 pieces of art from local physicians, including photographs, paintings, drawings, culinary arts and more.
Another physician being exhibited alongside Ratliff and McMenamin is Dr. David Keisler.
Keisler said his main interest is drawing, and remembers drawing on his notebooks when he was in school, and on his kids’ lunch bags when they were in school.
“I’ve just always had an interest more in drawing and doodling, but I possibly revved it up a notch within the past 11 years, because when my first grandson was born, I started a sketchbook for both sets of grandkids’ families, so I’ll try to put things in there and commemorate birthdays or Chirstmas or something like that,” he said.
Keisler said he enjoys political commentary and political cartoons, and most of the art he created has a bit of humor in it.
Keisler also enjoys pyrography, the art of burning a design into wood, and wood carving.
The wood he uses for his carving has meaning, as well. He has used wood from trees that were either cut down or fell down around his home. Some of the wood he has used to make comfort crosses was from a tree he had cut down because squirrels were getting on his roof.
“We hated to cut the tree down, just hated it, hated it. Cut the tree down and the squirrels still got on the roof and in the attic, so we had to honor the tree by doing stuff and it ended up being those comfort crosses,” Keisler said.
He said he thinks the exhibit is a great idea, and said he believes some people only think of physicians as being interested in medicine.
March 30 is Doctor’s Day. First observed, Doctor’s Day was established to recognize physicians, their work and their contributions to society, according to a press release from ARMC.
Ratliff said he enjoys blacksmithing, and has made fencing and iron gates that are both inside and outside his home. Creating those, he said, doesn’t bear any resemblance to his career in medicine.
“For me, it’s completely divorced from the profession of medicine, using these pieces. You’ve got to use some kind of piece to create the image you’re looking for, it’s just kind of neat to … be using tools you that you spent your career on,” he said about the surgical equipment they weld into sculptures.
McMenamin said when he moved into cosmetic and plastic surgery, a mentor told McMenamin he could work with him, but he needed to take art and music classes.
“I would say that if you’re doing cosmetic surgery, which I did for about 20 plus years, I would say that the sense of aesthetics, just to kind of have you look at things, that was more beneficial,” he said.
McMenamin said he wants to get better at welding, and the surgical equipment they are using is just what they use because it’s on hand.
McMenamin said for him, part of creating art is about being able to do something different.
“Most of the doctors work a lot of hours, I think their time, the best that they get is to try to be with their family, but i think there’s also some time in a way of decompressing,” McMenamin said about doctors who create.
“I guess if there’s a message,” Ratliff said about the exhibit, “it’s just that doctors are folks just like everybody else.”
The opening reception for the art is March 29 from 6-8 p.m., and a ticketed event will be held March 30 from 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Tickets are $25 apiece or $40 for a couple, and can be purchased at the Aiken Center for the Arts, at ARMC’s Physician Services on the 6th floor, or online at www.aikencenterforthearts.org.