Paint Splatter and Clinical Trials
n Commentary | From the Desk of the President
Christopher M. Bono, MD
President, North American Spine
Brigham & Women's Hospital
Igrew up in New York City. Well, that’s technically true, but really I grew up in
Brooklyn and Staten Island, two of the five
boroughs of the city of New York. As strange
as it might sound to someone raised outside
of the Big Apple, when we said we were “
going into the city,” it meant we were taking an
adventurous trip to the island of Manhattan, a place like none other in the world. In
practicality, if you were going into the city,
it meant you were going to be there all day.
Unlike Boston—the city in which I now live
where you can work all day, go home to the
suburbs, and then come back at night for
dinner—once “in the city,” you stayed until
it was time to go home. Sitting in traffic or
fighting the tribulations of mass transit to
make a 12– or 13–mile trip last 2 ½ hours is
not most people’s idea of well spent time.
On the occasions that my family or
school would take a trip into The City (yes,
I am going to pretentiously refer to it in this
manner, despite having lived in others), it
would be to see a show or visit a museum.
Interestingly, it was not until I got married
and entertained my new in-laws from rural
Louisiana that I first visited the Statue of
Liberty or went to the Empire State Building.
It’s funny how that happens.
As a kid, I loved the Museum of Natural
History. Staring at the models of prehistoric
man, robed in fur skins, making fire, I won-
dered what it would be like to live like that.
It was such a stark contrast to the concrete,
brick and steel that I called home. Though
not quite as big a favorite, going to The Met
(ie, Metropolitan Museum of Art) was cool
enough. How can one not be impressed
with how a human being created a depic-
tion of life so vivid and real on a canvas or
in stone with his or her hands? Only now,
after years of training in anatomy and or-
thopedic surgery, can I further appreciate
the anatomical detail and accuracy of the
ancient Roman sculptures, and how dif-
ficult and painstaking it must have been to
recreate the soft turns of the inside of the
elbow or the sharpness of the veins over
the dorsum of the hand. Having learned
a bit about the ancient and neo-classical
artists, this was not the product of simple
genius. They rigorously studied anatomy.
They dissected cadavers. They were both
artists and scientists.
My least favorite destinations were
MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art) and
the Guggenheim. Let me amend that. I liked
visiting the Guggenheim’s structure—it’s
a very cool building, bigger on top than
the bottom, with a spiral walkway design.
It’s the stuff hanging on the walls and the
objects sitting on pedestals that drive me a
bit crazy. I am sure I’m just an uncultured
and insensitive barbarian, but I don’t “get”
Jackson Pollack’s paint splatter work. I
don’t understand Barnett Newman’s “The
Voice” (look it up on the web—it’s a blank,
off-white painting). I chuckle a bit to peer
at a single red dot in the center of a huge
canvas and think about how much the artist sold it for.
While I don’t “get” it, it doesn’t mean it
doesn’t have value. It’s art. It doesn’t have to
make sense. It was created as an expression
of what the artist was feeling at the time, and
intended to invoke feelings when viewed.
But consider this excerpt from a commentary on Robert Motherwell’s “The Little
Spanish Prison” from the MoMa website1:
Somehow, the painting’s yellow and
white stripes with one accentuated pink
vertical block on the bottom reminded
me of a prison cell. After checking the
title, I was very happy. It wasn’t simply