Skip Navigation LinksHome > September 2010 - Volume 85 - Issue 9 > Artist's Statement: Woe
Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181eade92
Other Features: Cover Art

Artist's Statement: Woe

Khella, Sami MD

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Dr. Khella is clinical associate professor in neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The physician–patient encounter is sometimes blue—“blue” in the sense that it may cause the patient pain, sadness, and frequently anxiety. The job of the physician is to guide these encounters with kindness and hope. Even in a hopeless condition, one can still offer comfort and ease the transition to acceptance.

This etching is titled Woe. The word is rich with a range of meanings. Typically, “woe” is defined as misery from suffering. Woe can be emotional distress to oneself, or it can apply to the discomfort from physical pain, as illustrated by 18th-century poet George Crabbe: “thus groan the old, till, by disease oppress'd, / They taste a final woe, and then they rest.” In this etching the woeful face is printed in blue ink on blue paper. To inspire ideas that hopefully bring relief from the figure's tears of woe, I introduced a giraffe, a hand, and other designs.

Woe is an intaglio print. Intaglio (Italian for “carving”) is a family of printmaking processes that include etchings, engravings, aquatints, and mezzotints. An etching is a design made on a metallic surface. To create these intaglio prints, I first cover the surface of a copper plate with a resin that resists hydrochloric acid, then draw my design into the resin. I dip the plate into the acid, which etches the exposed portions of the metal plate. Thus, my design becomes a permanent part of the metal plate, which can be inked and covered with paper and run through a press under high pressure, causing the ink to transfer from the plate to the paper. This technique allows me to make multiple copies of the same image.

Figure. Woe...
Figure. Woe...
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