In 2016, I undertook a project to illustrate 16 anatomic mnemonics, selecting those that both were educationally functional and used phrases that invoked in me a special meaning, idea, or image. I knew at once that the mnemonic “A Lady Between Two Majors” fit these self-imposed criteria.
First, let us consider the anatomic meaning behind the mnemonic. It pertains to the muscles from the chest (pectoralis major), back (latissimus dorsi), and scapula (teres major) that attach to the bicipital groove of the humerus in a specific arrangement to facilitate movement of the arm. During clinical anatomy examinations, an often-tested anatomical detail is that the latissimus dorsi (or “Lady”ssimus dorsi) attaches between the pectoralis major and teres major. Thus the mnemonic “A Lady Between Two Majors.”
As a metaphor, however, “A Lady Between Two Majors” may bring to mind an interesting (although admittedly stereotypical and perhaps unfair) juxtaposition: that of a serene and benevolent lady positioned between two testosterone-fueled military majors. I was intrigued by these symbols, as well as the cultural assumptions surrounding them.
For the composition of my illustration, in the foreground I decided to place an upwards-gazing woman (gazing at the heavens or at the future) holding a stylized wildflower as her weapon of choice. To the right and left, I placed two anonymous, lethal-force-wielding majors—clones following orders with which they may or may not disagree or may not even consider. In the middle ground, I placed two army tanks, one with a gun barrel that penetrates the space behind the central feminine figure. In the background, I created a wallpaper of Japanese tsubaki flowers, one of the first flowers to bloom following winter.
To illustrate this mnemonic, I was interested in using an atypical mix of colors. I also wanted to insert a bit of chaos into the background by using quick, diagonal brush strokes of dark pink. When viewing the piece in person, one can also appreciate the reflective, metallic oil paints outlining the human figures and tanks.