Friday, April 6, 2012

A dentist and an Artist?

     The other day as I was carving I had this vision as I watched my hand hold the carver and maneuver around some intricate lines of the linoleum.  It was a sharp and clear vision of my father’s hands.  I recognized him in me.  It was an overpowering of emotion as I came to this realization.  My father and I were very close, enjoying each other’s company, playing golf, giggling, becoming diner connoisseurs, going to the movies and partaking on numerous "secret missions" of gift buying for my mom, his love.  My dad was an endodontist, the dentist who gives root canals.  While you just recoiled and winced at the same time, you must understand that his patients adored him.  He was kind, gentle and had a wonderful engaging smile.  You may be confused at this point not only how one would love their dentist but how I am connecting my art making with his dental prowess...well, read on and perhaps the following sketchbook/journal entry that I wrote upon envisioning the link, will help you to see the way in which my dad and I are still holding hands:

March 5, 2012
            Sometimes when I am carving linoleum, I'm reminded of my dad (whom I miss terribly) and his use of dental tools, in what I've been told, was unbelievable gentle for such a painful procedure.  The connection of lino tools to dental instruments may seem to some farfetched, and perhaps it is because I miss him so, but the careful precision and risk of faulty movements is slightly similar....minus the massive pain one would feel with the poke of a sharp dental tool to the gum or root.  The hand eye coordination coupled with the concentration along with the intensely gratifying end product is what I believe my dad had so passionately felt while being a dentist.  He loved his job and I never once heard him complain of going to work.  I love printing and carving and find it incredibly fun to teach how to create a print.  My father passed on his passion of dentistry for years, with grateful students then passing on his knowledge and skills.  My dad wanted me to become a dentist and perhaps it was to share his love of the field but maybe it was also because he saw I had the same skills and passion as he.  I like to think he is proud of me and too would see our connections.
            I noticed that when I carve, I hold the cutter and my hand on the lino the same way he would hold an instrument to a patient’s mouth.  For some reason, this vision came flooding back into my memory today.  I can still so vividly picture working in his office in high school, assisting him during procedures (which I’m pretty sure couldn’t happen today) and watching as he precisely worked in the delicate cave of a patients mouth.  He would speak kindly and tell the nervous patient exactly what he was going to do.  I can recall, as well, how he would draw out diagrams to illustrate to the worried recipient of the sharp poking dental tools, what was going to take place.  I would quietly watch and remember being amazed at his skills, knowledge and confidence which led to the patient’s comfort while facing an invasion of their dental sanity.  While I clearly did not become a dentist, it is now obvious how shaping and influential my time as his “dental assistant” was.  His lessons were far reaching for me, of course personally as his daughter but also, in my professional life, my passion for being an artist and teacher.  I still have many of his dental tools and gadgets and materials for his office in my studio.  It is amazing the way an artist and a dentist are alike on many levels…at least this artist and her dad.
One of my Dad's first office signs
This is one of the boxes my Dad used to carry his dental tools while in school at U.PennDental

            So, that was my thought stream that day.  And it was comforting.  It was like an extra hug from my sweet dad, something I so wish I had one more of.  Somehow now, I feel even more so, that he is still always with me.  Thank you for reading and thank you for learning about my dad.


  1. Beautifully said, Sarah! Your dad had such a twinkle in his eye...always. My dad speaks so highly of him. And I think you've inherited more than his style of using tools. :)

  2. Thank you so much Kathleen! You don't know how much your comments mean to me! :-). Thanks for reading!