My Tropic of Cancer
As a landscape artist, I have never been particularly interested in depicting the human face, especially my own, until, that is, my dermatologist discovered a large basal carcinoma on my nose that required plastic surgery to repair. Although I was initially depressed, I realized that here was an opportunity to turn bad news into art. "My Tropic of Cancer" is as much a psychological portrait as a physical one. I sought to convey the emotional arc of the experience, from my dismay at the diagnosis and initial depression at the treatment to my relief and fascination with the almost comic roles my face took on during the course of recovery.
This work, which won "Best in Show" in the Gainesville Fine Arts Association and made the fourth round in the National Portrait Gallery's 5th Triennial Portrait Competition, was inspired by the pastel portraits of Henry Tonks, the surgeon-turned-artist who taught life drawing and anatomy at the Slade College of Art London. During the Great War, Tonks was hired by Dr. Harold Gillies, who pioneered modern plastic surgery, to document the facial reconstruction of soldiers disfigured by gunfire in the trenches. His pastel drawings, which are now in the Royal College of Surgeons, are a marvel to behold and most moving.
© steven edgar bradbury