The Art of Nursing and Non Attachment

"Department of Washington" collaborated by Artists John Graeter & Anna King

"Dept. of Washington" collaboration by Artists John Graeter & Anna King

     Last night was First Thursday in Portland, and David and I made the rounds in the Old Town Neighborhood at Everett Street Lofts. We particularly went to see Anna S. King’s and John Graeter’s shows at The Anka Gallery, and to congratulate our friend Brian, who opened the new Tribute Gallery, also at Everett Street Lofts. 

   I ran into a lot of friends while gallery hopping, including an artist with whom I got into a discussion about the Buddhist concept of non attachment. He told me he occasionally used to take a small painting or art work he had made, one he particularly liked, light it on fire in his driveway, and watch the flames consume it. He said he did it to remind himself that the outcome of his effort didn’t belong to him, and to let go of it.

   His words resonated within me, and this morning, my on-line horoscope corroborated with this piece of advice:

“Caring about the outcome of the situation doesn’t mean that you need to throw yourself into it headfirst.”

     It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn, especially as a nurse.  I have a tendency to push my own limits when it comes to advocating for a patient, but in the past, not so much for myself. This means that I have very little difficulty going toe-to-toe with a doctor, surly ER nurse, or ancillary department to meet the needs of my patient. However, in the past, I would ignore my own needs on the same busy unit in which I was advocating for my patients. I would ignore that I had worked hard over six hours without a break, let alone lunch. I could hold urine in my bladder until I forgot that I needed to use a restroom. I could work extra hours or shifts on nights until I couldn’t remember how I drove home the next morning.

     I did this along with my colleagues, in the name of patient care,  for years, until one day, my body told me I had to stop, or it would.

     I was forced to reevaluate my priorities. I realized that sacrificing my health is not a requirement for taking care of others.

     But it is hard to reject the culture of nursing, which deeply embeds into its initiates the lie that if I take a lunch break, and something happens to my patient during that half hour, or  ten minute bathroom break, it’s my fault. The illogical belief that a patient’s ultimate outcome depends on my constant presence.

     Administration cannot change that culture for us, we have to do it ourselves. We have to support one another by working together as a team in our units.

     I have worked in units that have successfully changed this culture. It can be done. But we have to do it for ourselves.

Art Making and Nursing Competence

The other day at work, my colleague, who was charge nurse, hung up the phone, smiling. She had negotiated a situation with another department, and was pleased with the outcome. Turning to me, she said, “You know, one of the things I really love about nursing is how it’s taught me how to problem-solve. I feel competent handling different things that come up.”
I was thinking about this yesterday afternoon, while working on an art piece for The Darlings’ Nursery, the installation I’m making for The Manor of Art. I was sitting in a chair at my work table, applying gold metal leaf to objects. I’ve never worked with metal leaf before. If you haven’t either, you should know that it’s about a tenth the thickness of  a transparent bio-occlusive,  self-adhesive dressing, and it does not have the easy -to -handle paper edges that many of them have. Read this to mean, it is almost impossible to handle, and tears if you breathe on it. I consider myself to have excellent fine motor control, yet I found it challenging to work with. Because I like a challenge, and because it was above 90°F in my studio, I had a rotating fan running, and had to time the placement of the leaf with the blowing of the fan. I wasn’t concerned at all that there is no time available to scrape the leaf off and redo the project in time for the show, but I was glad that I wasn’t using real gold leaf (it’s expensive). I’m brave, but not stupid.

Between cursing and placing the metal leaf , I mused over how relaxed I actually was about the whole project. After transporting sick children in helicopters, knowing that I can manage an airway until a patient can be intubated, defibrillating a child in pulseless V-Tach (in nursing school, they said I’d never see it), and safely administering chemotherapy, I realize that trying new things doesn’t really scare me. I learned how to set-up my stereo system and first computer years ago, because I realized it isn’t anymore difficult than managing arterial lines, CVP’s, ICP monitors, and ventilators in the PICU.

Nursing is complex, challenging, and stressful. I credit it with providing me with a large range of skills, and the confidence to expand my world.

J.Paradisi Interviews Anna S. King for pdxArtscene

painting by Anna S. King/courtesy Anka Gallery

painting by Anna S. King/courtesy Anka Gallery

   Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat: A Conversation with Anna S. King is posted on pdxArtscene. Follow this link to read the interview.

A Very Good Week

A painting by Anna S. King

A painting by Anna S. King/courtesy Anka Gallery

It’s Sunday, the end of a very busy week for me.

On Tuesday, I presented The Acorn Contains the Tree before a panel at PNCA for critique. I’m happy to say, they were very kind, and the event marks the completion of a Certificate in Fine Arts…TaDa! I think I may have broken the record for the longest time taken to complete the certificate. No matter, heh, heh, heh, it’s mine.

I’ve been working on the installation for The Manor of Art at Milepost 5. Besides making a new installation piece specifically for the show, I’ve been writing the artist statement, my bio, and making jpegs for the event’s website.

Then, there’s the dual interviews for pdxArtscene of artist/curator Anna S. King and artist/curator John Graeter. I finished the drafts last night, and they’re ready for release online. They should be posted sometime before First Thursday, August 6th.  Be sure to visit their show of individual and collaborative work at Anka Gallery this month.

Then there’s the big news. I received a phone call from New York a couple of days ago. One of my paintings has been accepted (through peer review) by The American Journal of Nursing, and AJN will publish it on the cover of the October 2009 issue.

It’s been a very good week.

It’s Toooooo Hot (!), but the Art Goes On

Room 360 at The Manor of Art

Room 360 at The Manor of Art

    It’s 105°F in the shade on my balcony as I write this. OMG, if you live in Oregon, you know how unprepared for this kind of heat Portlanders are.  Nevertheless, I kept my promise from the last post, and drove out to The Manor at Milepost 5, to take a couple photos of room 360.

   It was worth the visit: I had the opportunity to see some of John Graeter’s art work. He’s the Artist Coordinator, and Co- Director (along with Chris Haberman) of Portland City Art, the  organization behind The Manor of Art. I was able to view some of John’s collaborative work, made with fellow artist Anna S. King.  Both artists have rooms in The Manor, but the collaborative pieces are for their joint show at Anka Gallery in August. I’m interviewing each of them for pdxArtscene. More on that later.

   Then, upstairs, I took these photographs of empty 360, and measured the walls too, to get an idea how many and which paintings I’ll hang. Sorry, but it was just too hot in the courtyard to do any shots of the exterior building today.

Artists at The Manor of Art: The Energy Collects, Like Thunder Clouds

     David and I were out at Milepost 5 yesterday, preparing room 360 in the old Baptist Retirement Manor for my installation.  Already, artists are moving in materials and tools, and I could almost palpate the energy as it collected in the musty old hallways.  The cool thing about positive energy is how contagious it is. Everyone’s creativity is enhanced by it.

   We’re going back out this afternoon, and today I’ll remember to take a photograph or two for this blog.

The Manor of Art: Julianna Paradisi in Room 360

   My summer hiatus after installing two gallery exhibitions last month proved to be short-lived. I am now planning a new installation that goes up next week (watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat).  I am one of “100 artists and exhbitions” participating in The Manor of Art at Milepost 5,  900 NE 81st Ave., Portland, Oregon 97213, August 14-23.

   I have room 360 on the creepy third floor(which is perfect for my installation) of  The Manor,  formerly The Baptist Manor Retirement Home,  established in 1915. The 10 day festival of exhibits, live music and performance is housed on three floors of the soon to be renovated building.  The renovation of the building into artist studios signifies phase 2 of the Milepost 5 art campus/community.

   Follow this link:

for the complete schedule and information about The Manor of Art.

The Care and Feeding of an Art Exhibition

The inscription on the table is from Icarus Again, one of my stories in New Lives. Photo: J.Paradisi

The inscription on the table is from Icarus Again, one of my stories in New Lives. Photo: J.Paradisi

   I just got back from PNCA, where my art exhibit/installation The Acorn Contains the Tree is available for public viewing upstairs in 214 Gallery. I’d stopped by to check on the exhibit after working at the clinic for a few hours this morning. Oh crap, three spotlights had burned out! So, we got a ladder and David replaced the burned out bulbs for me, because I get dizzy on ladders. I took 409 cleaner to the fingerprints someone left on one of the little chairs. I know white surfaces are tempting to fill, but as a general rule, unless you are invited to do so by the artist, don’t touch the artwork, please.

   It’s remarkable how well the cake has held up in the summer heat. I replenished the stack of postcards for the show on the little black table by the elevator. A copy of New Lives: Nurses’  Stories about Caring for Babies is on that table, in case a viewer wants to read my stories (my business cards mark the pages). The stories supplement the Artist Statement.

The inscription on the table in the photo reads:

In time, I gained a small amount of peace knowing that his parents were able to hold him one last time. He did not die in the night skies of Oregon, a rare Icarus in a haywire Greek myth.”

The line is from my short story Icarus Again, published in New Lives: Nurses’ about Caring for Babies.

   The show runs through July 30th.

Urban Horses at Anka Gallery

Twenty-One mixed media on vellum (2007) artist: J.Paradisi

Twenty-One mixed media on vellum (2007) artist: J.Paradisi

Follow this link 

to see my  Urban Horses paintings on the walls of Anka Gallery as part of the “One more than four” group exhibition. The show runs until the end of July.

The Acorn Contains the Tree Images Are on My Website

Installation from The Acorn Contains the Tree. artist: J.Paradisi

Installation from The Acorn Contains the Tree at PNCA's 214 Gallery. artist: J.Paradisi

Visit my Visual Art website

to see images from The Acorn Contains the Tree and read the artist’s statement.