He may have traded his forceps and retractors for a hammer and chisel, but Robert Martuza, MD, chief emeritus of MGH Neurosurgery, hasn’t left his love or knowledge of neurosurgery behind. His recently completed series, Passion of a Surgeon, blends together his passions: surgery, science and sculpting.
“At some point in every surgeon’s life, we must stop operating, which can often be daunting for a surgeon,” says Martuza, who still maintains an active research lab at the MGH. “But many of the same skills acquired by the surgeon over decades can be applied to other areas. For me, one such area is sculpting.”
Ten years ago, Martuza began taking classes in clay and bronze sculpting, and progressed to stone sculpting. In 2001, he donated one of his larger pieces, the 800-pound Comforter marble sculpture, to the MGH. The artwork – on display in the Lunder Building – honors the MGH Comforters group who have made and donated quilts to patients at the hospital for the past 16 years.
Martuza’s latest sculptures – the first three created in bronze and the final in marble – reflect the life of an academic surgeon with a focus on hands. “Hands can be so much more emotionally expressive than faces and are a lot more action-oriented; they gesture, shake, comfort, cut, sooth and so much more,” says Martuza. “As a surgeon, hands are very meaningful to me. Thus, I chose to portray the life of a surgeon through hands.”
The Passion of a Surgeon features the “firsts” in the career of a surgeon, starting with teaching, followed by patient care, research and ending with retirement.
“First Cut” depicts the initial time Martuza cut into human flesh. “This teaching event is seared into my memory and is one of the first steps in the making of a surgeon.”
“Consoling” represents the first time meeting with a patient after a surgery, explaining how the procedure went and discussing future steps.
“Believing” portrays two hands holding a petri dish showcasing the power of believing in something at the start of a research project, such as a cure for a disease, before it becomes reality.
The final piece in the series, representing Martuza’s most recent career change, was created in white marble. This slab came from West Rutland, Vermont, a nod to where Martuza took his first sculpting classes. Titled “Rebirth,” it depicts the ability to rebuild and grow throughout life.
Though Martuza has moved from sterile operating rooms at the MGH to a stonedust-covered studio behind his Marblehead home, his desire to create and comfort remains clear.
“People always say seeing is believing,” says Martuza, “but in art and science, the believing comes first.”
View more of Martuza’s work at http://www.twelvelanterns.com/.
This article was originally published in the 09/01/17 Hotline issue.