A Doctor at an Art Museum
Examining the convergence of art and medicine
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What does the field of medicine and art have in common? To that question, doctor Park Kwang-hyuk (Department of Medicine, ’00) answers that they both revolve around the life and death of humans. While the field of medicine works strenuously to lengthen human lives by finding the cause and remedies for diseases, art strives to capture the essence from various moments in a person’s life. Having found this intriguing factor, Park has devoted his life equally to each of these fields. He works as a physician before noon, and gives art lectures in the afternoon. The audience of his lectures are somewhat varied, from corporations to public offices and schools. One lecture that he gives on a regular basis is through his weekly art gathering, the Mona Lisa Smile.
The Mona Lisa Smile
The name 'Mona Lisa Smile', suggested by one of the members, has a dual meaning. The first is quite literal, referring to the mysterious smile of Mona Lisa, one of the most symbolic works of art in the Louvre Museum. The second meaning is derived from the movie, The Mona Lisa Smile. In the film, the protagonist is an art instructor who attempts new approaches to art lectures. Park expressed satisfaction with the name, as it well captures the values that his gathering strives for: the love for art and the desire for new things.
The Mona Lisa Smile is a social gathering that welcomes anyone who shares a love for art.
(Photo courtesy of Park)
When asked how the Mona Lisa Smile came to being, Park replied that he originally began with docent lectures, which is a type of lecture that handles art facts and history when some of his audiences approached him with a suggestion to begin a regular lecture. Intrigued by his lecture contents, they formed a regular social gathering for art lovers, where Park could give regular lectures. For Park, it was a great opportunity as he liked nothing more than to study art under various themes and prepare lectures to share his findings. Some of his most popular themes were “The plague in classical art”, “Gambling in classic art”, “Jealousy in classic art” and so on.A Doctor at an Art Museum
The classes are held every Friday, from 7pm to 9pm, in Yeoksam-dong. About 30 to 40 people from a total of 70 members attend, where classical art is approached in a variety of perspectives, such as medicine, humanities, and so on. Not only are there lectures but also group museum tours from time to time on weekends. Although most of the members are artists and doctors, Park mentioned that he was surprised to find out the diverse professions of his audience, such as lawyers, pharmacists, accountants, and public servants.
Park also published a book titled, “A Doctor at an Art Museum.” It is part of a series in which different fields are applied as windows to perceive classical art. There are books such as “A Chemist at an Art Museum,” “A Lawyer at an Art Museum,” and such. Park explained that the book was actually a collection of his lecture notes from the Mona Lisa Smile. Some of his members asked for a review note of his lectures to organize their contents, so he began sharing his analysis on internet communities. The notes had so great a reaction that people nudged him to organize them into a book. Park also wrote columns for art magazines from time to time, and some of them were also used for the book. Although his lectures revolve around a large number of themes, he was asked specifically to extract contents related to the field of medicine to emphasize his characteristic as a doctor.
Park answered that he was surprised to find out that "A Doctor at the Art Museum" had a decent sales number.
(Photo courtesy of Park)
The story of Park
Park recalls that he had been mesmerized by Greek Mythology as a child. As an introverted kid, he often turned to mythology books during his free time. However, his ideas and concept of various gods and myths were only in his imagination. It was when he encountered his first classical art piece that the ideas in his head were portrayed in real life. He realized that a picture really did speak a thousand words, and that there were details that he had never thought of before. It was in that moment when he realized his love for art.
Later in his high school years, he witnessed the death of a protestor during a demonstration in Shinchon. Such a close encounter to death was a traumatic event for him, and he recalled that he was even physically ill for a few days. He had spent the rest of his life trying to forget the memory of what he had seen on that day. Then, during his second year in medical school, he went on a trip to Europe. He visited the Louvre Museum in Paris, where he was mysteriously drawn to the Liberty leading the People, drawn by Eugene Delacroix. He stood in front of the piece and shed tears for a long time. “I saw myself in that drawing. Among the protesters leading the rally, there was a frightened looking child, whom I found myself in.” He felt as if his old trauma was fading away and realized that there is a power in art which can heal people.
Throughout the interview, Park was excited about his next lecture regarding the piece, The Girl with the Pearl Earrings
Now Park is living a happy life pursuing his interests and his profession. He jokingly added that many people think that he must make a lot of profit from his activities, but as a father of five daughters, he has to work very hard to maintain his life balance of both fields. He plans to lead this lifestyle for as long as he can, and when asked about any of his long term goals, Park answered that he hopes to publish another book in the future.
In his last comments, Park wanted to tell the readers that there are many domestic artists who are extremely talented but have a hard time maintaining their professions. Just like the late artist Vincent Van Gogh, artists cannot keep up with their living expenses and only draw. He expressed deep sympathy, as domestic art museums such as Hangaram Museum, Somang Museum, and many small galleries in Insa-dong carry a number of art works from talented artists who haven’t had a chance to get any spotlight. Although he himself holds small auctions to raise support funds for unknown artists, he hopes to see many more opportunities and events to promote talented, yet unknown Korean artists.
Lee Chang-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kang Cho-hyun
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