The Grapes of Breath
Jennifer Evan (2015)
acrylic on canvas, 16″ x 20″
My inspiration for this piece stemmed from my experience working on the pulmonology service during my internal medicine rotation. I was moved by the vitality of our bodies and the organs that allow us to function. The lungs are one of the few organs that directly associate with the outside environment. Everything we breathe becomes part of our body, and as much as our body and respiratory epithelium can filter the air we breathe, it is not a perfect system. As a result, we breathe the world around us.
In analyzing chest x-rays all day and switching to the internal view of the chest with the chest CT, I began to ruminate over the anatomy of our lungs and airways. It struck me that in much the same way as a tree’s branches provide life to its leaves, our bronchi and bronchioles provide air to our alveoli, the leaves that make up the smallest part of our airways. When you’re outside, the air that is shared by all living organisms of the environment is also shared with you. I realized that physically and functionally, our lungs and bronchi resemble the trees around us, and that we too are part of the natural environment at our core.
From these thoughts, I decided to paint a metamorphosis of the airways to portray the idea that externally and internally, our body shares a certain resemblance with other life forces much like the trees around us. The alveoli that comprise our lungs provide a medium for the direct exchange of air into blood over a thin layer of cells, like a little circular air sac that reminded me of a grape with its thin skin. As bronchi and alveoli progress, I turned them into grapes growing on a tree branch to illustrate how fascinating it is to realize how our bodies mimic nature, both in anatomy or shape, and also in function or physiology.