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National Museum Of Health And Medicine Supports Art Exhibit Honoring Survivors Of Traumatic Brain Injuries At Baltimore Gallery

Sept. 3, 2013, Silver Spring, Md.: The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) is proud to partner with the University of Maryland's Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL) for the installation of a series of larger-than-life portraits by artist Eliette Markhbein, which honors survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), in HS/HSL's Weise Gallery.

The exhibition, WHACK'ed ... and then everything was different, opened at HS/HSL, located in Baltimore, Md., in August 2013. NMHM staff installed the portraits at HS/HSL with support from library personnel. The exhibit at HS/HSL is on display until Oct. 8, 2013.

Small-scale reproductions of the portraits featured in WHACK'ed were installed in NMHM's lobby in March 2013, and are on display through Sept. 30, 2013. In recognition of the concurrent exhibits, NMHM's Sept. 24 Medical Museum Science Café program will feature Markhbein, who will share the story behind her portrait series. The event, which will be held 6-7 p.m. at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at 1 Veterans Place in Silver Spring, Md., is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.

Markhbein, who is a TBI survivor herself, constructed the portrait series to raise awareness of TBIs. Her subjects include former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, professional athlete Troy Aikman and renowned actor George Clooney, to news correspondent Bob Woodruff and service member Claudia Carreon who was injured in Iraq.

Others featured in the exhibit include National Hockey League Hall of Famer Pat Lafontaine; Alexis Verzal, a spirited 5-year-old who was shaken at 14 months; Trisha Meili, the "Central Park Jogger;" brain injury patient Timothy Pruce; and musician Keith Richards.

Markhbein's unique technique is a silent testimony to the three phases of TBI: fractured, reassembled and whole. Using cropped photographs, Markhbein first draws the portrait in charcoal on paper. She then imperfectly cuts the drawing into squares and reassembles them as portraits on painted canvas. The uneven-grid effect that results from the drawing/cutting/collage technique illustrates how TBI disrupts sensory and perceptual processes. The grid also acts as a metaphor for the support and structure that TBI survivors require to live an active and rewarding life. Each portrait represents 150-200 hours of work, and it took three years to complete the series.

"By representing faces of TBI survivors on a large scale, I hope to elicit emotional intimacy and universality," says Markhbein. "More importantly, I wanted to show examples of brain injury survivors who moved on to have full, productive lives. I hope the portraits offer inspiration to those recently injured: kinship and identity with such icons is a powerful emotion, encompassing pride, pleasure and self-compassion, all of which are in short supply during the rehabilitation process."

TBI is not an unfamiliar topic to the NMHM or to the Department of Defense (DoD), which has a demonstrated commitment to preventing and treating traumatic brain injuries. NMHM is home to one of the world's most comprehensive brain collections.

Traumatic Brain Injury Exhibit:

  • In May 2012, NMHM opened a new exhibit that features TBIs. The installation showcases actual human brain specimens that demonstrate a variety of brain injuries, including hemorrhages, blunt force trauma and bullet wounds. Many of the specimens featured in the exhibit have never been on display. Also included in the exhibit are medical and surgical tools used to diagnose and treat TBIs, and devices such as video games and acupuncture needles used in rehabilitating of patients with brain injuries. The TBI exhibit is expected to be on display at least through 2013.

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About the National Museum of Health and Medicine:

  • The National Museum of Health and Medicine, a Department of Defense museum established in 1862, inspires interest in and promotes the understanding of medicine— past, present and future— with a special emphasis on American military medicine. As a National Historic Landmark recognized for its ongoing value to the health of the military and to the nation, NMHM identifies, collects, and preserves important and unique resources to support a broad agenda of innovative exhibits, educational programs, and scientific, historical, and medical research. NMHM is an element of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command headquartered at Fort Detrick, Md.
  • NMHM is located at 2500 Linden Lane, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, and is open daily (including weekends and holidays) from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visit the website or call (301) 319-3300 for information on tour programs and special events.
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