The Women in the Painting
Heidi Crim, MSN, RN, nurse director, Emergency Department; artist Charyl Weissbach; Estrellita Karsh; and Ron Walls, MD, chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine.
Gazing at the painting titled "Balsam Poplar Series, Cyan" in the family reception area of the BWH Emergency Department (ED), one is immediately enthralled by its beauty-soothing colors and gentle brushstrokes depicting gossamer leaves. But there is also a story that lives in the painting's peaks and recesses. It is a story of three women.
The Inspiration: Karen Daley
The painting was unveiled in the BWH ED during a homecoming tribute on July 19 in honor of Karen Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN. Daley, a former BWH ED nurse, returned this spring as the 2012 Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Visiting Professor in Nursing. (See related story above.)
Daley was accidentally stuck with a contaminated needle in 1998 when she was an ED nurse at BWH, and subsequently developed HIV and hepatitis C. Despite the challenges, Daley persisted, earning masters' and doctorate degrees from Boston University and Boston College, and becoming an advocate for safety in the workplace.
The Connection: Estrellita Karsh
Estrellita Karsh, widow of famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, was at the unveiling ceremony to express her admiration.
"Karen Daley inspired me to present this gift by her example," said Mrs. Karsh, who has donated her husband's portraits and other paintings to the hospital over the years, including the famous "Healers of our Age" collection on the Nesson Pike. "In the 1990s, when Karen was diagnosed with HIV, we did not know that much about the disease. That was a frightening time. But Karen did not let that stop her. She continued to accomplish so much, and it was an honor to name her as our 2012 Karsh visiting professor."
Mrs. Karsh thanked the BWH staff who were part of the ceremony, especially Engineering's Charles Eschback, supervisor, and Thomas Littlehale, Jr., carpenter, who installed the painting.
The Artist: Charyl Weissbach
Months before the painting made its debut in the BWH ED, it hung in the studio of Boston artist Charyl Weissbach. Weissbach, who works with oil and beeswax on linen (encaustic), recalled the day Mrs. Karsh walked into her studio.
"Mrs. Karsh for some time quietly observed the piece and then finally came over to tell me that she felt the painting was positive and uplifting. I was thrilled to hear this because these emotions are what I want people to feel when seeing this painting," said Weissbach.
Weissbach, who was previously a medical technologist at MGH and also worked in the pathology laboratories at BWH, is happy that her painting has a permanent home in a medical environment.
"I often wondered where this painting would end up," said Weissbach. "I had always hoped it would be in a healing environment. I am very grateful that it is at Brigham and Women's Hospital."