I painted "Concentration" (image above) in 2016 against my art teacher's advice. At that time, my teacher advised me never to paint a face larger than its actual size. The reference photograph was of an intense surgeon's face in the middle of a surgery, wholly absorbed in his task to alleviate the patient's ailment. The image was so compelling that I felt a strong need to paint it large. To show the look of concentration, the wrinkles on the face, the skin's texture, and the impact, I chose a 24x36 canvas and filled the canvas with the face.
The painting won several art awards over the past years. The model is a renowned surgeon in Ecuador, Dr. Edgar Rodas, based on a photograph taken by his surgeon friend, Dr. Mark Vierra in Monterey. Dr. Vierra generously shared the photograph with me when I was looking for medical professional models to paint for the thesis work for my Master's degree in Fine Arts.
One day in 2019, when I held an open studio in downtown Carmel. One of the visitors recognized the face of "Concentration" and exclaimed, "I know him!" I told him politely that the doctor was from Ecuador, and it was not likely that he knew the model. But he said, "I know. It's Edgar! I worked with him." The visitor was a retired chief of plastic surgery at Stanford University, and indeed he knew and had worked with Dr. Rodas.
Dr. Rodas was a well-known and highly respected surgeon who wore many hats during his remarkable career. He served, among other positions, as Minister of Health of Ecuador, Vice-Rector and Professor of Surgery at the University of Cuenca, President of the Ecuadorian Surgical Society, Founder Dean of the Medical School, University of Azuay, and president of Amnesty International.
To provide quality medical care for people with less access to health services was the motivation of Dr. Edgar Rodas throughout his entire career. He started a foundation called Cinterandes that provides mobile surgery to people in the rural areas of Ecuador. He began to visit the rural areas on horseback and later converted a van into a surgical suite. Dr. Rodas passed away in 2015, but he and his team have performed over 8,500 surgeries.
In May of this year, I received an email from Dr. Rodas' son, Dr. Edgar Rodas Jr. He saw my painting while browsing the internet for surgeons' pictures. He recognized his father's face immediately and contacted me to know more about the image. We connected, shared stories, and I decided to donate a copy of the painting "Concentration" to him in Richmond, VA, and another one to his family, who still live in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Dr. Edgar Rodas, Jr. followed his father's footsteps and became a surgeon. He is leading the Global Surgery Program at Virginia Commonwealth University, and he also succeeded as the president of the Foundation Cinterandes. The Foundation is not actively conducting mission trips due to COVID-19 at this time. However, they are dedicated to carrying on Dr. Rodas' legacy to serve the underserved in the rural areas of Ecuador. If you are interested in knowing more about this Foundation or donating to its cause, please visit https://www.cinterandes.org.