This was the ninth time I began to paint in the simulcast Hub Room. Suddenly, the signal was cut and we heard an ominous announcement that everyone must head to the Opera House to see the final session. I looked at my assistant Kait B. Roe in shock as we threw wet brushes and paints into a bag and I began to limp as fast as possible to the backstage area. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I had been painting while standing on a probable stress fracture in my foot as I created the previous eight works.
Out of breath once I arrived, I set up my canvas on the floor five feet away from Billie Jean King and Katie Couric and began to paint.
Once again Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews treated us to a spoken word composition that told us to go find “the cows” and that command influenced this piece I entitled “Sacred Cow.” They were commanding us to apply our new knowledge as we leave TEDMED and think in new ways.
Next I painted a book within the painting. The book is entitled “The Never Trials” in honor of Ben Goldacre, MD the author of Bad Science. He spoke of the danger in our publication system that publishes positive findings while ignoring negative ones. His statistics were terrifying. Over 90 of articles published in the biomedical publishing industry were reporting positive results. Or to put that another way, for every 7 failed studies that proved a drug did not work as hoped, they would print the one that showed positive results.
John Wesley Harding, singer, songwriter and author famous for such postmodern hits as “There is a Starbucks where the Starbucks Used to Be” treated us to his dystopian scientific ballad: “Calling Off the Experiment.”
Jay Walker then amazed the crowd with another piece of medical ephemera: The Bills of Mortality recorded by the Church. Considered by some to be the first public health data collected, it included death records that showed a seasonal spike in plague deaths. So, I painted the Bill of Mortality in what was rapidly becoming a sacred blue stained glass window image.
Next wearing a traditional suit, rather than a farmer’s outfit, organic farmer Joel Salatin crossed the stage. He said he was wearing a power suit to be taken seriously, as the founder of the Walking Gallery that is a sentiment I really understand. Then he launched a diatribe against the horribly bad food we eat in America. He spoke out that instead of feeding cows to cows, we should embrace the very nature of the cow. Then a cow’s head entered the painting tagged on one ear 73 and a shaft of wheat appeared at the top of the image.
Next Billie Jean King and Katie Couric began to interview each other. Katie spoke of her husband death from cancer and it was revealed that her wiliness to undergo a colonoscopy on television led to a spike in that procedure. This was called the Katie effect.
Katie also spoke of discrimination against women in the workplace saying that when she went into this business, “Harass was two words.”
Billie Jean King spoke of her long-term support of women’s rights to equal education funding. She spoke of the importance of playground tennis and easy access to sports in neighborhoods and schools. She spoke of her worries that we are fighting the same battles we fought 30 years before. So within the painting I placed a young Billie Jean standing in for all of the patients with a tennis racket at her side.
Then Jill Souble and her mother sang us into the night to come…
This painting was given to SIEMENS for their sponsorship and dedication to TEDMED.