Portrait of a colleague
Artist and surgeon Dr. Jung Yoo creates painting of Dean Emeritus Mark A. Richardson
Feb. 27, 2018
If you knew him, you have laughed with him.
Dean Emeritus Mark A. Richardson (1949-2016) served as dean of the OHSU School of Medicine for a decade until his unexpected death in 2016. During his tenure, the school adapted to unprecedented health care system change, grew its research portfolio in a challenging funding environment and started nationally recognized curriculum reforms. All these things – and more – made him an effective leader. Nevertheless, almost anyone who knew him would also remember his big laugh and his bright smile.
"That's how I always saw him, and that's what I wanted to paint," said Jung Yoo, M.D., professor and chair of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, OHSU School of Medicine. Dr. Yoo is also the artist behind the portrait of Dean Emeritus Richardson now adorning the fourth floor hallway of Mackenzie Hall. It is the newest in a long tradition of school dean portraits, dating back to Simeon E. Josephi, M.D., the first dean who served from 1887 to 1912.
As are so many creative endeavors, the story of how the portrait came about is part of a personal journey – in this case, a journey of grieving. George Mejicano, M.D., M.S., senior associate dean for education, OHSU School of Medicine, had long admired Dr. Yoo's works, and had come to know his approach to art and the creative process. Having a current department chair paint the beloved dean's official portrait would be symbolic and untraditional. Dr. Mejicano asked Dr. Yoo to consider it.
Dr. Yoo, however, was initially reluctant to paint the portrait because he was still grappling with a sense of personal loss. "I knew I could paint, but would it really capture the person I know?"
Undeterred, the artist finally agreed. He practiced with several drawings and sketches, but none was quite right. Dr. Yoo shared his progress with Ellen Richardson, wife of Dean Emeritus Richardson. They picked out a photograph that clearly portrayed the man they both knew. In it, the dean was smiling and relaxed, at ease in the moment. From this photo, Dr. Yoo did several more sketches.
He considered doing a traditional, full-length portrait, but instead produced a relatively small oil painting on wooden canvas that focuses on Dean Emeritus Richardson's face, eyes and smile. It is distinct from the other portraits lining the Dean's office walls.
"As soon as I saw the final product, I was overwhelmed. The painting captures Mark's 'can do' spirit and his caring, open personality," said Dr. Mejicano, who, with his wife Margaret, also an artist, picked out and donated the frame that holds the portrait.
"It's the gestalt of joy that I like best about the painting. Even after a tough discussion, Mark always made you feel good. That was the secret to his success and I think the portrait captures that," said Dr. Yoo.
Many people in the OHSU community admire Dr. Yoo's artistic skills. Open the door to the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, and a wall of staff portraits done by Dr. Yoo greets you warmly. It is a touch of the familiar in an unanticipated place and it represents this spine surgeon's strong creative side. In addition to portraiture, Dr. Yoo is known for his abstract paintings. He has exhibited with the Oregon Society of Artists and often donates his work to charitable causes like the social service nonprofit Friendly House.