For most people, the words art and beauty are simply subjective terms that describe that which is pleasing to the aesthetic sense of the beholder. However, these words hold a special meaning for those who are experts in the medical discipline of plastic surgery. Some people draw straight divisions between art and science, medicine and beauty; erroneously believing that they are two distinct realms with nothing in common. Plastic surgeons however are every bit artistic as they are scientific.
Cosmetic surgery, whether elective or reconstructive is a discipline that fuses these two realms into one cohesive experience.
How then, can surgeons consider themselves as artists?
As the prominent art professor Sir Ernst Gombrich once noted, “We all like beauty in nature…” This assertion that nature contains inherent beauty is precisely how plastic surgeons functions as artists. The doctor’s primary function is to become an architect of beauty in the human form, elevating it to the natural state of beauty.
Of course, most artists possess vision and surgeons are no exception. They must be exacting in their procedures and clear in their direction. By contrast, most artists do not operate under the severe spatial restrictions encountered by doctors. Those who paint have a wall or a canvas or a bit of clay. Plastic surgeons very often operate through miniscule incisions and must visualize obscured anatomical features.
The human body has been the object of artistic beauty for millennium.
From cave paintings to the Sistine Chapel; from stone the sculpture of David to the performance art of Broadway; humans have searched for a unique artistic expression of their singular humanness. Plastic surgery seeks to find this expression. Surgeons constantly mold flesh and bone, skin and structure, organs and systems to achieve the symmetry and functionality inherent within each person. And, because each person is a different canvas, each surgery is a unique process.
For the patient, their expectations can be realized through the vision and precise performance of the surgeon’s art. For the patient, a new face, a new body, or the correction of a defect can mean a new existence of natural beauty.