Finding beauty deeper than skin

Brett Prywitch

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Finding beauty deeper than skin

During the day at work, Dr. Brett Prywitch uses X-ray and other kinds of medical imagery to see what’s happening inside patients to determine the nature of their illness or injury.

At night at his home in Chesterfield, he uses recycled X-rays to create fascinating art, digitally manipulating images of the human body and its components with a Photoshop-like program called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). 

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MRIs of the brain become colorful tulips (see image at right). X-rays of the lower leg are transformed into a forest of trees. Ribs emerging from breastbones turn into fluttering butterflies. 

Prywitch, 53, a diagnostic radiologist, has always been artistic. 

“I had the idea during my residency 20 years ago that I could make art from these very beautiful, intricate, hidden images, but I really didn’t start until five or six years ago,” he said as we spoke by phone during his evening commute. He drives more than 70 miles each way to hospitals in Chester, Breese and Sparta, Illinois. 

Married and the father of two sons, Prywitch grew up in Olivette, attended Ladue Horton Watkins High School and graduated from medical school at the University of Missouri. He and his family are members of United Hebrew Congregation.

Nowadays, because most medical imagery is digital, it’s easy to manipulate scans to create shapes, texture and dimension, as well as to add color or original drawings to them, Prywitch says.  

Some of what he creates is haunting, some is whimsical, and often he uses one scan to make several different pieces that he prints on paper or canvas. He’s also toying with three-dimensional projects and video loops, explaining that “when you put an MRI in motion, it creates very interesting patterns.”

Prywitch has even tackled celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Groucho Marx (see image at left) and says Jay Leno is likely to be next. 

“With Groucho, his head was an MRI scan of a wrist, his nose was a CAT scan of the heart, his ears were from a kidney, and I drew his cigar with a digital pad,” he says with a chuckle. 

Today, Prywitch’s work is in private collections across the United States, including a Biotech company in San Francisco. He also recently gave a guest lecture at Mizzou’s School of Medicine, discussing radiology in art.  

For more information and to see Prywitch’s art, go to penumbraart.com.

Badge of honor

Not only is Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Community celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, but late last month it also marked another major milestone when Kyle Bastean, 13, was called to the Torah as the congregation’s first bar mitzvah. 

Shir Hadash Rabbi Lane Steinger explained that Kyle’s grandmother and late grandfather, Rita and Allen Harris, had brought Kyle and his older brother Ryan, 15, to Saturday morning services over the years and that Kyle had really connected with the intimate congregation, whose membership tends to skew a bit older.

“It was kind of like the congregation adopted him,” Rita Harris said. “He just flourished with all the attention. Now I think he thinks he’s president of the congregation.”

Tricia Bastean explained that she and her husband, Michael, left the decision of a bar mitzvah up to each of their sons.