Dr. Gene Marsh is equal parts physician and painter

Dr. Gene Marsh's winning artwork from last year's AIA exhibit.

Dr. Gene Marsh’s winning artwork from last year’s AIA exhibit.

In college, Dr. Gene Marsh read “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” a biographical novel of the master artist Michelangelo. In the book, he discovered that Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists would dissect animals to learn their anatomy, and thus become better at drawing and painting their forms.

He thought this was a pretty good idea.

“I thought, well, I’ll give med school a try. And even if I don’t like it I’ll have had anatomy, at least,” said Dr. Marsh, a Halstead resident.

He went on to get his medical degree at the University of Kansas and became a surgeon. However, about a decade later, Dr. Marsh took a detour. He left surgery to earn a bachelor of fine arts degree at Wichita State University, and he took some master’s level courses as well.

You can see one of Dr. Marsh’s paintings in this year’s Art is Ageless calendar — a watercolor titled “Little Arkansas River.” He has entered the local competition at Newton Presbyterian Manor many times, but this was the first time one of his pieces won at the masterpiece level, across all Presbyterian Manor communities.

Dr. Marsh said he’s still trying to decide what to enter in this year’s Art is Ageless competition and exhibit. He’s also busy with a project commissioned by his own wife for their kitchen renovation: custom-painting Masonite panels for the pantry door that can be switched out as desired.

Art and science aren’t as different as you might think. Dr. Marsh said he saw parallels all the time in the operating room.

“If you think surgery is a rote procedure, you’re wrong,” he said. “You have to be flexible and deal with things you haven’t read about. I think the creativity part of surgery particularly lapped over into art.”

Even after getting his art degree, Dr. Marsh didn’t leave medicine behind. He switched to emergency medicine and practiced for many years at Halstead Hospital. About three years ago, he retired from Newton Medical Center.

Before he left, Dr. Marsh found one more way to merge his two pursuits. He made the anatomical illustrations that are now used in the hospital’s new electronic medical records.

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