After six years of chronic illness and seeing nearly thirty doctors, Chris Houltberg underwent a total pancreatectomy with auto islet transplant: an incredibly complex surgery where the pancreas is removed and processed to extract cells that are then placed in the liver. This experience prompted Chris, an artist and designer, to start the project Extensive Alterations to re-imagine the patterns and rhythms of living with chronic illness and recovery from an organ transplant. He uses medicine bottles, feeding tubes, and images of removed organs to design intricate collages and installations that explore elements such as pain, empathy, and suffering that he experienced during his illness and treatment.
"After six years of chronic illness and seeing nearly thirty doctors, I was the 648th person to undergo a Total Pancreatectomy with Auto Islet Transplant at the University of Minnesota. TPAIT (pioneered at the U of M) is an incredibly complex and innovative surgery where the pancreas is removed and processed to extract Islet cells that are then placed in the liver.
When ill, one experiences the world in smaller increments of time that repeat. And repeat. During the many hospital stays, I experienced this collapse of time. Seconds turned into hours when getting a feeding tube installed through the nose into the jejunum. Days turned into weeks, defined by scheduled blood draws, vital sign checks, medications or even worse the waiting for test results. During this time, I found patterns on virtually all surfaces in the medical environment: hospital gowns, flooring, upholstery in waiting rooms, paper cups and even sterilizing equipment. They suspend one’s sense of time, not knowing where they begin and where they end.
Through sequence and repetition, motifs that were intended to casually distract me, drifted ever so slightly to create a new vernacular. This body of work is a collection and examination of the physical and psychological patterns of this experience." — Chris Houltberg
In this unique event, Chris will meet the doctors who treated him for a public conversation about the intersections of aesthetics and medicine as well as the human connection between doctor and patient. With Dr. Janine Pingel (Internist), Dr. Greg Beilman (Surgeon) and Dr. Melena Bellin (Endocrinologist). The panel discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Jon Hallberg. It will be accompanied by an in-person pop-up exhibition of the project at the Weisman Art Museum.
Visit a pop-up exhibit connected to this event which will be on view at WAM in the Riverview Gallery from April 6 – 10, 2022. Chat with the artist, Chris Houltberg, during "office hours" on Saturday, April 9 from 2 – 5 p.m.
Christopher Houltberg is a Minneapolis-based artist, designer and educator. Born in Salina, Kansas, Houltberg went to the West Coast for undergraduate studies and the East Coast for graduate school. His creative practice includes making, designing and teaching aesthetics and sits at the intersection of design and fine art. Houltberg’s artwork has been exhibited both locally and nationally and recipient of a Jerome Fellowship (2012) and a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant (2020). He currently is an Associate Professor of Art & Design and co-founder of Design & Agency at Augsburg University.
Dr. Jon Hallberg is an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He's also the founding medical director of the award-winning light- and art-filled M Physicians Mill City Clinic in Minneapolis. Dr. Hallberg is also the creative director of the Center for the Art of Medicine, and in 2021 he won a regional Emmy for creating the Twin Cities Public Television program, "Hippocrates Cafe: Reflections on the Pandemic," a show that has been broadcast in 25 states.
Dr. Greg Beilman, a native of Kansas, came to MN in the early 90s. His professional career has been almost entirely at the University of Minnesota, where he practices as a surgeon, intensivist, and hospital administrator. He is a professor at the University, where he has taught multiple medical students, graduate students and residents and fellows in surgery and research. He is retired from the US Army Reserves after serving in multiple deployments overseas. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Desiree and is the proud father of two young adults.
Dr. Melena Bellin is a physician-scientist and tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, and the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on cell therapy for patients with type 1 diabetes and surgical diabetes. She has been an innovator in the field of total pancreatectomy with islet autotransplantation (TPIAT), including leading 4 randomized clinical trials of novel therapies to improve islet engraftment after TPIAT, defining long-term outcomes after TPIAT, and developing TPIAT as an important therapy for children with hereditary pancreatitis. She has been an Investigator in multiple clinical trials of alloislet transplantation for type 1 diabetes, including the Clinical Islet Transplant Consortium studies, and in novel phase I/II studies of stem cell-derived islet products. She serves on the Executive Committee for the Clinical Islet Transplant Registry (CITR). She has over 140 peer-reviewed publications in the field and five ongoing studies funded by NIH.
Dr. Janine Pingel is an internal medicine and pediatric trained physician, who joined the Mill City Clinic in 2009. She graduated medical school from the University of MO-Columbia in 1994, then completed residency at the University of MN. Dr. Pingle spent the first 10 years of her practice, mentoring medical students and resident physicians. Her passion is primary care, which, at its core, fosters working relationships with my patients and their families. She enjoys mixed media art, cooking, gardening, and snowy Minnesota.
Image credit: Christopher Houltberg