Art of Medicine
Jul 2021

Ethics of Being Close

Megan Ashley MacKenzie
AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(7):E580-581. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2021.580.


This acrylic painting considers intimacy and its ethical demands during our personal and professional encounters with one another, drawing on Pablo Picasso’s 1907 Head of the Medical Student.


Figure. Unwavering Silence



Acrylic on canvas.


Pablo Picasso’s 1907 Head of the Medical Student depicts a figure with one eye open and one eye closed. Inspired by that abstract exploration of interpersonal relationships, this painting uses 2 color-blocked facial profiles to convey an up-close moment of intensity. Color blocking is a technique that allows for the juxtaposition of color in order to elicit divergent emotional responses. The figures’ noses overlap, their lips almost collide, and a single dark tear drops from an eye of the figure at right, suggesting, perhaps, that intimacy in personal or professional encounters demands our acceptance that both pleasures and threats, both revelations and confrontations, are possible when we are this close.


AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(7):E580-581.



Conflict of Interest Disclosure

The author(s) had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.