Artist Interview - Judith Rayl
A big jump from physician to artist-photographer! Why did you make the switch?
In 2017, there was an event which triggered the seismic shift in my life, from physician to artist. I was walking in downtown Seattle on a wintry day and was suddenly drawn to the rain’s movement in the gutter. Streaming over the accumulated detritus was a perfect herringbone pattern in the water. I was overcome. I experienced deep awe at Nature’s transformative capabilities. I quickly captured a photograph. That was the moment that launched me as an artist.
You find "healing" in Nature and see a force for well-being in Art. Sounds a lot like medicine!
Yes. I am deeply committed to well-being, for myself, family, friends, community, and anyone open to being touched by art. My medium has changed, from medicine to photography, but empathy, consolation, and healing remain at the root of everything I do.
Did you ease into it or change everything at once?
I was fully launched on day one. It was a momentous transition, as if I were stepping out of one self and into another. My entire identity and social sphere had revolved around medicine and medical people for nearly 30 years. I took a lot of time working my way through this change. My husband bought a subscription to Headspace for us, and the meditation helped me to find focus and equanimity. I still meditate daily. I thrive on structure and took some time to build a framework around my artistic practice. Now I schedule photo days, image sorting days, framing days, or outreach days for myself.
You're in Seattle now, but you started "out east."
I was raised in the urban corridors of the east coast. Luckily. I was brought up to value not only STEM education but also the arts and the outdoors. I was given frequent access to the museums of NYC, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and also vacationed in a small cabin on the coast of Maine, so I was exposed to Art and Nature from an early age. In college at Cornell, I walked everywhere on the beautiful campus and enjoyed many peaceful hours at the Johnson Museum.
Originally, you intended to be an engineer, right?
I studied Operations Research and Industrial Engineering, and minored in Biology. I greatly enjoyed how my engineering studies focused on building better systems, and working efficiently without sacrificing quality. In my sophomore year, I realized that I preferred working with humans rather than industrial systems. I developed a new goal of building a medical world in which patient care quality, compassion, and connection were central. I had an inspiring mentor in college, a DVM/PhD, who suggested that I pursue the MD/PhD
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