Nevermind the Buttocks

Dolores TropianoApril 1, 2016
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Glutetus Museus

Sue Gillette created a literal butt load of art for Dr. Daniel Meline’s offices. In fact, she made his entire collection, finishing the trunk-load of classy-assy artworks in just four weeks. 

While some artists have a signature style, Gillette’s work is so diverse people think a dozen different artists had their hand in the Meline project. She created prints, paintings, drawings and mixed media. There are abstracts and landscapes, contemporary and traditional art. Some are subtle, others are like colorful screams. (And many go beyond the butt theme.)

Gillette, 56, was a perfect match for Meline. Both share a birthday, a similar sense of humor and a love for the popular Seinfeld TV series. (Especially the episode where Kramer mistakenly receives a vanity license plate that reads “Ass man.”) 

“Dr. Meline described what he liked and envisioned, and I went to work,” recalls the prolific commercial artist and Rio Verde, Ariz. resident.

Gillette grew up in Woodstock, New York, and received her master’s degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. The variety of her work is a testament to her talent. It also serves her antsy spirit. To keep things interesting during high productivity periods, Gillette plants a mysterious message in some of her pieces. 

Months after the mixed media work was hung, Meline discovered his hidden message. It was the end of a long day of what he describes as “making doughnuts,” and he was pooped. He turned out the lights and there the words “Ass man” were, sprawled across a canvas with glow-in-the-dark stars.

Naturally, the colonoscopy pro cracked

Daniel Meline completed his residency and fellowship at Harvard Medical School in 1992, choosing a career in gastroenterology. 40,000 colonoscopies later, he has cultivated a comedic touch to go with his intestinal expertise. It comes out in the quips he routinely fires off, stand-up-comedy-style.

Like acid reflux, they can sometimes be painful.“I have a sense of humor about what I do,”  says the Scottsdale doctor, who specializes in digestive system disorders. “Every day I have people farting in my face for the first five hours of my day.”

Or, “When my patients say, ‘But doctor,’  I say ‘yes.’ ”

Meline’s cheekiness is evident in some of the art adorning his gallery-like office space and adjacent Scottsdale Endoscopy Center. Patients who wake up from a procedure and wander into the bathroom may wonder whether the pre-op drugs have worn off. The screening is behind them, but a large, heavily varnished, amber acrylic painting of a beautiful butt stares back at them from the wall. It is one of more than 50 in the combined 7,469-square-foot space – part of the doc’s effort to put patients at ease with some of the less-than-pleasant procedures. 

In the recovery room hangs an acrylic triptych of sunbathers on a beach, beautiful bottom sides up. And in the front office sits a mind-boggling, mixed media piece portraying the internal organs of a man and a woman that may be hard to digest. The piece is constructed from jigsaw-cut wooden panels. Blinged-out bodies are covered with caps, toy gas stations, a syringe, grapes and anything artist Sue Gillette could find to glue on. She calls it hideous, but patients can’t pass without pausing to make a comment. “It helps them forget they are in a doctor’s office,” says Lisa Meline, office manager for her husband.

Lisa Meline worked with late interior designer Martin Kuban on the space. Kuban was considered a commercial and residential star in Scottsdale and Phoenix decorating circles. He was battling a chronic illness and had spent hours in doctors’ offices. He knew what weary and wary patients wanted in a waiting room. “He suggested couches, pillows and lamps,” Lisa says. “He had a different perspective of being a patient.”

In the lobby, small, white papers dangle from an overhead lamp. Each sheet has a love letter written in a different language – another part of the couple’s prescription for putting people in a playful if not peaceful mental place. The art alters the antiseptic feel found in many medical offices. “Usually doctors’ offices are very austere,” says Daniel Meline, 55, a graduate of Tufts University and Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “And if they do have art it is cheesy. We did this to set a tone and put people at ease.”

The art works on many levels. It is metaphoric, moving and, for medical purposes, quite healing. “Our patients get undressed, have a cocktail and get comfortable,” Meline says. “It is a foreshadowing of what’s coming.”