UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on Campus Life
UAB Physician Pulls His Own Strings
By Caperton Gillett
Click on the "play" button above to hear a clip of "From the Forest a Child" from Kirk Withrow's Lullaby CD. To hear more samples from Withrow's cigar-box guitars, click here.
UAB head and neck surgeon Kirk Withrow, M.D., doesn’t stop operating when he gets home from work. His patients are a little smaller, however—and possibly more aromatic. Withrow finds his muse in cigar boxes of all sizes and shapes, which he turns into guitars that he gives away and plays himself.
UAB Magazine: How did you get interested in making cigar-box guitars?
Withrow: It was actually one of my patients who got me started. I began playing the banjo when I was 21, but during my residency I didn’t play that much. While I was on call one night—the funny thing is I had tried really hard to switch with someone else that night—a patient came in who was a cabinetmaker. He stuck around for three or four days, and over that time we talked about music. When he mentioned the idea of a cigar box guitar, I had no idea what he was talking about. But when he came back to see us at the clinic, he brought me one. I started making them and playing them, and that’s really all I play now.
Where do you get the boxes?
Mostly from cigar stores. At one store the lady actually knew which boxes would probably work well and would save them for me. The boxes are always empty when I get them. Come to think of it, I don’t actually think I have ever really smoked a cigar. (Story continues below the video)
By Charles Buchanan
Walt Creel with one of his pieces (inset: a detail from the work demonstrates the precise pattern of bullet holes that goes into the finished product).
Walt Creel is a revolutionary artist—or perhaps an artistic revolutionary. Instead of relying on paint or ink, he uses firearms to create images. His dot-matrix designs, composed of bullet holes in six-foot panels of painted metal, have gone viral on the Internet and attracted attention from Chinese and European media and prestigious American art journals. At UAB, however, the Web wonder is better known as an information-technology specialist for audio and video support. Recently Creel spoke about his unique art and the worldwide acclaim it has received.
UAB Magazine: What inspired you to use guns?
Creel: Being from Alabama, I was familiar with guns and wanted to incorporate them into art, but I did not want to photograph them, paint them, or otherwise use the gun itself as an image. I took a canvas into the woods and shot at it from a multitude of angles; things really clicked when I got right up on the canvas and shot in a single-file line. Then I realized I could use the gun solely as a tool to create my work.
Fighting AIDS in the Lab and on the Dance FloorBy Caperton Gillett
AIDS researcher Anne Bet exhibits a passion for her work in a variety of ways.
Anne Bet wears her heart under her sleeve. Hidden beneath her white lab coat are two permanently inked symbols of her life’s work: The one that looks like a tribal sun is actually the HIV virion; the other—which resembles a child’s jack—is adenovirus, the cause of the common cold and a common delivery vehicle for experimental AIDS vaccines. “I heard stories the entire time I was getting the tattoos done,” says Bet, a graduate student in the UAB Department of Microbiology. “People were saying, ‘She’s in there giving her HIV!’”
Bet has given the two molecules a place of honor on her arm as a reminder of her beginning in virology and the ongoing search for an effective HIV vaccine. In the lab of Paul Goepfert, M.D., director of UAB’s Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic, Bet analyzes patients’ immune response to HIV vaccines. “HIV is such a tiny little thing,” she says, “and yet it causes such tremendous damage. The idea that something so small could be so powerful is interesting.”
Renewing the Library in the Internet Era
By Charles Buchanan
In the age of Google and Wikipedia, libraries might seem a little old school. How can a building full of books stack up against the wealth of information that resides just a point and click away?
But T. Scott Plutchak doesn’t believe the library is an endangered species. In fact, “this is the best time to be a librarian in 500 years,” says the director of UAB’s Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences. “Increasingly, our role is to help people navigate the information space quickly and efficiently,” and the digital world brings new opportunities to “connect people with the recorded information they need to solve problems, improve their lives, or be entertained.”
Here, Plutchak and Jerry Stephens, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Mervyn Sterne Library, describe five key ways in which the digital revolution has made libraries more accessible, personal, and relevant than ever