Portrait of Melujean, nurse at St. Mary's Hospital Paddington
by Lisa Takahashi
Linocut printer & painter, Bristol, UK
Oil on canvas panel, 12 x 16 in.
"This painting came about as a result of artist Tom Croft's #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative. I expressed interest in the project relatively early on and was paired up with Melujean Ballesteros, who had tragically passed away, having contracted Covid-19 four days previously. I had the privilege of speaking with a close friend and colleague of MJ's (as she was known), who told me all about her - a kind, warm lady who made you instantly feel like part of a family...the most professional and organized nurse who was the best at putting in cannulas, and famed for her incredible cheesecakes. The funeral procession passed by St Mary's Hospital on Monday - where she worked and where she died. I was sent a video and saw all her friends standing outside the hospital as she was driven past, my portrait being held by the hospital entrance.
Although I never knew MJ the process of painting this portrait made me feel like I could take a glimpse into her world, and her passing is a great tragedy and one that has brought grief to all who had the privilege of knowing her - for, by all accounts, she brought kindness and warmth to everyone she met.
Painting her portrait was a huge honor for me. If it helps people to remember those who have risked and sacrificed so much during this pandemic, then my work is done. It is by far the most important painting I have ever made."