“The most rewarding aspect of my career is the look on a patient’s face when they receive their first prosthesis. I love that I can give them a little bit of normalcy and help them feel more complete after everything they’ve gone through. Because of my education at KCAI, I’m able to create an ear or a nose that looks amazingly real.”
Natalie Aguilar, anaplastologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, never imagined she would have a career in creating prosthetics for people who have lost facial features to cancer or congenital defects. She planned to do special effects in the theater or movies. But when she saw a documentary about a gunshot victim who received a new nose, she was hooked.
She earned an M.F.A. in Sculpture from California College of the Arts and entered a two-year training program in anaplastology. One of only 50 or 60 people across the country specializing in the field of facial prosthetics, Aguilar is using her art to change lives.
She credits her ability to make incredibly realistic prosthetics to her time spent in the painting and sculpture studios at KCAI. She creates new noses or ears by sculpting the piece out of wax or clay and adding wrinkles, scars and texture. She uses the sculpture to make a mold. Silicone is poured into the mold and after it bakes she hand paints it.
“You have to have an artist’s background to see the colors and be able to match the skin tone correctly. It’s like painting a portrait on silicone,” she says.
Natalie advises KCAI students to explore as many disciplines as possible and to open their minds to all the places art can lead them.
“Most artists think their career will be in the studio or gallery, but you need to broaden your horizons and realize that artists are needed everywhere,” she says.