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Clements Hospital Art : A Prescription for Precision

by Gail Sachson 5 Jan 2015 11:25 AM

Guest blogger Gail Sachson finds the new hospital is full of healing art.


Mascarenhas, Winston - Pas de Deux

“Pas de Deux” by Winston Mascarenhas.

Guest Blogger Gail Sachson, MFA owns ASK ME ABOUT ART,offering lectures, tours and program planning.

When choosing a physician, we search for assuredness and technical proficiency. We look for an expert with a plan to help us get well. I suggest that the curatorial team at the new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital at UT Southwestern seems to have employed the same criteria when choosing art for the innovative hospital, which replaced St. Paul and opened its doors on December 5th, 2014. Works from talented locally based artists, as well as national and international artists, are represented. The selections applaud our home grown talent in art, as well as in medicine.

The art works  which embellish the glass walled public waiting areas and walkways are tied together by attention getting bright colors and geometric shapes. Circles and squares dominate. Although several works are majestic in their whiteness, the mostly  brightly colored works wake up the walls and emit a vitality to the vast spaces. A hospital admission officer confirmed that patients “stare at the geometric designs”. She  is convinced that “the organization and colors take the patients’ stress away.”

For the most part, the collection at Clements seems to be a prescription  to promote a sense of order, stillness and security. There are a few glass works, ceramics, computerized pieces, a 114″ long whimsical sculpture by Brooklyn artist Nathan Carter and several light box pieces. One or two of the selections were commissioned, such as a collage work by Lance Letscher, who shows locally at Conduit Gallery. Most  art works were selected from visits to galleries and studios by savvy scouts . with keen eyes and guidance by Jeffrey Grove, former curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Art and a member of the hospital’s Art Advisory Committee.   UT Southwestern friends and supporters Margaret Anne Cullum, Roger Horchow, Barbara Lemmon, Bonnie Pitman, Deedie Rose, Nancy Seay, Gay Solomon and Jeremy Strick were also on the advisory committee.

The focus on precision as a prescription for calmness in the chaotic world of hospitals and illness is evident in most of the chosen works. The sense of organization is evident in the perfect placement as well. It is difficult to discern which came first- the building design, the furniture arrangement or the niches  and nooks for the art. UT Southwestern Art Curator, Courtney Crothers, who oversees all the art in all the buildings on campus, somewhat agrees when I stress the geometry evident in many of the works. I point out the linear designs, the straight edges, the absence of accidents or abstract expressionistic experiments. She says,” Many of the artists take a scientific approach to making art. They seem to have a system.”

A system, the joy of process and the delight in deliberation is evident is Dallas artist Winston Lee Mascarenhas’ encaustic work, “Pas de Deux”.  Mascarenhas, a retired anesthesiologist, winner of the 2014 Hunting Prize, shows with the Craighead-Green Gallery. He and John Pomara, whose oil on aluminum panels, ” Off Key”, are installed on the second floor of the three story atrium, are both artists who exhibit controlled exuberance within grids, linear designs and a musical influence, as evidenced by unevenly distributed deep groves and erratically broken lines, similar to musical orchestration or perhaps the visual evidence of  sound and cardiac electrical activity. Pomara’s art is in the DMA collection, and he shows with the Barry Whistler Gallery.

For now, visitors can conjure up their own titles. Soon labels will provide titles, artist information and didactic text. Crothers spoke of a possible app for those who would like to learn more. Indeed, she has grand ideas of programs and partnerships promoting wellness along with art. I feel better already.