Guest Blogger Gail Sachson, owns Ask Me About Art, an art education service offering tours and programs. She co-founded Inspire Arts Dallas to help fund Dallas Public Art projects, launching with “Keep Pegasus Flying” to restore the beloved Pegasus on the roof of the downtown Magnolia Hotel.
There probably should be a warning when entering the new UT Southwestern Medical Center outpatient clinic, West Campus Building #3 at 2001 Inwood Road. It would read; “BEWARE: your heart may beat faster upon entering this building because of the ART.”
There is no need to rush to Cardiology on the fifth floor. Instead, enter and enjoy the feeling of being alive, feeling your heartbeat because of your body’s reaction to art. All nine floors, which offer care for the body, also offer care for the soul through art, which has been shown to slow too fast a pulse, chase away the blues and help healing.
UT Southwestern Art Curator, Courtney Crothers, was charged with the task of selecting and placing that art so that it also related to the cutting edge, technologically advanced medicine practiced within the building. She did all that and kept within the budget of 1% of the total building project, with some saved for conservation and maintenance.
She did that by buying locally. Crothers tapped the talent represented by our most credible contemporary galleries, such as Holly Johnson, Cris Worley, Barry Whistler, Erin Cluley, Liliana Bloch, RO2, Conduit, Galleri Urbane and Valley House. She selected eighty-five works, including eleven commissions, mostly abstractions to encourage patients and staff to relate to the work personally. She chose contemporary art because the focus of the Medical Center is on the now and the future.
Crothers is our best cheerleader for home-grown, home-shown talent. Gallerist Liliana Bloch says, ” Her curatorial choices demystify the notion that Texas is not at the forefront of modern and contemporary artistic contributions.” Ree Willaford, of Galleri Urbane says, ” It has been a great boost to the Dallas galleries and artists we represent,”
Following a loose theme of tech-enhanced art with a related health message, and with the consent of a Curatorial committee and UT Southwestern President Dr. Podolsky’s blessing, Crothers selected works of wood, paper, paint, neon, wool and aluminum. She suggested color scheme, size and placement for those commissioned. Each work has a label with information about the piece, which encourages one to linger longer.
Join me on a quick tour:
Welcoming us in the lobby is the three-piece commissioned wall sculpture of seemingly unbendable wood by Ryan Goolsby, represented by Liliana Bloch. The wood is woven into three designs and painted inside. The piece seems kinetic. It seems to move with you. Perfect for the lobby, it is a contemplative work, as well as one which pleases the eye. Its precision and desire for perfection echoes the medical profession.
Nearby, the beautiful colorful meditative work of Robert Sagerman, represented by Cris Worley, demands close examination. Sagerman counts the pallet knife strokes as he paints and thus titles the work. This piece is “13,670.” The meditative counting, he finds, relaxes him and increases his well being. A good fit for anxious patients.
On the floors of the state-of-the-art Simulation Center, where medical students practice examinations and confer with colleagues, Crothers carefully chose works which encourage empathy and understanding from a patient’s viewpoint.
Dallas artist Scott Barber, who passed away in 2005, and whose estate is now represented by Barry Whistler, is represented with a colorful, almost lyrical painting on aluminum. Drawn closer because of the colors and dancing shapes, one is surprised to learn the subject matter is the artist’s own cancer cells. There is beauty in disease. On the next wall is the mesmerizing, meditative work of deceased Dallas artist John Wilcox, also represented by Barry Whistler. His work depicts his bedspread during his final illness. Both works are beautiful, but at the same time, they remind us and the students of the frailty of life, and that art is evidence of living.
San Francisco colorist, Leah Rosenberg, who shows with Galleri Urbane, continues the introspective study of living, but instead of looking within, she looks without, at the natural environment. “100 Days of Color (Chromaha),” was created during an Artist Residency in Omaha. Rosenberg chose a different color from the world around her every day for one hundred days and painted 100 11″ x 8″ birch panels with a new latex color every day, covering the day before’s color. The panels grew richer and thicker, until day one-hundred, when the sides were dripping with rainbows of droplets. Crothers chose the sunny third-floor study area for its placement. A vast wall was crying out for a “WOW” work with a narrative of growth, perseverance and daily duties. A medical student’s mantra.
A little glitter is saved for the ninth floor Doctors’ Conference Center. Like Rosenberg’s work, Melinda Laszczynski, represented also by Galleri Urbane, created the multi-media paper piece, “If Your Body Wants to Feel Small, Climb a Mountain,” series also during a residency program. The small exquisite abstract collages can be seen as a daily diary, easily transported home and yet powerful in the promise of new adventures, new discoveries and most importantly filled with the fun of art making, reminding Doctors that making medicine can be fun as well.