What the Swamp Means to Me: Healing Arts at MBPCC Baton Rouge

“If we can make those who come here say ‘What in the world is that?’ in those nanoseconds, we’ve been successful in introducing beauty,”
— Linda Lee, administrator for the MBP cancer center.
At the opening of the MBPCC in Baton Rouge.  

At the opening of the MBPCC in Baton Rouge.  

"What the swamp means to me", collection of MBPCC Baton Rouge

"What the swamp means to me", collection of MBPCC Baton Rouge

Many times in this practice of art making, I run into moments where I feel like I'm having a conversation with my subject, and the response becomes predictable. It's true that I talk to things like dragonflies, plants birds, and that I often call my dog "Son". The response is the usual. And for people I get a pattern of common responses.

The piece I created for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center started as a conversation between myself and one of my dealers. She asked if it was possible to make something that felt like my wall sculpture but was more "public friendly". I smiled. My prior wall sculptures use hand-cut and painted aluminum and a variety of collage materials, which make these works delicate and with sharp points. I resounded with a "yes" and got to work with the translation. I do enjoy a challenge.

When I begin a work, I think about how I want the work to feel. I begin with a fluid outline, a series of messy gestures which then are edited into their forms. After the work was completed from a formal standpoint (from the dimensional guidelines I was given), I then focused on painting the work.  

I don't do in-depth planning when I create. Instead, I know the direction to take, and I allow the work to talk back, to begin a conversation much like those I'd have with a dragonfly. This particular piece came at a time when I was into the electric colors of the sky, and the way these colors seemed unreal. So I took to painting a variety of skies, capturing the soft gesture of clouds, grasses dancing below, the reflection of the sky on water. I painted at different times a day to create balance and a spectrum of place. I allowed the paint to be watery and emotional. I added deeper line work back in to give the watery paintings some strength, and finished the edges first in liquid silver (thinking of reflection on water) and later in a deeper black to bring attention to the electric colors. 

What I didn't know was that the work was chosen for the reception area of the radiation unit. My romantic portrayal and homage to the sun's natural light had been put in a place where it was in tandem with healing radiation.

Linda and me in front of my work. This woman gives one of the best hugs I've ever had. She's pretty fabulous.  

Linda and me in front of my work. This woman gives one of the best hugs I've ever had. She's pretty fabulous.  

Linda Lee, the administrator of MBPCC told me that the receptionist at the radiation unit had received so much curious feedback from my work that she began a list of what visitors were seeing when they saw my work.

A list kept by the radiation unit receptionist of what some patients saw when they looked at my work.  

A list kept by the radiation unit receptionist of what some patients saw when they looked at my work.  

I could never have predicted this response. It brought tears to my eyes. Linda gave me a hug, but really I had been given the greatest gift- to know that I had made an impact and a time where faith and signs of transformation were truly needed.  

I'd like to thank Ann Connelly Fine Art for their visionary work, Linda Lee, and the selection committee of MBPCC-OLOL, the beautiful group of people who work at the center, and all the patients who shared their thoughts with me. My heart is yours. Thank you.

 

Learn more about MPBCC-OLOL:

http://www.inregister.com/features/harmony-healing-art-mbp-olol-cancer-center