Founder and Executive Director, Diane Brown discussed RxArt in a recent interview with Purple Fashion Magazine.
Purple : For those who don’t know what exactly is Rxart?
Diane :RxArt is a non-profit organization that transforms pediatric hospitals into more comforting and engaging spaces by introducing site-specific installations by contemporary artists. The therapeutic potential of visual art to stimulate healing is well known, and we provide children and their families with creative respite from the anxiety and the pain of illness, offering hope.
Purple: How did it come into being?
Diane:I started RxArt in response to a personal medical experience. I was having a CT-Scan and was extremely anxious - afraid of what the results might show. The room was very austere and there was nothing to take my mind off the test and the possible results. I felt panicky and wanted to get out of the room but that was impossible; the only escape for me was my imagination. As a spontaneous defense, lying on my back on the gurney, I visualized a painting on the ceiling of the room. I became completely immersed in the imagined painting and before I knew it the test was over. I decided that I wanted to help others who were in the same situation but might not have the ability to conjure an artwork to escape to. I began exploring the possibility of putting original artwork in the areas of hospitals where there was a great deal of stress.
Purple : Why is art an important part of recovery?
Diane:Creativity and imagination are agents of wellness and RxArt's projects capture the importance of humanizing medicine by embracing art as a vital part of patient care and by improving the quality of hospital environments. Anne Ridenour (1998) wrote in the Journal of the AMA, "Art helps children forget that they are ill while being in a strange place that otherwise might be frightening. Art connects children to delight and discovery and brings back some of the experiences of being a child, not just a sick child." The hospital community is one that constantly struggles with loss, fear, and anxiety. Experiencing visual art in a healthcare facility provides the 'mental vacation' that can be transformative in the healing process. We strongly believe that art transforms lives, and that in combination with first-rate medical care, hastens recovery. Studies have shown that patients who experienced visual arts in a healthcare facility had significantly reduced levels of depression, required less pain medication, and had shorter lengths of stay.
Purple : Can you tell us a personal story about how you have seen the project in action?
Diane :In one of RxArt's early installations, Polish artist Dominik Lejman used daylight videos of animals taken at the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium. When daylight video is projected on a wall, there is no visible edge to the image so the animals projected appeared to actually be in the space. We tested Lejman's work in the hospital lobby during the busiest time of day. Responses from the children were pure fascination and wonder. The first video we projected was of a herd of flamingos that appeared to be moving around in the waiting room. The children went up to the wall attempting to make the animals respond by petting and hitting the walls. When the flamingos finally took flight, all of the children screamed BOO - trying to take credit for scaring them away. A ten-year-old boy who was battling cancer asked me if I happened to be with the animals. When I said yes, he explained that he had to go to his radiation treatment, but it would not take long, and he hoped other animals might be there when he returned. Shortly after he left the tiger video came on. It was exciting because the tiger appears to walk directly toward the viewer and then lies down briefly so that only the tips of his ears are visible above the baseboard. I was eager for the young boy to return. Just as the big cat lay down I heard footsteps running down the hall and saw the boy with an optimistic smile on his face. I had hoped that during his radiation treatment the thought of getting back to the animals provided him with a healthy distraction. From where the boy stood in the distance, however, he could only see the white wall, and not the tiger's ears. His smile dropped until suddenly the tiger stood up and began walking toward him. I watched as the boy's eyes grew bigger and an enormous smile returned to his face. In that moment he didn't look like a sick child, but a child full of wonder and hope.
Purple : How do you find the artists you collaborate with?
Diane ;My entire adult life has been spent working in contemporary art, as a gallerist and a private curator. I knew many artists when I started RxArt and as our organization grows we continually meet new ones. We are introduced to younger artists by our current collaborators, by our supporters, and our board. Everyone on the RxArt team actively follows contemporary art and participates in the conversation to select the best and most appropriate artists for each project
Purple : Tell us a little about the products you sell?
Diane :In addition to our hospital projects, RxArt also publishes the RxArt Coloring Book every two years. Four volumes have been published to date, each featuring more than 50 original line drawings by contemporary artists. They are distributed free of charge to children in our partner hospitals and sold on our website and select retail outlets to benefit RxArt projects. The coloring book truly exemplifies our mission. A hospital visit is often a frightening experience for a child, and this book is intended to take their minds elsewhere, easing anxiety, sparking imagination and enhancing the healing process. It is also a great book for the collector. We have also produced three wonderful 200-piece puzzles. Our first puzzle featured Terry Richardson's iconic piece, The Clown. Subsequently we produced puzzles featuring a Dan Colen bubblegum work and a Yoyoi Kusama self portrait. This past holiday season RxArt partnered with Nordstrom to produce a series of RxArt products. Nate Lowman created ornaments, Andrew Kuo designed a tee shirt with an image of a grumpy cat that dreamt of candy canes but ended up with a lump of coal, Ryan McGinley produced a mug featuring a naughty lemur, Julia Chiang designed beautiful lollipops that were almost to pretty to eat, and Jose Parla designed a beautiful notebook. We also worked with Ann Craven and Will Cotton independently to produce wrapping paper. All of our products are available in the RxArt online store on our website and 100% of the proceeds benefit RxArt.
Purple : Do you have an new collaborations coming up?
Diane :We have many projects in the pipeline. Rob Pruitt, RxArt board member, friend, and brilliant artist, has transformed his iconic images of zebras and pandas, integrating orbs of vibrant color, into a dry erase wall for the pediatric patients at St. Mary's Hospital for Children in Bayside, NY. The image will cover the major wall of the Child Life Room, becoming a permanent and interactive art piece. Pruitt's dry erase wall will provide patients with a healthy distraction. a creative outlet, and inspire social interaction. In addition the dry erase wall has the potential to provide physical therapy benefits for patients with impaired fine motor skills. St. Mary's children are challenged by a broad spectrum of conditions, including chronic illness, complications of premature birth, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other neurological, respiratory and orthopedic disorders. We are currently working to complete two projects with artist Eli Sudbrack, of the artist collective Assume Vivid Astro Focus, in the cafeteria/all purpose room of The Special Children's Center in Lakewood, NJ and in the waiting room of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's family center, La Clinica del Barrio, in Harlem, NY. AVAF's exuberant colors and patterns expand the limits imposed by the walls, altering the entire environment and making the viewer an active participant, absorbing the positive energy that surrounds them. In collaboration with Urs Fischer, Sam Falls and Laura Owens, RxArt plans to produce original site-specific art for the ceilings of pediatric in-patient rooms in a highly respected Los Angeles hospital. Rather than staring at a blank ceiling, the images created by these generous and creative artists will stimulate the patient's imagination and provide healthy distractions.
Purple : How can people support Rxart?
Diane :RxArt's annual fundraiser, the RxArt PARTY, is always a terrific event - with great art, a super chic crowd that includes many of the participating artists, and wonderful food! This year the RxArt Party will honor KAWS, celebrated contemporary artist and good friend of RxArt. The party will be held on November 17th, 2014. Supporters may also access the RxArt website, rxart.net, to donate general operating funds, or to select a specific project to support. They can also mail in their tax-deductible donations directly to the RxArt office at 208 Forsyth St., NYC 10002.
Text Paula Goldstein Di Principe
Check out the link below to learn more about RxArt!
When artists curate works by other artists, it creates a dialogue between artistic sensibilities. Often we are unsure if the artists personally know (or knew) each other, if they were influenced by each other, or if their collaboration was the result of a stimulating first encounter. And we start to look for clues—the visual and thematic links that join the artists in their uneasy union. Two gallery shows up now, Some Artists’ Artists at Marian Goodman and A Machinery for Living curated by Walead Beshty at Friedrich Petzel, provoke these questions of aesthetic preference, lineage, and influence. Similar to MoMA’s Artist’s Choice series, most recently overseen by Trisha Donnelly, the shows present intriguing, frequently surprising, connections between the selectors and selectees, generating an unresolved tension between two artistic practices.
Installation view of Some Artists' Artists at Marian Goodman. Photo courtesy Marian Goodman and the author.
Marian Goodman’s exhibition includes 23 international artists from countries spanning Albania, Cuba, Holland, Portugal, Taiwan, and the US. The selecting artists, established figures like John Baldessari, Tony Cragg, Tacita Dean, Gabriel Orozco, Julie Mehretu, and others, were not restricted in their choice of artists, yielding a pool both young and old, known and emerging. Interestingly, the gallery does not reveal who has chosen whom in its press release nor in plain sight in the gallery itself (you must inquire at the front desk). By leaving its curators anonymous, the gallery squashes any direct associations between artists, leaving the work to speak on its own.
There were a few standout pieces. I loved Edi Hila’s series of paintings depicting landmarks from his home country of Albania—in particular, this frothy pink painting of the Parliament building. Almost like Gerhard Richter’s blurry photo-paintings, Hila’s images allude to his country’s shrouded history, and are simply beautifully-rendered paintings.
Edi Hila, Parlement, 2011. Photo courtesy Marian Goodman and the author.
In Jessica Rankin’s Dear Another, the artist placed cut-up words in poetic juxtapositions against a spongy monochromatic backdrop that was inspired by constellations, and that to me resembles cellular globs.
Jessica Rankin, Dear Another, 2014. Photo courtesy Marian Goodman and the author.
Abraham Cruzvillegas’ Self-Portrait sculptures are tributes to the traditions of his native Mexico, while also referring to other forms of regional construction that combine generic manufacturing with unique handicraft. Using gravity and weight, Cruzvillegas strikes a precarious balance that represents the gap between local and foreign cultures.
Foreground: Abraham Cruzvillegas, Tectonic Self Portrait Thinking of the Possible Disappearance of the Baja California Peninsula and Reading Anthonio Gramsci's "Gli Intellectuali e L'Organizzazione della Culturea", 2014. Four Edi Hila paintings in background. Photo courtesy Marian Goodman and the author.
Lastly, Thomas Schütte’s startling Glass Heads are comedic takes on the heroic busts of historical sculpture.
Thomas Schütte, Glaskopfs (Glass Heads), 2013. Photo courtesy Marian Goodman and the author.
In his show at Petzel, A Machinery for Living, Beshty, a London-born photographer and writer based in Los Angeles, set out with an enigmatic agenda. Beshty’s own work explores the fraught relationship between photographic images and political issues. Using the camera as a social tool, he has focused on the decrepitude of shopping malls, abandoned buildings, and airports, examining the ways in which fact and fiction intermingle at these controversial sites. And from the first moment you enter the gallery, you get the sense that Beshty’s exhibition leads the viewer on a carefully choreographed journey.
Atelier EB, Manet. Photo courtesy Petzel and the author.
Atelier EB’s elaborately costumed mannequins are situated in two galleries, imbuing the gallery with a mysterious human presence, no matter how “fake.” The installation was meticulously arranged from every angle. Strange human silhouettes are presented against the purity of Josiah McElheny’s ceramics, angular tables, and the repeated motif of xeroxed hands in works by Jay DeFeo and James Welling. Welling’s chaotic tangle of wire hangers and Rachel Harrison’s whirling assemblage make a marked contrast to the mechanical precision of images like Christopher Williams’ cross section of a camera, and the ordered bookshelves of Thomas Barrow’s black and white photographs.
Petzel installation views. Photo courtesy Petzel and the author.
Jay DeFeo, Untitled, 1979. Photo courtesy Petzel and the author.
Christopher Williams, Cutaway model Nikkor zoom lens..., 2008. Photo courtesy Petzel and the author.
My favorite works in the show were the delicate “jewelry” pieces by DeFeo. Her talisman-like pendants made of wood, metal, glass, and wire dangle in the center of white window boxes that allow for views of the adjacent galleries—again creating mini vignettes that emphasize the graphic interplay of form, shadow, and light in the gallery space.
Jay DeFeo, Untitled, c. 1953-55. Photo courtesy Petzel and the author.
Instead of producing a traditional press release, Beshty included four statements on everyday life. Referencing class struggle, revolution, uneasiness, subversion, spiritual emanation, and enclosed rooms, the quotes suggest that there is a political charge to Beshty’s curatorial premise. He seems to be advocating for social awareness and activation over apathy and complacency. Just how this conflict is manifested in the art of Beshty’s artists, though, is what compels us to dig deeper and to look closer at their work.
Some Artists’ Artists is on view at Marian Goodman through August 22, 2014.
A Machinery for Living is on view at Friedrich Petzel Gallery through August 8, 2014.
Last weekend, while everyone was flocking to Central Park or decamping to the nearest beach, I found myself happy to be inside, in midtown Manhattan, admiring Spencer Finch’s installation, A Certain Slant of Light, in the atrium of the Morgan Library. Finch (American, b. 1962) applied 365 colored film gels to the windows and to glass panels that dangle in the center of the four-story glass courtyard. As the natural light changes throughout the day, the Mondrian-esque grid--inspired by calendars and medieval prayer books--shifts and sparkles. Finch will change his palette in conjunction with each season, various (secular) holidays of his choosing, and the movement of the sun, creating deliberate and scientifically conceived alignments and overlaps of light and shadow.
Spencer Finch, A Certain Slant of Light, 2014. Photo courtesy of the author.
Conflating human and natural cycles, Finch’s abstract installations convey the subjective and often subconscious nature of our perceptions and memories. He recently created an enormous curtain wall featuring 26 different shades of glass for the facade of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, an homage to Monet's Impressionist landscape paintings.
Spencer Finch, Johns Hopkins Hospital Project, 2009. Photo courtesy of mikebloomberg.com
His work reminds me of synesthetic artists like Kandinsky or Scriabin, or Olafur Eliasson, who uses scientific configurations involving light and color to produce startling sensory encounters. I also thought of William Lamson’s beautiful Solarium (2012), a greenhouse with caramelized sugar panes, temporarily installed at Storm King a few years ago.
William Lamson, Solarium, 2012. Steel, glass, sugar, plants. Courtesy the artist and Pierogi Gallery.
But what I found so compelling about A Certain Slant of Light was not necessarily its dazzling and emotionally evocative visual quality, but rather how the work gives a subtle examination of the function and effect of filters: the aesthetic, cultural, religious, and psychological transparencies that shape our lives. The museum atrium provides an apt framework for this multi-faceted investigation of how we approach our daily interactions and how we internalize these experiences, highlighting what may be foregrounded, imagined, or lost in the process.
Spencer Finch, Painting Air, 2012. Photography by Erik Gould. Courtesy of Spencer Finch.
Installation at Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. More than 100 panels of suspended glass of varying reflectivity refract and distort the wall mural, which is an abstraction of Monet's garden at Giverny.
A Certain Slant of Light: Spencer Finch at the Morgan is up June 20, 2014 through January 11, 2015.
Special thanks to CodaWorx for featuring RxArt in their sixth issue of CODAmagazine, which is live and ready to be browsed! Healing Art showcases incredible design + art projects where teams create spaces of reflection, meditation, and healing. See projects from our very own “Jeff Koons at Advocate Children’s Hospital” to the “Vanished Berlin Wall.”
John Currin was born in 1962 in Boulder, Colorado and grew up in Connecticut, where he studied painting privately with a renowned traditionally trained artist from Odessa, Ukraine, Lev Meshberg. He is best known for satirical figurative paintings which deal with provocative sexual and social themes in a technically skillful manner. In his early career Currin set himself apart by painting controversial depictions of female subjects ranging from ebullient big-breasted girls to drab menopausal women. As the artist matures his increasingly complex depictions of the figure have continued to enchant, repel or more often create a peculiar combination of the two. He has been labeled variously as a mannerist, radical conservative, caricaturist, or simply prankster, but Currin continues to evade categorization.
His series of contentious and compelling paintings attest to his exploration and elaboration of the history of figurative art. His sources are as diverse as 1970s Playboy magazine advertisements, Old Master Portraits, and mid-twentieth century film. With such assorted inspiration he produced dubious yet beautifully rendered compositions that suggest a challenging and slippery new aesthetic rooted in the artifice and stylistic extravagance of High Mannerism.
Currin’s magnificent technical accomplishments that he achieves through a close emulation and study of the graphic rhythms, compositional devices, and polished surfaces of the sixteenth and seventeenth century European painting, combined with the artist’s edgy contemporary subject matter that is entirely his own, produces works of art that will forever rouse dynamic debate and discussion.
PORTRAIT OF THE WIFE AS A YOUNG ARTIST John Currin at work on a portrait of his wife, artist Rachel Feinstein, in his studio in New York City’s Flatiron District.. Courtesy of Vanity Fair.
2010, in conjunction with "John Currin: New Paintings" at Gagosian Gallery Madison Avenue
30 x 18 inches (76.2 x 45.7 cm)
Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
Oil on canvas
48 1/8 x 34 inches (117.2 x 86.4 cm)
© John Currin
Photo by Rob McKeever. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
John Currin. Moroccan girl. 2001. © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, RMN-GP / Georges Meguerditchian / John Currin. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Exciting things are in the works at RxArt. Yesterday, Diane had a successful visit at St. Mary’s Children Hospital in Bayside, New York. Everyone could not be more excited for Rob Pruitt’s upcoming interactive installation. Rob Pruitt was so inspired by the kids and the space, as were the staff and children for his presence and commitment to the hospital. We are looking forward to the project’scompletion, and working with both Rob and St. Mary’s Children Hospital for future projects.
Lee Bul’s installation Via Negativa II, at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York transports viewers into an alternate dimension. The visually complex, three-dimensional labyrinth adorned with mirrors immediately draws viewers in only to quickly lead them astray. Lost in a maze of mirrors, the viewer is left looking at fragments of oneself, and leaving them to question their existence in relation to infinite space and time. Experiencing the central chamber lined with illuminated mirrors reminiscent of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room is an overwhelming intense and an excitedly distorting experience.
Her installation is fantastically confusing and a stand out piece amongst the exhibition. Bul, a native of South Korea is known for her exploration of idealized conceptions of the human form embedded in architecture, and the perceptual and cognitive boundaries of consciousness. This powerful installation seeks to define the body and minds limits in striving to reach perfection, and is breath of fresh air in the realm of contemporary art. A must see!
Click above to experience Lee Bul's exhibition at Lehmann Maupin
( Images courtesy of Lehmann Maupin and Video courtesy of The Creators Project)
My first real contact with the arts was in my high school studio art program. I didn’t know anything about art history, but I knew that my favorite part of the week was walking into our two-floor studio with its giant windows, creaky easels, and brushes caked with paint. The studio was a safe haven that gave us a sense of community and belonging. For two hours, we didn’t have to think of anything except the canvas in front of us--how to get that perspective right, how to change a moving shadow, or how to mix the right shade of blue. Every day in the studio challenged me to think differently, and to question the way I saw the world around me.
During my last year in the program, each student was assigned an artist to research and present to the group. I was given Cindy Sherman. That night, I sat down with a giant monograph and began to flip through it. I was completely dumbfounded and exhilarated at the same time. I had never seen anything like it! Though I didn’t fully understand them at the time, Sherman's startling images awakened me to art’s unique ability to provoke and inspire. I ditched my plan to become a neuroscientist, and went on to study art history at NYU and Hunter College. And after working in museums for six years, I decided to return to school and begin my PhD in modern and contemporary art, with a focus on architecture and public spaces.
My initial passion for the arts, and for arts education, has not faded, nor has my belief in art’s essential role as a revitalizing force in people’s lives. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work for RxArt this summer, and to help fulfill its mission of touching and brightening as many lives as possible!
Kara Walker's installation at Domino Sugar Factory, fully titled “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant,” will activate all your senses and take your breath away. Experiencing the melting sugar sculptures in this massive, historic space is moving, poignant, and disturbingly delicious.
Her site-specific work takes over the factory, not only in scale, but in concept as well. Walker beautifully communicates a political, historically significant work that is still relevant to our current time and culture.
(Photos taken from NY Daily News, by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
My name is Niki Gaines and I am from Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Ever since I was young, I have been completely immersed in the world of art, travel, and community service. I come from an artistic family and have followed in their footsteps through my passion for photography. With this interest in photography came a desire to expose myself to art across cultures and a variety of experiences. As I traveled throughout the United States and abroad, it became evident that I wanted to speak on social justice issues through my camera lens. Since a young age I dreamed of working at National Geographic as a photojournalist. It was not until college where I was exposed to a new world of experimental photography and participatory photography, which further fueled this desire. Studying community justice and policy studies alongside photography enhanced my understanding of the most effective ways for people to use art to create the change they wish to see in their own lives. I am also a Japanese studies minor and recently returned home from a semester abroad in Tokyo, where I immersed myself in Japanese culture and language. I am full of energy and thrive on new experiences, which is why I am so excited about this new experience with RxArt.
RxArt seemed like a fantastic opportunity as it allowed me to further understand the power of art to heal, and as a tool to reform the current health system. I look forward to being part of such an incredible and motivating organization, and changing the existing sterile nature of hospitals.
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