Liturgical stained glass artists find parallel in healthcare artwork
Though they work in ancient techniques of stained glass fabrication-employing mouth-blown glass, acid etching with a beeswax/sheep tallow resist, silver staining, and paint pigments mixed by hand and fired into the glass-their compositions and use of form, color, and design are truly modern and dynamic. There is a rewarding mixture of Old World tradition and contemporary design in a Neumann Studios window.
Through their experience with liturgical stained glass, Neumann and King understood the importance of setting a tone, creating an ambiance, and generally enveloping the viewer in a peaceful glow of introspection. It is true that our modern existence, lit brightly by electricity, has enabled us to forget the magic and importance of light. In a world where technology is quickly obsolete, stained glass whispers of something ancient, timeless, and mysterious. It beckons as a respite from the buzz of our chaotic world. To sit and contemplate a design that is both dynamic and peaceful allows us to appreciate the beauty of a moment; this interlude is a luxury.
In our daily lives, this type of experience is often left unattended; many people no longer go to churches, synagogues, or places of worship where stained glass is prevalent, and so they miss the opportunity to experience this art form. Neumann and King believe stained glass should be included in more environments and realize that the liturgical mission is parallel to the purpose of healthcare artwork. The use of bold iconography, an uplifting theme, elements of nature, and setting a tone of hopefulness are all important aspects in healthcare art.
In 2009, Neumann and King were contacted by Abe Visser of Avcor Planning Associates. Visser, a purchasing expert for healthcare initiatives, was working with Cheshire Medical Center-Dartmouth Hitchcock (CMC-DH) on an art glass feature for its new chapel/meditation room. Though Visser manages purchases ranging from surgical suites to furnishings, he also has a keen interest in elevating patient, visitor, and staff experiences through art and artistic enhancements. He feels the inclusion of art is a significant aspect of improved patient care and facility performance.
The art committee for this project was a subcommittee of the pastoral ministries association. Visser introduced Neumann and King to the committee made up of the Reverend Nancy Wood; Paul Pezone, senior vice president of facilities; Dr. Arthur Cohen; and the Reverend John Reilly. In many commission situations, a client has no preconceived concept about the content of a window; but in this case, the CMC-DH committee had already determined that a triptych of windows depicting the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth would be ideal. They wanted the windows to include nondenominational icons and universal symbols with a spiritual quality. Their vision for the artwork was clear: In addition to drawing people into the chapel, the committee sought an artwork to be inclusive of faith, nature, and the power of hope. These themes insured the chapel and window would serve as a welcoming meditation room to any visitor, staff member, physician, or patient at CMC-DH.
As with all their commissions, Neumann and King paid particular attention in discovering the clients' hope for the artwork and translating these sentiments into a cohesive stained glass element. Similar to detectives, they worked with subtle clues to arrive at a grand solution. The investigatory and problem-solving process is highly enjoyable to both Neumann and King; each new client and architectural setting is a unique opportunity to breathe life into an environment. The CMC-DH opportunity allowed for a broader creative spectrum than the liturgical projects they had previously developed.
Designing the three windows into a cohesive triptych was a significant challenge. There were three windows and four elements to depict so it was necessary to have a flow of elements between the windows rather than to define each element in a separate window. The tree and its roots became the central anchor for the triptych, allowing the viewer to experience a grounded quality (in the root structure) and soaring quality (in the limbs). Flanking the tree on the right is a graceful koi, swimming effortlessly in fluid, crystal waters; to the left of the tree, doves and a stag grace a peaceful meadow. Throughout the composition, there is an underlying theme of connectedness that can be seen in the forms, the motion, and the colors. Use of sacred geometry to delineate the space-arches upon arches, circles within circles-all combine to create a dynamic swirl of flora, fauna, earth, and air. Through many conversations, levels of design, and exceptional composition and artistry, the final window was realized in March 2010.
The Cheshire Medical Center-Dartmouth Hitchcock commission was an elevated collaboration for Neumann and King. It provided a departure from the traditional liturgical commissions; it allowed a platform for a creative collaboration where each member brought expertise and passion to the project. The consultants were strong advocates with a vision to find the optimal artist to realize a powerful feature for the chapel. The committee was insightful and proactive throughout the process, bringing clear themes and a sense of purpose to the work. The artists, having a breadth of technical experience and exceptional design skills, developed imagery to merge seamlessly with the glass and the architectural parameters of the chapel. The confluence of collaboration between the hospital, the consultants, and the artists culminated in a timeless, uplifting window that is a vehicle for spirit; a nurturing, contemplative experience; and a platform for hope. This chapel and meditation room, enhanced by the Neumann Studios window, is a gift that will enrich the CMC-DH experience for years to come.
Neumann Studios is currently designing significant outdoor art features for both Omega Optical and Biologic Healthcare Initiatives. Neumann and King are enthusiastic to blend their knowledge with new technology to realize monumental projects for these facilities and other healthcare initiatives. HCD
For further information, please visit www.NeumannStudios.com or contact Neumann Studios' agent, Stacey Lindell of the Lindell Artist Agency, at www.LindellArtistAgency.com. Healthcare Design 2011 April;11(4):54-55