Wednesday, February 25, 2004

"The Art of Healing: The Wishard Art Collection" - Indiana Historical Society - Feb. 25, 2004 - 4 1/2 stars


Having once adorned the walls of Wishard Memorial Hospital, these works by prominent Indiana artists at the turn of the cerrtury are a who's who treasure trove. Outstanding examples by TC. Steele, William Forsyth, Wayman Adams, John Ottis Adams and William Edouard Scott were created in an ingenious public art project - to decorate the then new hospital wings (around 1914) for the benefit of uplifting patients' spirits. Forsyth's thoughts on this project are included in the exhibition: "Perhaps the best work ever done by most of these artists is to be found on these walls; and it is no exaggeration to say that it is a monument to their accomplishments." Pieces hang on the first floor in the Lacy Gallery and in the fourth floor hall of the IHS. Three season-themed, 60-inch-by-111-inch paintings by Steele of the Brown County countryside have an expressionistic grace and grandeur though two of the three, "Autumn" and "Spring," are blocked by column obstacles in the narrow space, preventing a proper view of the works. Steele's signature has been chopped to make way for framing. "Whitewater at Brookville," an atypical landscape by Adams, is clouded behind an ancient varnish and nicotine film like so many pieces on display from the hospital. Conservation is required. A test cleaning in a corner revealed a lush light blue true color that had turned green from the pollution. The sale of exhibition mementos from the IHS gift shop will generate funds for the conservation needs of so many of these historical works. Instead of reinventing this city's history, perhaps this 90-year-old public art effort can serve as an example to the powers that be that art in public spaces is age-old and a win-win situation. To make a contribution to the Wishard Memorial Foundation visit www.wishardfoundation.com. Through May 23, 2004; 317-232-1882. -Mary Lee Pappas

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