Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tree of Life

There is something just very fucking cool about a hospital that has an artist-in-residence. On Friday afternoon, me an' my IV pole shuffled over to the "Teen Room" to find out what an artist-in-residence in a hospital is all about. Well, basically, he's all about being awesome.

Ian, the AiR (like that abbreviation?) puts together large collaborative projects with works from all of his patients, mostly kids, adolescents and young adults, then displays them first in the hospital and then on a traveling tour of the nation. Pretty cool, right? Totally cool. He will also come to your room and work on projects for the duration of your stay, sometimes even as an outpatient. As an example, he shared pictures from a project he just completed with a patient who desperately missed her horse. When you have a BMT, you're not really allowed to be hanging out with animals during your 100 days (let alone farm animals) and this patient was having a really difficult time with this. She, with Ian's help, did many many painting and sketching projects about her horse. Well, this woman just finished her 100 days and, as a celebration and collaboration with Ian, painted a mural ON HER HORSE. So cool.

The project of the moment though has nothing to do with a horse. The plan is to build a giant tree, a tree of life as it were, made of pieces of patient art. Like a huge tree-shaped quilt. The tree bark will be made from strips of paper decorated by child patients, the branches hung with garlands of beads also strung by children and the base of the tree, the ground life, will be covered in flowers and plant life created by AYAs (adolescent/ young adults). There were seven of us (AYAs, all in our 20s in fact) working during this gathering. We were given burlap, wires, beads, paper, glue and a few hours to create. The idea of sitting around a table and creating imitated life seemed like a fitting metaphor for the setting. All of us, pretending that this was a totally normal thing for a Friday afternoon, some wearing gloves, all attached to IV poles. A new kind of kula. We talked, glued, twisted, laughed, sat in silence working and finally finished our plants. Seeing what the other patients created was so cool, how we each interpreted the assignment of "plant life". Here are a few scenes:

The creative process. I demand extra credit for having done this with gloves on. The girl using the hot glue gun while wearing gloves and NOT burning herself gets super duper extra credit.
My lotus:) Beads and wire and about two hours of really determined work (this was one of those projects that seemed like a great, simple idea until I started twisting and beading). Other flowers are going to be added to my piece of burlap and I really like the idea of that. Sharing creative space forever with other AYAs.  Different lives, different stories, same six by six inch space.
Ian said mine looked like a tiara from far away, so he put it on. Oh, artists, so darn creative.

The tree should be completed in the next year or so and while it would be great to get a chance to see it, I'm kind of hoping to make my contribution and then never lay eyes on it again. Mostly because I don't want to be here in 6 months.:)


  1. I give you a TON of credit - I am SO not an arts and crafts type of person! I remember hot gluing my fingers together when I was younger. I also stapled my fingers once...hmmm. It's amazing I can still play the piano! Your flower is beautiful!

    Glad to read that you are getting up and out of the room. It so neat that the hospital has so many opportunities (I've never played BINGO before either, so I loved to read that you won) for the patients. Sounds like a wonderful place.

    I may have to try those instant breakfasts, too - I would do anything to sleep a few extra minutes in the morning!!

    Sweet dreams,

  2. Laura,
    It's wonderful that you're finding ways to express your creativity! I'm so glad that you're allowing us all to be a part of this healing journey. You are greatly missed at school!

  3. I love the lotus tiara, awesome!

    Missing you Laura!

  4. i don't know how you make every post a great read, a fun story, and you see the best in every single thing. you ROCK, esposto. xox

  5. You made that with gloves on? I AM impressed. Imagine what you could do without them. Just look at all the creative things you are learning for your classes when you get back to school. You are not going to make those poor little kids use gloves are you. Love you, Nan