By LILY DAYTON, Monterey County Herald
February 24, 2011 -- "It brings happiness inside my whole body." These words are the English translation of those spoken by a patient native to Oaxaca, Mexico when she saw the colorful display of 1,300 hand-folded origami butterflies hanging from the second floor atrium at Natividad Medical Center in Salinas.
This is exactly what Linda Ford, Natividad Medical Foundation president, was hoping for: that the medical center's new art exhibition would bring happiness, joy and inspiration to patients and their loved ones.
"Natividad Art: A Journey of Healing" will be unveiled this weekend, with an opening reception to kick off Natividad's 125th anniversary this Friday evening from 5-9 p.m. at the medical center.
On display throughout the hospital and open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the exhibit features work by more than 80 local artists and art groups.
All works are connected through the theme of healing and they evoke the people, places and environment of Monterey County.
Featured artists include Scott Campbell, Jose Ortiz, Howard Jones, Lilli-anne Price, Kirk Kennedy, Dan Cronin, Father Arthur Poulin and Juleen Eun Sun Johnson.
Pieces in the exhibition were donated by the artists and underwritten by philanthropists in the community.
Friday's reception will offer an opportunity to purchase paintings and photographs, meet the artists and view paintings, photography and sculpture.
Reception guests will each receive an art map of the exhibition in both English and Spanish.
Proceeds from the sale of paintings and photographs displayed at Natividad will benefit Natividad's Spiritual Care Services.
Currently, three part-time chaplains make more than 3,000 patient visits per year, providing services such as end-of-life care, palliative care and work with families of gang members. Ford hopes that the money raised from this exhibition will support full-time salaries for each of the chaplains.
"Art delights the spirit — what a wonderful gift to give our patients," said Ford. "All people, no matter whether they have insurance or don't have insurance, should be surrounded by art to help their healing."
Out of the more than 450 hospitals in California, Natividad is one of only 15 public Safety Net Hospitals that, together, provide care for 50 percent of the state's 6.6 million uninsured residents.
Safety Net Hospitals also train nearly half of all new doctors in the state and Natividad is the only teaching hospital on the Central Coast, through its affiliation with UC San Francisco.
"People who are less fortunate in terms of their economic situation aren't exposed to art as much as people with more means," said Carmel photographer Scott Campbell, whose exhibition "First Breath" is on display throughout the halls and waiting room of the labor and delivery area of the hospital. "It's our responsibility — the community's responsibility — to bring fine art to their level so they can have this experience as well. We owe it to humanity to do this."
Campbell set up a photography studio in the hospital to capture the fleeting moments of mothers in labor, newborn babies, and mothers and fathers meeting their babies for the first time.
His 50 black and white giclee canvas wrap images honor the more than 250,000 babies that have been born at Natividad.
"There are a lot of people in labor walking the halls, wondering what's going to happen, hoping to move things along," said Campbell. "When they see these photos, they're going to bring them warmth, calm and a sense of purpose — these are inspirational images to look at."
Likewise, muralist Jose Ortiz envisions that "El Encargo," the 9-foot by 40-foot oil on canvas mural he has created, will give patients and families, as well as doctors, nurses and hospital staff, imagery to occupy their minds, rather than being preoccupied with illness, fear and suffering.
"Art speaks to you as a human, as a soul," said Ortiz, who likens a mural to a story that the viewer can engage with. "It's not just the pictures, but a chat, a conversation you have with the images and symbols."
Ortiz created "El Encargo" with the help of three muralists from his after-school art program in East Salinas, "Hijos del Sol": Juan Carlos Padilla and Jose Nolasco of Everett Alvarez High School and Josue David Rubio of El Sausal Middle School.
The mural depicts children created from the combined elements of the sun, wind, water and earth and includes two adjoining pillars painted with images of a man and a woman holding up the sky. The Spanish title translates in English to "in the care of."
Ford said that one of the most unique elements of this exhibition is that people can connect with the images because they portray the cultural fabric of Monterey County.
One patient walked up to Ortiz' pillars and said, "That's me and my son." Another, gazing at a painting of fieldworkers by Big Sur artist Father Arthur Poulin, said, "That's me working in the fields 40 years ago."
Besides depicting the people who weave the cultural tapestry of Monterey County, the exhibition also depicts the beautiful and diverse natural environment. "We wanted to bring the outside in," said Ford.
People will be greeted in the lobby by Kirk Kennedy's enormous panoramic photograph, "Spring Lettuce on River Road."
The entire cafeteria has been transformed with framed photographs donated by Earthbound Farm, depicting growing fields and flowers in bloom.
Howard Jones' photography and poetry exhibit, "The Fire Chronicles: Walking the Healing Path" is an artistic documentary of two years that the artist spent witnessing the 2008 Basin Complex Fire — from the devastating flames that consumed more than 160,000 acres of coastal uplands to eventual regrowth and renewal.
Images include pictures of ashes that look like snow, tiny green shoots bursting from burnt ground and a series of shots that offer a rare glimpse into the hatching of baby hummingbirds whose nest survived the burn.
In describing the hope and inspiration that comes from these images, Ford couldn't help but draw a parallel to the transformation the hospital has undergone with this exhibition.
"We went from blank white walls to ..." she paused, searching for the words, "My gosh — it's colorful, interesting and tells a story about Monterey County. It reflects the people, places, sea and growing fields. It's very eclectic; there's something for everybody. You won't see anything like this in any other hospital."
Lily Dayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.GO!
·What: "Natividad Art: A Journey of Healing" art exhibit
·Where: Natividad Medical Center, 1441 Constitution Blvd., Building 300, Salinas
·When: Opening reception 5-9 p.m., Friday Feb. 25; exhibit open to public 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays
·Information: 755-4187, www.natividadfoundation.org
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