Endless Surrender

Arkansas Democrat Gazette • January 22, 2012

 “I saw your name in the paper this morning.” my friend said.

I stared at her blankly. “Really?” was all I could come up with.

“Your work is in the new oncology center in Rogers.”

“Oh, right, yes, yes, it is.”

Last year, Interior designer, Julie Wait Fryauf asked me to submit some photographs of my work to be considered for inclusion in a new cancer center being built by Highlands Oncology Group in Rogers, Arkansas. After a review by the doctors, Julie told me they were focusing on representational work but they liked the comforting aspect of my pieces that include botanicals.

Ashley Batchelor wrote in her article about the project in the The Art Of Healing, in the January 22nd Arkansas Democrat Gazette:

“Julie Wait Fryauf of Julie Wait Designs, interior designer for the project, says her whole concept was to “create a calming, less stressful environment for people who are in a very stressful situation in their lives,” and she felt the artwork would help generate that ambiance.

The collection also gives the public more access to works of art and helps support local artists, she says.

The 140 pieces by some 20 artists – most from northwest Arkansas and a few from southern Missouri—were installed throughout the 55,000-square-foot, two-story building. The art includes landscapes and still-life paintings, prints, photographs, fabric art, fiber art, hand-painted bowls and giclées, which are fine art digital prints.

Fryauf said there was quite a bit of sentiment among doctors at the practice that they wanted to build a collection of art by local artists rather than purchasing mass-produced images.

Dr. Dan Bradford, who has been with Highlands Oncology Group for 21 years, said he and other doctors wanted local art because most cancer patients receive their care locally. He said the building and artwork inside it are part of the healing process and comprehensive care.

“It makes it a much more homelike and nurturing place,” he said.

Fryauf said she wanted to choose scenes familiar to residents of northwest Arkansas, so she picked quite a few landscapes and paintings with nature motifs.

“Nature is the best art for healing environments.” She said she also wanted to emphasize water and its “healing aspects.” Because of this, there are a lot of waterfall images, she said.”

I was commissioned to create two 34” x 34” textile paintings to be placed in a sub waiting room on the second floor. This is a place “for families who need more privacy,” Julie explained.

The burden of responsibility to create work that would calm and encourage people going through such a difficult time was heavy. Unlike they way I usually experience creativity this project felt stressful. I procrastinated. When I finally summoned enough courage to begin I already had an agenda. I’d figured it out.

You can probably guess what happened next.

Longtime Sun • 34″ x 34″ • Cloth, Dye • ©2011 Jennifer Libby Fay

Things did not go as planned.

Thinking that soft, muted colors would be calming I chose the fabric and started painting. After years of working with these dyes, I know pretty well how they are going to react and what the results will be. Not this time. Bright colors kept appearing and insisting on their presence in the pieces. Over and over again my thinking didn’t match the art that I was making. Finally I decided to surrender, to stop thinking. I just got out of my own way and let the work happen.

Endless Surrender • 34″ x 34″ • Cloth, Dye • ©2011 Jennifer Libby Fay

The result is Endless Surrender and Longtime Sun pictured here in the waiting room at the Highlands Oncology Center.

Highlands Oncology Group sub-waiting room • ©2012 Jennifer Libby Fay

This quote, which was featured in the newspaper article, let me know I had done the right thing.

The effect on sickness of beautiful objects, of variety of objects and especially brilliancy of color is hardly at all appreciated. People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body, too. Little as we know about the way in which we are affected by form, by color and light, we do know this, they have an actual physical effect. Variety of form and brilliancy of color in the objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery.

Florence Nightingale