Students Help Produce Major Artwork at New Stanford Hospital


Students Noah DeWald and Savannah Mohacsi weren’t sure exactly what their summer internship at Stanford Health Care would be like. Learning with master painters to bring to life a conceptual work of art by an iconic 20th century American artist that will be seen by thousands of people was beyond their imagination, as was the profound realization that art can contribute to the healing process.

Senior Savannah Mohacsi, master painter Lexie Bouwsma and junior Noah DeWald work to execute Wall drawing # 911 by Sol LeWitt. (Image credit: courtesy Stanford Health Care)

DeWald and Mohacsi’s project was to execute an 18 foot by 10 foot mural designed by Sol LeWitt (1928-2007). It is one of seven works commissioned from the New Stanford Hospital, and the only one that is essentially a set of instructions.

LeWitt was a conceptual artist who challenged the traditional notion that art had to manifest physically for it to be art. Therefore, some of his artwork is just a formless idea or concept. When Wall drawing # 911 was acquired for the hospital, it was essentially a certificate for the design and the rights to paint it with mathematical adjustments to fit a particular space.

The space is a prominent wall on the third floor of the hospital, visible from the entrance to the expansive lobby of the atrium. The execution team consisted of the two interns working under the direction of master painters Lexie Bouwsma and Gabriel Hurier, who have experience installing LeWitt’s wall drawings. It was essential to the painting process that the project was guided by their expertise so that the artist’s original idea was crafted with precision through his methods.

The mural was originally designed in 1999 and has only been painted once at the Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. It took 75 rolls of masking tape and 24 days of meticulous and consistent hand painting, sanding and layering to complete. The acquisition of the work and installation was generously funded with the support of Carolyn and Preston Butcher.

Master Painters Gabriel Hurier and Lexie Bouwsma with undergraduates Noah DeWald and Savannah Mohacsi and the job finished. (Image credit: courtesy Stanford Health Care)

Senior Mohacsi, who is majoring in human biology and a minor in artistic practice, said she often looks for ways to intersect her interest in medicine with her art. She explores ways to use art to understand and present the intricacies of human physiology and views art as a vehicle for self-reflection and healing. She said of her internship experience: “Being able to create this mural in a hospital space allowed my artistic skills to serve a more important purpose, knowing that patients and families going through the most difficult times and the most moving can turn to the LeWitt Mural for a brief moment of refuge and discover the unexpected sparkle that the piece exudes from its colorful geometric ensemble.

Additionally, Mohacsi studies how the mind and body shape the human experience and her internship prompted her to reflect on “how art can serve as a way for our minds to reflect on our experiences, and in turn that. can reflect how we feel about our body and our health.

DeWald, a junior with a major in computer science and a minor in artistic practice, had previous experience in making murals, but had never collaborated with other artists on a project of this magnitude. Painting a large-scale public work has been a long-standing dream for him. “For me, there is something special about works of art in public spaces that people can see and interact with. This workshop was a unique opportunity to explore this type of art, ”he said.

“I have seen a lot of art in museums and exhibitions, but I had never fully considered the role of art in hospitals before. After working on this project and seeing how much effort is put into the art program here, I was able to learn so much about how art can benefit the healing process.

Becoming intimately familiar with the seven floors of the new hospital over the summer, DeWald observed that well-placed works of art can have a profound impact on patients and hospital staff. In a hospital where people will see the same works of art day in and day out, he believes a different thought process is needed to ensure that these works resonate with people after repeated viewings. “This is why I have so much respect for artists who really think about the placement and purpose of their art.”

Mohacsi agrees. “As a pre-med student, I spent a lot of time following doctors. This summer, I still overshadowed the hospital, but for art placement. I followed Connie Wolf, who oversees the art program, through the hospital as she planned installations, and I couldn’t help but think about how she “diagnosed” the space and formulated her “treatment. “for the works of art that would best suit the piece, as well as how people will engage with the pieces. I will never take the art installation for granted after this internship as you really have to understand that the art you are installing has to adapt to the diverse backgrounds of the people who will be entering the space, which is not a simple task.

Hospital management recognized that art can be an integral part of the healing process from the start, so artwork throughout the facility has always been part of the master plan. The collection of more than 400 works of art installed inside and outside the new Stanford Hospital has been donated or acquired through private monetary donations. There are also two major loans from the San Francisco Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The entire arts program is led by a fully volunteer arts commission chaired by Linda Meier, ’61, Stanford Health Care board member and former Stanford board member, and chaired by Connie Wolf, ‘ 81, former director of the Cantor Arts Center.


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