Threading art through life in hospital / by Jeannine Cook

As someone who became an artist later in life, it is always a surprise - and delight - when I discover that art is now so entwined with my DNA that it is omnipresent, even in somewhat trying circumstances.

I have just emerged from a sojourn in hospital and as I stay at a nearby hotel with my wonderful husband, I realise, when thinking back over the last three weeks, how art has been quietly sustaining me. As I lay on beds for a MRI or a CAT scan, for instance, I found it easy to lie there quietly and simply design, in my mind's eye, a silverpoint/watercolour piece I keep working on about the Circles of Life, the coincidences and circularities of events as life progresses. I found myself so absorbed in changing the design here and there, or adding new aspects, as I visualised the artwork, that I was always astonished at how fast the time went during the often lengthy tests.

Later, as I lay in bed, overly tethered to tubes and pumps and drips, I again turned to subject matter I want to try and explore in artwork, starting to think of how to depict the subjects and how to design the pieces. It helped greatly to pass the time. Then when I was finally "emancipated" enough to be able to walk a little along the hospital corridors, I studied the art along the walls with great interest.

Since this is the Mayo Clinic and their two-year-old hospital is very much state of the art (with exemplary care, I have to emphasise), I was curious to see what they had selected as artwork for the new facility. In the Clinic proper, there has always been artwork, but often large and more tending to the decorative and local... pleasant but not often such that it stands out. The Hospital is a little different. The entrance hall is graced with a small gallery, showing at present a diversity of works by local and regional artists connected with the Women's Center of Jacksonville. Beyond is a glory of Dale Chihuly's skills: a big and joyous glass chandelier celebrating colour and life. At the end of that entrance corridor, by the elevators, there is the most wonderful wall with a huge, sectioned piece of marble, beautifully striated and stippled in warm golds and browns - Nature at its most wonderful.

Up on the hospital room floors, there are large pieces of art, grouped in threes, some prints, some originals. Here, nature predominated, but in diffuse and almost stylised depictions, in uplifting colour ranges. They were cleverly chosen for they all allow one's own imagination to complement and supplement the images and let one wander and linger in those worlds. Ideal for stressed relatives and half-doped patients, I suspect!

Nonetheless, this presence of art allowed me to feel sustained and "still an artist" - something that I know helps me heal faster and in a more serene fashion. Hurray for art!