Hildegarde of Bingen - Visionary - At the Table
Marsha Monroe Pippinger
Art, in the form of paintings and photographs amd collages, played a big role in my CPE experience this past summer. Famous Giant Hospital has a substantial art collection, which several of us utilized on a regular basis for assistance with the labyrinthine geography of the acres and acres of campus marked by indistinguishable pathways of light gray walls. "Take the elevator across from the pool painting," or "Go down the hallway with the French landscape photos," or, "It's right next to the portrait of the scary lady."
As the summer wore on and I no longer needed to rely on the artwork as signposts to get myself from one building to another, it evolved into a form of mini-respite which I often sought during the day. I made a point of looking for my favorite pieces in the various units and patient rooms, and paid special attention to the art whenever I found myself a new section of the hospital. I don't know whether many other people even notice what's on the walls, but I often paused for a minute or two, consciously taking in the various elements of a piece, letting them serve as balm for a mind agitated by surgeries and crises and deaths. Sometimes I could practically feel my brain cells relaxing into shapes more amenable to listening than to urgent activity, restoring my capacity for hearing what my patients and their family members had to say and for noticing when they could not say it.
In the past couple of weeks, ever since returning from Oregon and Mount Angel Abbey, I've been wandering around the internet looking for art -- icons, yes, but everything else, too. It's hard to find what I imagine someone in my situation would create ~ what I would create if I could ~ so I have begun to feel like a detective obsessed with discovering clues to the mystery. What do I want? Color saturation, harsh and uneven shapes and edges, surreal interpretations of old stories. Preferably stories of people absorbing that which is impossible to absorb, and learning to live without resolution. Please do not offer me classical lines or soothing hues. I once started to cry when I saw Michaelangelo's David in Florence, but I'm not at all sure that it would move me these days. All that strength and perfection, that sense of personal destiny in an ordered cosmological hierarchy - what could it possibly communicate to me now?
All this to say -- there is some art coming up. I'm on its trail, and I will report back on what I find.