Friday, September 30, 2005

Fleming Cunningham Lunsford

As an artist, I know the necessity to create for my well-being. I have an anxious drive to get into my studio and into a mental framework to make my photographs. My work had been included in a wonderful program created by Susan Parochniak and Lillian Fitzgerald at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia to bring art into its new facility. It was fascinating to hear that the radiologist who previously had been reluctant to participate in the art project selected my children’s Icarus series to hang in the hall of his treatment area. As many of his patients were women, he wanted them to see the photographs of children playing to inspire courage and an even stronger drive to fight their illness. I was humbled by such a meaningful purpose that had been attached to my work.

But recently, I experienced the patient side of Martha Jefferson Hospital’s endeavor. I was late in pregnancy with my second child when the doctor informed me that there was a problem; he could no longer find a heartbeat. We were sent to the hospital for an ultrasound, and since we were a last minute appointment, we had a significant wait. As I sat in the new waiting room which felt and looked more like a living room than a hospital reception area, I was drawn in by the varied and wonderful display of artwork. I wandered the halls and into other waiting areas marveling at the sculptures, the paintings, and collages. I returned to my waiting area to get my husband, and we both walked about, absorbed by certain pieces, intrigued by others; wondering how on earth some sculptures were pieced together. Our ultra sound brought great news, but my memory is not of how harrowing the hour and a half wait was. I remember with gratitude how the artwork took my mind off of our potential loss; it gave me a focus other than myself at a time when I desperately needed it.

I have spoken to friends who have also had appointments or been patients at this new facility. They have talked effusively about the quality and variety of the artwork throughout the hospital. I am not alone in my enthusiasm and support of the art program there.

To have been on both sides of Martha Jefferson Hospital’s art program was very powerful for me. As an artist, my work took on greater meaning and provided a direct audience that I could think about as I created my photographs. As a patient, I know of its potential power because I – and many others have experienced it first hand.

Fleming Cunningham Lunsford is an artist and photographer living in Charlottesville. She graduated from the University of Virginia and holds an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a two-time recipient of a Virginia Museum Foundation Grant and a selected fellow of the International Photography Institute in New York. A renting studio member at the McGuffey Arts Center, Lunsford’s work has appeared in international and national exhibitions and publications.


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