In art, hospital staff reveal passions pursued off-the-clock

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In art, hospital staff reveal passions pursued off-the-clock

Harborview art show, in 19th year, displays paintings, sculpture, pictures, quilting and more
Barbara Clements

By day, Harborview Medical Center’s artists are peering at x-rays, listening to heartbeats through stethoscopes, and finessing computer code. But by night – or afternoons, depending on their shifts  they’ll pull out the potter’s wheel, fire up the blowtorch or break out the needle and thread and begin creating works of passion and imagination. 

Federhart sculpt
Christine Federhart
(Click to enlarge.) "Meditation," a sculpture by Christine Federhart.
"Meditation," a sculpture by Christine Federhart.

Typically it’s just a few trusted friends or family members who get a peek at their creations. But for a month this spring, everyone can enjoy the employees' creativity at the Biennial Staff Arts Exhibition. The artwork can be viewed now through June 8 in the Harborview cafeteria atrium, Level B of the West Hospital. 

It is a showcase for more than 100 artworks and 30 artists, who represent 20-plus departments at the hospital. Artists’ work also can be viewed on a year-around basis in Harborview's Human Resources center.

Peggy Weiss, curator and manager of UW Medicine's artworks, said she looks forward to the spring show, now marking its 19th year, because it spotlights not only the passion of the staff, but the link between caregiving and the creation of art.

“The thing I love about this show is that it reveals to me the other sides of my colleagues at Harborview and how they balance their work lives, with this,” Weiss said.

This, for Christine Federhart, is eschewing her work as an administrative specialist in neuropathology to get her hands dirty after hours. Upon working with an art tutor in third grade, Federhart said the idea of sculpting in 3-D enchanted her. In college, she discovered bronze casting.

“I love 3-D. You’re kind of dealing with the world as it is,” she said in her Belltown apartment, which also acts as her studio. The piece in this year’s show, a small bronze called "Meditation," draws its inspiration from Matisse. 

Annette Fallin
(Click to enlarge.) "Quiver Tree," a picture taken in Namibia taken by Annette Fallin, a Harborview imaging specialist.
(Click to enlarge.) Picture of a Quiver Tree in Namibia taken by Annette Fallin, a Harborview imaging specialist.

Sometimes, mused Tristian Bergeron, who works as a medical assistant in the Madison Clinic, the art just happens. As an amateur photographer, Bergeron always used Photoshop to adjust his pictures. He then realized that he could use the photo-imaging tool to create the art itself. Now all his creations emerge in the software, including the one in this show, "Night Train," which shows railroad tracks pushing into the horizon of a fiery sky. 

“Honestly, most of my work is a happy accident,” he laughs. “I don’t set out with anything specific in mind. Of the couple of hundred pieces I’ve done in the last few years, maybe two I’ve actually set out to create.”  

Cheryl Quesnell
Cheryl Quesnell
(Click to enlarge.) "Child's Play," a quilt of an Afghanistan scene by Cheryl Quesnell, a program operations manager.
"Child's Play," a quilt of an Afghanistan scene by Cheryl Quesnell, a program operations manager.

Annette Fallin, an imaging technologist, loves to tell the stories behind the stark, riveting pictures she takes from her worldwide travels. This year she takes you to Namibia, in a black and white snap of a quiver tree, a species only found in that arid nation.

“It’s hard on the outside and hollow on the inside. The locals can put arrows into it,” she said. 

Cheryl Quesnell, a program operations specialist, brings the world to her quilts as she recreates scenes, one stitch at a time.  Her work "Child’s Play" shows a boy from Afghanistan playing with a ring and stick. It holds the cover of this year’s brochure. The hair on the child took 30-some different fabrics; the quilt took over 100 hours to complete.

It’s hard, though, for her to define each quilt by the investment of hours.

“Unfortunately, I can’t seem to finish one before I start another,” she said. “I usually have several going at once.”