Passing Storms Installed at the Oregon State Hospital in Junction City, Oregon

Posted by Catherine Widgery, Aug 15, 2016 0 comments

For the 16th anniversary of the Public Art Network Year in Review, we offered the selected applicants and artists the opportunity to tell us the stories behind their works. This week's blog salon features the stories behind some of the most compelling public art projects completed in 2015.

“Passing Storms” portrays the changing weather as metaphor for unpredictable and shifting states of mind. Buddhist philosophy accepts suffering as a part of being human, yet Western culture wants to focus only on the sunny and bright side of experience. The dark we ignore and disown, trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, gives it an even greater power over us than it would have if we embraced the dark as well as the light.

The committee who worked with me decided to bring two of the current residents of the hospital to respond to the works and they were enthusiastic about them, which meant the project got the “green light.” There were a number of challenges for this project, as this OSH hospital is for the mentally ill, so all physical elements had to be entirely out of the residents' reach—at least 17 feet above ground with no supports on the ground.

"Passing Storms" by Catherine Widgery

Since many patients rarely leave their rooms, the challenge was to make the art visible to the largest numbers of people, so I decided the inner courtyards which are overlooked by the windows in the residents’ rooms were the best location. The stakeholders also wanted the art work in the Valley Quad to serve as a rain shelter for those residents and staff who would spend time outside. This was a challenge since the work has to be suspended and cantilevered out from a wall not originally designed for this type of structure to be attached. All of this meant an intense collaboration between engineers, the hospital staff, the general contractor as well as my technical design and fabrication team. This video shows some installation in progress shots.

As the residents and visitors move through the Valley and Prairie Quads, they see the cloud and rain sculptures subtly change depending on the angle of the light and the color of the sky. The art is a medium through which the changeable weather and light is revealed. The weather is a metaphor for the changeable states of mind. Light, as it plays across the art images, becomes a symbol of reprieve, of grace. 

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