Sculptors J Ahearn & R Torres Unveil “Inspiration”
St. Mary’s Hospital for Children Arts for Healing program now includes a new set of bold artwork after renowned sculptors John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres created four life-size painted-plaster pieces of patients and caregivers from St. Mary’s. Ahearn and Torres have been working together in the Bronx for the past 30 years and many of their castings have become an intrinsic part of the landscape in South Bronx neighborhoods. The pieces which include three plaster-cast portraits and one piece showing interlocking hands will be incorporated into the commissioned artwork installed throughout the hospital. The installation, named “Inspiration,” was unveiled in the hospital’s main entrance to a waiting crowd of eager patients and staff, many of whom participated in the original castings. In this location, the inspirational artwork will greet patients, visitors and staff with portrait images of the St. Mary’s community.
Ahearn and Torres first came to St. Mary’s in August 2012, where they engaged the patients and staff in a sculpture project as part of the hospital’s artist-in-residence program. The artists have perfected a technique that creates molds which are later cast in plaster, carved, and painted with stunning accuracy. During one meeting, the artists made an arrangement of the hands of everyone present and created a piece with the interconnected hands as “a tumbling cloud.” At another session, Maria, a staff member, modeled for a lifecast portrait. The inspiration for another piece came as Ahearn was demonstrating to a group of St. Mary’s Kids how to “Walk Like an Egyptian” when a young patient named Jerrel volunteered to pose for the figure. During that week the artists developed a rapport with Sophia, a cheerful four year old who was residing at the time in the hospital. They created a series of casts of her, and entitled the finished work, “Walking for the First Time”.
“Art plays a vital role in the healing process here at St. Mary’s,” said Dr. Edwin Simpser, President and CEO of St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. “Medically complex children who are exposed to the arts are able to free their imaginations from the constraints imposed by physical limitations. Our new installation by John and Rigoberto will provide inspiration and cheer to our patients, their families and the entire staff at St. Mary’s.”
St. Mary’s Arts for Healing Program is philanthropically funded and has been designed to play a very special role in St. Mary’s total-healing environment by introducing diverse experiences that offer alternatives to medical treatment, rehabilitation, and therapy. Created through the collaboration of Suzanne Randolph Fine Arts and St. Mary’s clinical staff, the program is comprised of specially-created immersive environments, a permanent art collection and ongoing art programming for patients. Arts for Healing components include sculpture throughout the healing landscape, art for patient neighborhoods, art workshops for the children, and art and music therapy.