These murals came about from a request for proposal from Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. The project had several challenges. The most difficult one was that artwork had to be placed in the procedure rooms and no equipment could be covered or removed. The long hallways were easy places to create something beautiful. However when I went into the procedure rooms, I knew this was going to be a challenge. Suggestions were made that we place art on the ceiling, but I kept thinking that if I was a child, I would find the procedure rooms very intimidating. I had to find a way to make all that equipment “OK” with the art that I would create. I couldn’t hide it.
Finally, it hit me. I didn’t need to hide the equipment if it was a submarine. The light above the patient and other items hanging from the ceiling could look like a periscope to a child. Since the available space to put art was small, portholes were the perfect solution. The theme established in the procedure rooms could easily carry over into the hallways to create a seamless underwater aquarium. Even the corners of the hallway give the appearance that you are looking at a large fish tank.
I used a special canvas to paint on since no murals could be painted directly on the wall. There was a further challenge due to the fact that the material had to be fire proof. After testing materials for four months, I finally found one that would accept the paint and cover the vast area needed with very few seams.
The most satisfying moments were watching the expression on the children’s faces as they made their way down the hallway. The mural brought life and light to the corridor. As I worked on the painting in the studio, the fish seemed to come to life. There is something magical about painting an underwater scene because everything floats and moves in slow motion under the ocean. Colors are vibrant up close, but quickly lose color as your eye moves back into the distance.
The colors you see in this photo are very near the original painting. I used Nova Color paints and created the work with thin transparent layers. This gives the painting a glow. The alcove presented a wonderful opportunity for a cave with mysterious corals and sea creatures.
Some of the more mysterious fish required a darker ocean. I did not want to lose the transparency of the water, so I accomplished this with many layers of transparent blues, darkening the area gradually.
One of my favorite areas was the octopus cave. Every inch was a joy to paint. I missed the mural in my studio when it was time to take it down for installation.
Here’s what the staff is saying about the CES Healing Walls so far:
“These are amazing! Since installation, we have used the Resus bays a ton … we have received an enormous amount of positive feedback from our patients, families, and outside services. This has been a very positive experience for all those working in CES.”
Kelly Parent, PFCC Program Specialist for Quality and Safety
University of Michigan Health System
“The colors are truly stunning. Staff all seemed thrilled and we’re all excited for the next phase which Katherine is working on now. I want to thank… Katherine Larson for her great work and professionalism.”
Melanie Manos, Co-Curator and Advisor- Art Collection of the University of Michigan