New Dell Medical School Landmarks Project examines relationship between art and health

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Landmarks UT |

A ghostly, clouded photograph of a young girl, hands adorned with wires and a hospital bracelet, stares at the viewer. But printed on a larger-than-life enamel panel, she is immortal.

O N E E V E R Y O N E is a portraiture project designed and shot by artist Ann Hamilton to be displayed in the Dell Medical School commissioned by UT’s public arts program, Landmarks. Hamilton began the project in November 2015 when she took her first residency in Austin. It took her two more residencies in 2016 to finish the project. 

She finished other O N E E V E R Y O N E projects in Pittsburgh and at Washington University in St. Louis, but said her work for the Dell Medical School took on a much larger scope.

“Ann Hamilton’s process is very organic, starting off as one thing and changing into something else,” said Nick Nobel, the Landmarks external affiars coordinator. “The key importance there was that through a bit of serendipity and opportunity, Andreé (Landmarks director) and Ann connected about the Dell Medical School opportunity — it was an expansion upon the O N E E V E R Y O N E idea.”

The final project is a small selection of a few dozen portraits that were printed onto larger-than-life enamel panels and installed in the Dell Medical School. In addition, Hamilton compiled all of the portraits she took for the project into a book. The 900-page book is available to the public for free until the 10,000 copies run out. Hamilton and her team also published an O N E E V E R Y O N E newspaper that includes photos and essays about the works, available for free to the public as well. 

Many of the people in the portraits attended the January 2017 opening, where they were gifted a signed copy of the book.

“This version of O N E E V E R Y O N E took on a much larger but also more specific dynamic, given the theme of wellness and health to tie into the Dell Medical School,” Nobel said. “The locations reflected that theme in a combination of art, education and health,”

Public art is meant to serve the community, to give members cause to stop and discuss its purpose and beauty. Doug Dempster, the Dean of the Fine Arts College said the difficult aspect of public art lies in its communal aspect; unlike a piece of art in a museum where viewers can choose to view it or walk away, art in a public place affects all of the members in that community. 

“Public art can fail drastically; it can go wrong in more ways than it can go right,” Dempster said. “The getting it right is really tricky. The campus community has embraced it and celebrated it, even when it’s sometimes puzzled by it.”

Dempster said he thinks public art should make viewers question its meaning and engage in conversation about the piece. Hamilton worked with the community to develop the concept for the project, which was entirely dependent on community involvement for the portraiture component. 

Both Dempster and John Daigre, the executive director of communications and external affairs for the Dell Medical School, said they both agree art enhances public spaces for the benefit of the community.

“Art inspires creativity and conversation with our community that we’re here to serve,” Daigre said.