Color Field Pioneer Brings Original Art to Georgetown Lombardi Atrium

September 22, 2017--As director of the Arts and Humanities Program at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Julia Langley organizes rotating short-term art exhibits for patients and staff in the Lombardi Clinic. Until recently, she also organized temporary art exhibits for the Lombardi Atrium but when renovations were planned for that space, Langley was offered the opportunity to select a permanent art installation.

Julia Langley talking into a microphone in front of a sold baby pink print hanging on the wall

One name quickly came to Langley’s mind

“I said, okay, if we need to have a permanent artwork, we need to get Sam Gilliam,” Langleyrecalled.

At the time, Gilliam, an internationally renowned artist and pioneer of both color-field and abstract painting with works in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, MoMA, the Tate Modern and Guggenheim Museum, was working on a private commission with Susan Goldman, master printmaker and proprietor of Lily Press. Langley asked Goldman, who has her own work on display in the Lombardi Clinic, if she would broach the subject of a Lombardi commission with the world-renowned artist.

“Without question, Sam said, I’ll do it,” Goldman said. And he did.

Looking down from above at the installation, 5 solid colored squares on the wall, from left to right, brown, red, purple, pink and blueAt a September 14 reception in the newly renovated Lombardi Atrium, attendees gathered to enjoy Frieze, an original site-specific collection of eleven framed, color-saturated monotypes by Gilliam, created in partnership with Goldman.

“Sam Gilliam couldn’t be here today unfortunately but we are indebted to him and Susan Goldman for putting together this marvelous permanent exhibit that will always be a reminder of the individuality of the people we treat, the diversity of emotions that they face and the inexhaustibility of the human spirit,” said Louis M. Weiner, MD, director of Georgetown Lombardi.

Using Art to Help Patients Process Their Experiences

Langley explained how having Gilliam and Goldman’s work on the walls of the atrium enhances the patient experience.

“It’s essential that the arts are here in the exterior environment to make a better place for patients as soon as they enter Lombardi,” she said. “With Frieze, the atrium is richer, more colorful and more engaging.  Having Sam and Susan’s beautiful work on the walls is an invitation to let the arts help reveal what people are feeling.  Then, through the arts we hope Photo taken from above, with Sam pointing to solid color squares as two women reach down to move thempeople will begin to process those feelings.”

In addition to the permanent installation in the Lombardi Atrium, the writing workshops, music, dancers and visual artists who contribute to the Arts and Humanities Program help patients contextualize their experiences.

“When people have cancer, it is a part of their lives,” Weiner said. “It doesn’t define their lives. We have to help people fit their cancer, their cancer journey, their emotions and experiences into a much larger and richer context. And that’s what the Arts and Humanities Program does for us. It allows us to actually not only conceptualize it but live it.”

Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications