By Diane Husson
Diane Husson is an artist who lives in Norfolk, Virgina. She creates art using the “faux bois” (“false wood” in French) style of concrete sculpture. This rare process, that was close to extinction a century ago, involves the adept layering of concrete over a steel armature. Her three-dimensional forms look like they were created with actual branches and vines and exude a sense of fantasy and enchantment. In the past Diane worked on art commissions for hospitals. In this article she describes a few projects and her ideas about creating healing art. ~ Renée Phillips
My artistic journey has encompassed painting, ceramics, and concrete, however the common thread running through it all has been my desire to use my art for joy and healing.
My first healthcare project was 20 years ago when Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters was building a new state-of-the-art facility. The building designers sought local artists to work on paintings and sculptures. I was a painter and illustrator in those days and I specialized in whimsical, colorful artwork which was appropriate for a children’s hospital.
For this project I was given three moveable canvases that would be placed wherever they were needed. I painted the kinds of images that I would want to look at if I were bedridden. The canvases featured birds, children flying in hot air balloons, and even a puppet theater.
In 2005 I was approached by Barbara Harriman, a healthcare art consultant and President and Creative Director of Distinctive Art Source who found my website. She thought the peaceful, nature-oriented themes of my sculptures would be a good fit for the new Heart Wing at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. So, I began working on a six foot mural for the lobby.
Relying on the strong connection between water images, nature themes and healing art, I sculpted a ceramic relief mural depicting a peaceful scene of a girl sitting by a shoreline beneath a tree. She is playing the lute while her dog is playing in the sand beside her.
A year later, the doctors of the hospital commissioned me to sculpt a ceramic relief wall sculpture as their way of saying “thank you” to the nurses for their service. The colorful 3’ x 2’ mural was hung on the side of a busy corridor that was used by many nurses.
In 2009 I was given the most exciting project of all. I was commissioned to create all the artwork for the waiting room of the hospital’s new Emergency Room. Theresa Ceniccola and Barbara Harriman gave me freedom to let my imagination run wild. This project was close to what I feel my calling is an artist is — to create Art for healing.
With this commission I wanted the artwork to offer relief from patients’ physical pain and negative emotions. The centerpiece of the room is an 18-foot long four-part ceramic relief coral reef sculpture. I populated it with colorful fish and all kinds of coral, shells and sea creatures. I also created many smaller murals and side pieces for the emergency room, including an assortment of fish, swimming above the nursing station, shells, sea fans and a small mural of a blue crab.
I’ve heard many times from people who have visited the emergency room that it was comforting to have something beautiful to look at while they were either waiting for treatment, or waiting with someone else.
Recently, I’ve focused my attention on creating faux bois garden furniture — hand sculpted functional sculptures that look like they were formed with branches and vines. I have a dream to create beautiful benches and seating areas for meditation or serenity gardens for hospitals.
The idea came to me when I was visiting my father, who was very sick in a hospital. He has since made a full recovery, but at the time things looked hopeless. I was certain that without a miracle, he was going to die. Filled with despair, I walked out into the hospital’s garden area so I could cry in private. Though the garden area was lovely, the benches were cold, lifeless, and made with boring steel. I thought — how wonderful it would be to sit on a bench designed to have the look and feel of Nature. It would not only be a sculptural accent for the garden, it would also give that extra nurturing and healing embrace to those who need it.
Visit Diane Hutton’s website www.newrelics.com/