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The Healing Nature of Art

May 9, 2010

Lloyd Kleine Harvey, 77, grew up in St. Louis with a big sycamore tree adorning his front yard. He loved that tree, from the flaky texture of the mottled bark to the wide, veined leaves. This fascination and appreciation of nature became the root of the artwork he creates today.

From April 22 through June 25, 2010, Harvey’s art will be displayed in the Arts + Healthcare Gallery in the Shoenberg Pavilion, adjacent to the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. It’s an opportunity that Arts + Healthcare Coordinator Sarah Colby has been hoping for since she met Harvey at the hospital last summer.

“Lloyd’s experiences with the transformative possibilities of art and his marvelous ability to articulate that to a broad audience struck a chord,” Colby says. “We felt an immediate kinship over the connection between art and healing. Sharing Lloyd’s lovely and meaningful work in our gallery, which has become a place of respite and contemplation for many patients, families and caregivers in stressful situations, is perfect.”

Expression Takes Root

While his lifetime work has spanned sculpture, painting and drawing, in recent years Harvey has transitioned into creating intricate, organic art from twigs. “I have such a reverence of trees from my early childhood. It’s like returning to my roots. From ancient times, trees have been symbols of spiritual growth.”

You may see Harvey strolling through area parks as he searches for just the right leaves or twigs to use in his artwork. He intertwines twigs and branches to become one intricately woven piece. “They represent our interconnectedness,” he says. “We are all one. And life is fragile. I do my best to reduce, reuse and recycle all of the material I use. I can easily and simply return to the earth.”

Harvey is an extensively trained artist. He has studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the School of Visual Art and the Parsons School of Design in New York City. He also founded the Arte Ecologico de los Ninos in Oaxaca, Mexico, a children’s group that creates artwork that emphasizes recycling. In 1995, he returned to St. Louis and became the founder/director for Art from Recycled Materials in St. Louis.

Transforming Suffering

Harvey says he was recently inspired by a phrase from Infamous, a film about Truman Capote’s work on In Cold Blood. Capote said: “I can alchemize what wounds me into art.”

“It’s about transforming suffering,” Harvey says.

Harvey had a difficult childhood. The youngest of seven boys, he struggled to find his identity as racial tension permeated society. In college, he became a social activist. In 1952, he was drafted and served as a U.S. Army medic in the Korean War. Through the years, he has taught children about art, cared for AIDS patients and become a steward for the earth. Since he returned to St. Louis, Harvey has sought care at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for various health issues, including prostate cancer, heart bypass surgery and injuries he suffered after being struck by a car. Yet he has never thought of himself as a cancer patient. Or a heart patient. Or a victim. He is an artist on a journey.

The Power for Patients and Families

Harvey’s life experiences have shaped the art he was destined to create. “Each of the weavings is a reflection in some way of my life and how relationships have woven their way throughout it,” he says. “Through my art, I develop a stronger will to connect, to love, to let go of fear, to stay in the now and to unlock the fullness of who I really am.”

While those are his feelings, he doesn’t pretend to know what patients and families may feel when they view his art. He refers to a vision statement that he wrote for himself recently. “As my soul, my spirit continues to evolve, I see my art as a way of sending light into the darkness, serving as a meditative guide for others... My life, my art and my practice are all of one accord: to serve.”

All exhibits in the Arts + Healthcare Gallery are free and open to the public. For more information on current exhibitions or the Arts + Healthcare program, contact Sarah Colby at 314-286-0592 or sjc0705@bjc.org.

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