Virginian-Pilot – New York artist returns to hometown of Virginia Beach to present art installation, and nurture creativity of children

The Virginian-Pilot — June 23, 2017

Even though his work has been shown around the globe, New York artist Ryan McGinness didn’t put on airs when talking to children about one of his most recent creations.

“Imagine this as one big, colorful sticker on the wall.”

That’s how he introduced his artwork for Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to a group of about two dozen children and teens who came to see the work and the artist together for the first time.

The giant sticker was a 100-by-12-foot art installation of pink, purple and blue arabesques entitled “Energy” on the third floor of the CHKD Health Center at Landstown.

This wasn’t his first act of art in the city by any means, though it might get more attention than his early work at John B. Dey Elementary School.

McGinness, 45, grew up in Virginia Beach and tinkered in art and graphics as a child and even more so as a teen in the skate-and-surf culture. After graduating from Cox High School in 1990, he attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, then interned at the Andy Warhol Museum.

Since then, the vibrant arabesque forms he creates with a combination of drawings, paint and computer design have popped up in collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in New York, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. His work has also been displayed in galleries in Amsterdam, Madrid and Munich. Closer to home, his work anchored an exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in 2015.

The Manhattan artist was commissioned to create “Energy” by a New York organization called RxArt that pays artists to transform sterile hospital walls into vibrant backgrounds to bolster the spirits of young patients and also promote a healing atmosphere.

In the past 16 years, RxArt has commissioned more than 40 pediatric hospital projects with 60 artists in 15 cities. The CHKD work is McGinness’ second for RxArt, his first being at New York University Child Study Center in 2006.

The audience for Friday’s presentation, which included CHKD patients and students from the Governor’s School for the Arts, was the first local one to hear how he created “Energy.”

He started with a series of thumbnail sketches of the arabesque forms. He then turned to the computer to digitally produce kaleidoscope-like figures – he calls them “black holes” – in various colors and sizes, playing around with the placement and density of the forms. He decided what type of textured material he wanted the graphic images printed on because that gives it a shimmering aspect when light comes in the window.

Then he gave a digital file to a fabrication company to attach it to an adhesive vinyl – that’s the giant sticker part. The company shipped it to Virginia Beach, and it was installed on the third floor of the health center late last year.

Friday was McGinness’ first in-person view of it. He strode through the atrium gazing up at a creation he’d spent hours poring over on computer screens and mock-ups.

“It’s amazing,” said Larissa Trinder, director of major gifts for CHKD. “We love it.”

“I love it, too, in as much as I’m allowed to say that,” McGinness said good-naturedly.

Seeing the work to scale, rather than on a computer screen, and with light shimmering off the textured material gave him a better sense of the finished product.

After his presentation, he handed out black-and-white graphics that were close-up images of the “Energy” artwork for the students to fill in with paints and colored pencils.

“I liked all the pictures,” said Jazlyn Echeverria, who’s 11. “I like the colors he uses.”

She chose her own hues, though, to which McGinness gave a nod of approval.

Image: L. Todd Spencer

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