In May 2008, RxArt installed two original works by Will Cotton and six original works by Rob Pruitt in the newly constructed Kay Kafe at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. All researchers, doctors, nurses, and staff eat together in this new cafeteria with St. Jude patients, families, and visitors on a daily basis in order to humanize the facility and to normalize the children’s experience.
Will Cotton’s paintings and drawings commonly portray confections, superbly drafted and sumptuously painted in a realistic style. “I’m interested in depicting an imagined utopia, a place that’s only about pleasure,” says Cotton. He creates all the edible confections himself and then paints the finished scene on canvas. Cotton’s 80″ x 120″ paintings in Kay Kafe depict gingerbread houses, one in sunlight and one in snow and fog. In November 2007, Cotton invited a young St. Jude cancer survivor and her family to his studio to decorate the gingerbread houses that he modeled for these paintings at St. Jude.
Rob Pruitt finds the source for his work in recycling popular culture. As a child in Washington DC in 1972, Pruitt was mesmerized by the two pandas given to the National Zoo as a token of goodwill by China. Pruitt, like most children, was drawn to the bears and they have become a source of inspiration and a frequent subject of his paintings. His 48″ x 48″ panda paintings at St. Jude are made of spangley board, large sequin-like pieces that shimmer and reflect light. Each panda is climbing and munching bamboo to convey advancement, growth, and healing. The pandas have distinct personalities: some are shy, some are workers, but the story they all tell is one of encouragement and hope. Pruitt also created a 72″ x 72″ spangle board painting of a mother panda with a baby on her back climbing up bamboo. This mother-baby panda image is now being used as the symbol for the Kay Kafe at St. Jude.
This project is made possible by generous donations from Shu Uemura, Christy Walton, Leonard Wagner Charitable Trust, and Fifth Floor Foundation.