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Stanford's School of Medicine Art Exhibit displays faculty's artistic side

Matthew Scott coastline resizedIn 2012, the walls of Stanford's Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge were stark, bare and unexciting. But, for Nobel Laureate Paul Berg, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry, and (now former) Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, these empty walls were not unlike a blank page before a writer - a pristine canvas awaiting an artist's touch.

“We decided we were going to do everything we could to find works we could hang that weren’t overly expensive,” Berg said, eliciting laughter from audience members who had gathered at a reception the evening of Nov. 5 to celebrate the opening of the School of Medicine’s fourth art exhibition at the center.

Berg and Pizzo’s vision for the center created the School of Medicine's art committee and the first art exhibition at the center in January 2012. According to Berg, as artists from the medical school began submitting their works, the committee realized that the exhibit was no longer just about designing on a budget. “Our role would also be to support the arts in the School of Medicine,” Berg said.

This fall, the exhibition features the photography and glasswork of five current and retired professors:

It’s a “sample of the remarkable talents of our faculty,” Berg said. But the exhibition also shows how the School of Medicine has inspired and encouraged each of these scientists to pursue the arts.

Litt told me she accompanied her husband, Garell, as he snapped many of the photographs she patterns her glasswork after. “Having been there when the photo was taken, it’s a way of prolonging the experience,” she said.

Litt said that the unpredictable nature of glasswork is unlike her work as a physician. “As a physician, everything had to be right,” Litt said. “As an artist, you go with the flow.  Sometimes the outcome is better than you imagined.”

For Scott the exhibit was an important milestone in a lifelong pursuit of photography that began when his father taught him to take and develop photos as a boy. “You expose your soul,” Scott said of the exhibit. “It was interesting to see how people respond to work.”

Scott found inspiration for his art in the world around him. “It’s pretty impossible to not be enchanted with the beauty of California,” he said. “I love the mood of the coasts here; they are often not sunny and cheerful but instead stormy and wild.  They have an edge to them, which is better than a clear blue sky for photography.”

Scott’s images are intermingled with that of Stryer. This display, several audience members remarked, highlights the similarities and differences in the way each artist showcases vivid color and jagged versus smooth landscapes captured from atypical points of view.

For those local readers who are interested in seeing the works of art, the exhibit is on display November though June on the first and third floors of the LKSC.

Previously: More than shiny: Stanford’s new sculpture by Alyson Shotz and Image of the Week: Artful arches from Stanford’s Art Exhibit Extravaganza 2013
Photo by Matthew Scott, PhD

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