Photographer William Wegman donated five photographs to the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Arts & Humanities Program in an event exhibiting his work Thursday.
Wegman, a renowned artist, photographer and author whose works are held in permanent collections at the Museum of Modern Art and have appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and “Sesame Street,” spent the morning visiting pediatric oncology patients, reading from his new children’s book “Flo and Wendell Explore” and helping them make puppets of the characters. In the evening, he signed books for guests and announced the donation of the photographs, entitled “Courage,” “Endurance,” “Love,” “Strength” and “Hope,” all of which featured his signature Weimaraner dogs.
In addition to partnerships with Hope for Henry and Tracy’s Kids, nonprofit organizations that help children with cancer, Wegman’s visit was sponsored and organized by Lombardi’s Arts & Humanities Program, which aims to help patients, caregivers and family members emotionally cope with illness through art, music, visual arts and education. Lombardi Center Director Louis Weiner, who introduced Wegman, highlighted the program as essential for patients at the center.
“It’s important to remember that coming to Lombardi is not easy for our patients. It’s a stressful time in their lives, they face many challenges, and it can be a traumatic experience,” Weiner said. “It’s a high-intensity experience and having the beauty of the arts as a way of expressing ourselves and dealing with the challenges that we face as a community really makes it a little bit easier to come to work and to be seen here as a patient.”
Arts & Humanities Program Director Julia Langley, who was a Lombardi patient in 2006, echoed Weiner, saying the Arts & Humanities Program is both comforting and healing for Lombardi patients.
“We try and provide a way for them to process their emotions through music, dance, visual art, knitting, or expressive writing. If you’re dealing with an illness like cancer, it’s a chronic illness. You might get better or be in remission but you’re never considered 100 percent safe from ever having it again. You’re always dealing with it. The treatment doesn’t stop when you stop seeing your doctor,” Langley said.
Weiner also expressed his admiration for Wegman’s work as particularly in line with the mission of the Arts & Humanities Program.
“Wegman’s photos lift the spirits of everybody who comes in here. They look at these and they smile. They’re whimsical, they’re profound and the more you look at them, the more you get out of them,” Weiner said.
Wegman expressed his excitement to exhibit his work at the Lombardi Center.
“What an amazing place to have a show,” Wegman said. “It really is much better than the Whitney, or even the [Museum of Modern Art].”
He added that events like this one are a reason why he loves art.
“I became an artist because I liked to show off what I did and make people happy. A big turning point when you’re an artist it to show your work to someone who isn’t your mom, your best friend or your aunt and have him or her say, ‘That’s really good.’ This is total gratification for me,” Wegman said.
Langley expressed her appreciation for Wegman, who is helping patients to build a community and process their illness.
“He is generous with his time and his commentary. People have come out to see him because they think he does something special. We need that here at Lombardi. We need those uplifting and happy moments,” Langley said. “Art is one of the ways that I feel better about life and that I feel more optimistic. I think creativity is a great gift and a way to stave off fear.”