Anne Boykin Institute

for the advancement of caring in nursing

2019 Summer Academy

Molly Helie, 2019 Artist-in-Residence

Molly Helie

Molly Helie graduated from Loyola University New Orleans where she earned a B.A. in Studio Art and Spanish. Through her art making, Molly discerned a call to practice medicine and completed post-baccalaureate pre-medical coursework at Notre Dame of Maryland University in preparation for medical school. Molly is passionate about bringing her aesthetic way of knowing to caring in the study and practice of medicine.

In her artwork, Molly explores the in-between spaces that exist within structures of oppression—particularly that of women and the environment. Dwelling in these in-between spaces allows Molly to carefully reflect on the potential for moments of beauty and transformation within a world marked by violence and injustice. The foundation of Molly’s aesthetic is the dialectic of transience in relation to permanence. This philosophy has driven her work and manifested in the experience of materials used.

In Molly’s oil paintings, the tangible presence of paint on canvas both challenge and acquiesce to the ethereal light her subjects. Molly’s sculpture installations of carpets made of sawdust contain the essential dialectic—immaculate edges are carried away by footsteps treading across the gallery space. Molly created an aesthetic re-presentation inspired by the critical dialog surrounding social justice as an expression of caring.

Molly Helie

Molly Helie. Sculpture. Rupture (Common Ground). 2019, dyed sawdust. 96” x 48” appr. Temporary installation in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing.

In June 2019, I participated in the Anne Boykin Institute for the Advancement of Caring in Nursing 2019 Summer Academy, “Social Justice as Caring Action,” as one of the artists-in-residence. In my role as artist-in-residence I reflected on themes that emerged during the Academy to create a visual re-presentation of the week’s proceedings. Through deep listening and voicing my perspective I became immersed in conversations about the responsibility of health care professionals and institutions to answer the call for social justice as caring action in local and global communities, and ways to move from conversation to action.

The conversation addressed the refugee crisis, climate, racism, homelessness, health disparities, poverty, and violence against women and children. In order to respond to the depth and multitude of issues raised in conversation I had to find a way to engage multiple perspectives, communicate the emergent themes, and be authentic in the creation of an original artwork. I approached this problem by envisioning the armature of oppression common to the distinct injustices. I created a sculpture installation that layered imagery and viewer interaction to reflect the depth of the issues. The visual problem of creating an aesthetic re-presentation of the Academy was expressly difficult because I was not communicating my singular observations and understandings but rather synthesizing a tessellation of voices and experiences.

Molly Helie

Rupture (Common Ground): Detail – Below the surface (pain and possibility).

Molly Helie

Rupture (Common Ground): Detail – Fullness (weight and waiting).

My sculpture installation, Rupture (Common Ground), was made out of dyed sawdust. The use of this material in my artwork was informed by the Guatemalan alfombras I saw during Semana Santa in Antigua, Guatemala. The alfombras are elaborate sawdust carpets covering the streets and then traversed by large processions. The remnants of dust flow though the cobblestones creating intricate tributaries of vivid pigments. Inspired by my profound awe of the simultaneous transience and permanence of the alfombras, I have incorporated the same material into my artworks. Before arriving in Boca Raton, Florida for the Academy, I prepared the sawdust at home in Baltimore, Maryland. In my driveway amidst an array of buckets I immersed myself in a meditative process of using my hands to mix together the sawdust and dye.

On the penultimate afternoon of the Academy I sketched the design for my artwork specific to the space where I would be creating the installation. I stayed late into the evening composing the form by hand. I was struck by the graceful lines of the floor terrazzo and used the fixed lines to guide the shape of my artwork. The red slit within the blue form represents both an expanding rupture and a wound healing. The emergent themes I explored in my artwork were: disruption, courage, marginalization, division, and transformation. The installation was a physical barrier within public space, the artwork itself disrupting the path of the viewers. The installation gave way to the passage of time, transforming within moments of its initial creation.

I selected the hues of blue and red because of the multitude of meaning each color holds. One participant viewed the red crack as the presence of danger, another as love. The blue form resonated as hope as well as oppression. The texture of the sawdust both pulled the participants closer to the artwork, and put them on edge as not to disrupt the precise lines of the form. The artwork invited the coexistence of multiple truths.

Molly Helie

Rupture (Common Ground): Detail – Cut (slice and suture).

Molly Helie

Below the surface
Hot tension flowing lava
Volcanic rupture

Birth of an island
Vulnerable lush landscape
Force of still beauty

Waking from silence
Breaking through the solid earth
Divide created

Borders known and not yet known
Shatter common ground

Wound slicing cutting
Healing burning closing the
Broken space between us