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The Nexus of Art and Health Exhibition

Being human binds us to a relationship with health. Whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual, this relationship is inescapable. Wellness, trauma, and outbreak force us to think about our marriage to health and the position of vulnerability this puts us in.  

The Nexus of Art and Health exhibition at the Ohio Arts Council’s (OAC) Riffe Gallery calls upon this relationship and encourages us to think about how our personal health journeys have influenced our lives, identities, and forms of self-expression. Curator Sienna Brown pulls together work from 15 artists, each with a unique approach to the same idea; if life must coexist with health, how do you artistically explore, cope, and process?

I was instantly fascinated by Nate Ricciuto’s piece, Bellwether. This large scale, interactive work mimics a Faraday cage—an enclosure used to block electromagnetic fields often caused by cellphones. What I admire most about this piece is the dedication to creating such an otherworldly space. From the carefully aligned panels of conductive glass to the static radio hanging between two heat lamps, every detail has been considered. When the door snaps shut behind you, suddenly reality becomes distorted. This unconventional architecture creates conversations about conspiracy, isolation, and technological “progress.” 

Artist Yani Sheng addresses the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in her piece, Faces in the Time of Covid. Featuring over 45 portraits of friends, family, and stranger’s masked faces, each linocut is as detailed and unique as the individual that occupies it. The sense of shared experience and community is the strongest asset of this work, serving as a reminder that there is power in numbers. 

Artist Brinsley Tyrell has 16 pieces in the exhibition, each one sculpted by hand at his dining room table. When Brinsley caught COVID-19 in 2020, he became obsessed with exploring the textures, shapes, and forms of the coronavirus. Being able to manipulate these vessels gave him a sense of control over the virus he simultaneously feared. 

Laura Vinnedge’s series, (from) Lymph Nodes with White Blood Cells and Macrophages #2-5, is truly something you need to see in person. As someone battling cancer, the Lymph Node paintings explore both organic and artificial biological cell growths. I love the artist’s decision to not paint over the sides of the canvas. This detail, which you can only see in person, reveals the layers of complexity within these pieces. 

The Nexus of Art and Health exhibition, curated by Sienna Brown, is on view at the OAC Riffe Gallery through January 6, 2023. An Opening Reception was held on October 29, 2022. Find more information about upcoming gallery programming and view a virtual exhibition experience. 

Article by Anya Nelson, 2022-23 OAC Riffe Gallery Marketing and Exhibitions Fellow


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