Friday afternoon, Jackie Hamilton was facing a task anyone who’s tried to line up a few family photos on a wall could appreciate. Before her and assistant Jason Akhtarekhavari were 19 watercolors by iconic Kentucky artist Paul Sawyier. And she was preparing to display them in one of busiest galleries in Lexington: the corridor between Pavilion A and Pavilion H of the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital, a space also known as the East Gallery.
So, they wanted the works to hang evenly, which was quite a task considering the hangers were in different positions on each piece, Hamilton said.
Even before they are hung, the works attract attention, and the exhibit figures to be another high profile part of the hospital’s distinctive Arts in HealthCare program, which has works on permanent and rotating display around the facility.
Getting the rarely seen Sawyiers from the Kentucky Historical Society is still a coup for the hospital.
“We went over and talked to the historical society about what would be appropriate,” says Hamilton, who directs the Arts in HealthCare program. “I was looking for something that hadn’t been exhibited much and that would be of interest. It kind of coincides with our organ and tissue wall that’s going to go up. The theme of this poem is death, but it’s a positive aspect of death.”
The 19 watercolors are based on New England poet Rose Terry Cooke’s poem The Two Villages, which compares a noisy town to the quiet graves on a hill nearby. Sawyier’s paintings are of familiar locations in Frankfort including the Kentucky River and monuments in the Frankfort Cemetery.
“It’s an interesting take on Sawyier,” Hamilton says. “He was prolific, but being inspired by writing is sort of unusual.”
Most exhibits displayed in the East Gallery stay up six months, but Hamilton said the Sawyier originals will be up only four due to concerns about light exposure.