The Nurse Project, Portrait Paintings and Writings by Nurses is on Exhibit at the Sargent House Museum throughout July and August

The Nurse Project, Portrait Paintings and Writings by Nurses is on Exhibit at the Sargent House Museum throughout July and August

A new exhibition featuring the work of Vanessa Michalak opens July 22nd at The Sargent House Museum in Gloucester MA. The exhibitions, organized into two parts, features groups of five different portrait paintings and written anecdotes by each subject. Part 2 opens August 12th and closes Sept 2nd.

The exhibition entitled “The Nurse Project” is a collaboration between artist and nurses. Painter Vanessa Michalak asked nurses to send her their selfies and written anecdotes describing their experiences during the pandemic. The idea was to give nurses an opportunity to express themselves visually through the act of taking their own photo and through their choice of writing style. The participants described their experiences through poetry, anecdotes and personal essays.

Michalak, who graduated with an MFA in painting from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing wanted to make paintings that honored the nursing profession.  Michalak, who still works as a per diem while building her career as an artist has been a nurse since 2004.   Each portrait is large scale, many measuring 36”x30” and acts as a way to honor each nurse and their experiences. The writings accompanying each portrait are given their own recognition.  Printed posters of nearly equal size, share the written experiences of each nurse in their own words.

Nurses, Michalak writes, are no strangers to feeling unheard. About the body of work, she states: “I wanted to give nurses the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences with the hopes of honoring and calling attention to the critical role in healthcare that they play. The exhibition strives to honor not just the role of the nurse, but the voice of the nurse. I hope that by sharing this body of work with not only healthcare workers, but the general public that we as citizens, will work together to make decisions that reflect our care about the wellbeing of others, prioritize safety and value the contributions of our nurses. 

Michalak, who was this year’s Gloucester Artist Invitational Resident at the Geotemann Artist Residency is known for her landscape paintings depicting Cape Ann and the Dogtown Art Show, an outdoor art installation featuring numerous plein air paintings displayed on site. She was a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Fellowship Award in Painting in 2014 and was included in New American Paintings, issue 110. 

The Nurse Project is a moving, contemplative exhibition, each painting and written experience serving to honor the profession of nursing while at the same time reminding us that this pandemic is still not over and we must continue to work together.

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