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Arts & Culture

British Artist Finally Sees His San Antonio Installation

British artist Martin Donlin finally got to visit his own installed piece in San Antonio. Donlin’s “Hippocrates,” an 18 ft. by 30 ft. wall-mounted glass sculpture, dominates a wall that’s the transition from the old Methodist Hospital, to the new Sky Tower.

“The old building finishes and the new one begins. So we’ve got him kind of looking backwards and forwards,” he said.

The installation is highly symbolic. If you look carefully, the wide view suggests the Rod of Asclepius, which was wielded by the ancient Greek god of healing and medicine.

“In there there are a number of small discs that relate to leaves and herbs," he said.  "It’s all hand painted, and then fired in the kiln. So it’s permanent.”

Those discs seem to wrap around that Rod of Aesclepius, much like the snake does in the original. Donlin explained how the angle of the view affects what someone sees in it.

“The further you get away you actually notice there’s a face in there, you can see the eyes and the nose. And that’s the image of Hippocrates, father of modern medicine.”

I asked him how he gets the public to slow down, maybe even stop and notice his art.

“I think that’s virtually impossible, but it happens, which I’m glad to say,” he said.

Donlin’s work is one of dozens of pieces of art, huge to small, wall mounted or hanging, which dominate public areas in the hospital. The art’s objective is to help people heal. And it works in ways not always predictable. Donlin told the story of his art in Indianapolis, and how a woman discovered it:

“And she just turned around and was bathed in colored light," Donlin said. "It moved her to contact me; she Google’d me and e-mailed me and said, ‘Thank you for this experience.’ That was really moving.”

It could be that art where it’s least expected can have surprisingly uplifting results. And Donlin’s visit to his installation months after it had been installed was also quite nice for him.

“There’s nothing like visiting a space when everything is finished, and you can see people actually interacting with it.”