Exhibit seeks to capture the power of art in fostering empathy

"Burka" by Linda Atkinson

”Burka,” by Linda Atkinson, is one of dozens of works by local artists to be featured in ”The Art of Precision and Reach,” an exhibit curated by Jane Lillian Vance.

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine will present the newest installment in its art show series on April 21. The Art of Precision and Reach, curated by acclaimed artist Jane Lillian Vance, investigates the synaptic space between art and science. Dozens of exhibiting artists have used a range of mediums to capture the creativity, humanity, and grace found in that interstice.

The free opening reception will take place 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the medical school in Roanoke.

The pieces in the new show include dozens of paintings, photographs, found-object collages, wood and bronze sculptures, watercolors, and costume creations.

“I called for art that would embody two values: precision and reach,” Vance said. “Precision means skill, craftsmanship, not concept alone. Reach means that the art intends to help someone, tell an edifying story, or inspire us because it comes from someplace unexpected.

“The Art of Precision and Reach will build a bridge between artists, medical practitioners, and all people of service,” Vance added. “I have always said that art has work to do. Promoting empathy is the benefit of both precision and reach.”

Vance cited two cityscapes by an artist who is legally blind as examples of both precision and reach. “He uses the brightness of a computer screen to help him paint his original sketches,” Vance said. “He loves precise reflections, and he uses memories to capture beloved cityscapes.”

A collage by Gil Harrington speaks to Vance of resilience. “Many of the decorations Gil added are ‘found items,’ which translates into discarded objects, even trash,” Vance said. “That’s the alchemy of precision and reach. Precise observation disclosed the potential in disparate marginal objects, revealing the inherent beauty that even ostensibly damaged things possess.”

One of Vance’s own contributions to the show, a recently completed oil called “Dreamtime,” tells the story of the dying moments of a young Zambian man as a Roanoke humanitarian and nurse, Karen Remine, blesses him. Remine is the founder and president of Orphan Medical Network International, a medical mission group that serves orphans worldwide.

Also on display are works that Vance has created with one of her art students, Alex, a 15-year-old with special needs. The works, collectively known as The Energy Menagerie, were developed as Alex, who is nonverbal, created “energy lines” with crayons. Vance then cut and pasted them into Energy Animals, and her student used a special typing device to name each one.

“All the marks are mine,” Alex typed. “The energy is mine. I love our Energy Animals.”

Vance, an instructor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Religion and Culture, is perhaps best known for her Dalai Lama–approved painting of a Tibetan healer, which became the subject of an award-winning documentary, A Gift for the Village. Vance served as the first artist-in-residence in Carilion Clinic’s Dr. Robert L. A. Keeley Healing Arts Program. She is also vice president of Help Save the Next Girl, a national nonprofit organization aimed at sensitizing young women and girls to predatory danger.

The art show is the latest in a series sponsored by the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s Creativity in Health Education Program, which strives to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students, faculty, and staff while involving community members in the life of the school.

“This show is a perfect example of what we’re trying to achieve with this program,” said Dr. David Trinkle, associate dean for community and culture at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the program’s founder. “Jane’s humanistic vision captures the power of art to move us all. We’re honored to be able to share her artistic and curatorial talents not just with the school, but also with the broader community.”

The artwork will be on display through July. The building usually has restricted access, so the April 21 event will provide an ideal opportunity for the public to view the artwork. Following the opening, viewing of the art will be by appointment only. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, email Lynne Pearo-Baker or call her at 540-526-2300.

Media contact

April 15, 2015
Roanoke, VA