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March 13, 2013

Local artist looks to heal with new exhibit

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Pontiac artist Molly Murphy Landis will show her collection of storybook-inspired paintings at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield through the beginning of April.

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Through the beginning of April, Henry Ford Hospital of West Bloomfield will feature a special exhibition of work from local artist Molly Murphy Landis.

The exhibit is on display at the hospital’s Healing Art Gallery and features 17 abstract pieces by Landis, who said she is pleased to be presenting her own work again after taking 15 years off from painting to work as an art therapist.

“I worked everywhere from the Detroit Institute of Arts to the College for Creative Studies to the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Center,” said Landis, who lives in Pontiac. “Just about two years ago, I decided to take some time off and dedicate myself full-time to painting. The first year, I was just building up a portfolio. I have about 50 paintings from that first year, and I just started to exhibit them this past fall.”

Aside from a large mural of Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes, Landis said the collection of paintings is inspired by the story “The Little Prince” by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

“I took sections of the book and sort of made abstract paintings of each section,” she said. “They kind of lend themselves to have their own narrative projected onto them. That was sort of my point with ‘The Little Prince’ stories. I was getting an impression from the story, but my intention was that people could also come up with their own story, after the fact.”

Landis’s technical skills, combined with her ability to create paintings that are open to individual interpretation, is what makes her work so special, according to Annie VanGelderen, president and CEO of the BBAC. 

“I think those are incredible,” said VanGelderen of “The Little Prince” series. “She’s dissecting what the story meant to her and recreating it in images that may not make sense to us but, somehow, they work. She’s letting the viewer try to interpret what the story means to them, and I think that’s what makes really great art. It becomes their story, and I think that’s so important.”

The exhibition began in January and, so far, it seems to be a success, according to Landis. She said she’s received some great feedback from gallery guests, specifically from students of the Bloomfield Hills P.R.E.P. program, which serves young adults with developmental and physical disabilities. The students were treated to an exclusive Q-and-A with Landis on March 1 and she said the group was very receptive to her work, engaging in a dialogue about the exhibit for nearly two hours.

Experiences like that are hugely important to Landis, who said that as a career art therapist, who still practices at McLaren Macomb in Mount Clemens, she will always seek to include a healing component to her personal artwork.

“I am an art therapist and an artist, and what I realized two years ago is that I am both of those things and I can’t separate from either one of them. It’s definitely important to me that my work have a healing element to it. I do a lot of work in hospitals, so that environment is important to me because I also work in a hospital. To me, this kind of brings it full circle.”

The Healing Art Gallery is located on the hospital’s main level near the café. Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital is located at 6777 West Maple Road in West Bloomfield.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.