Late in November, with very little fanfare, Amy Westover completed her sculpture Blue Rising at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center. It is the most-recent piece offered by this Boise-based artist, who is well-known for her 2003 work Grove Street Illuminated and the Boise Canal that presides over the corner of Ninth and Grove streets in downtown Boise. That piece—her first public art commission—has achieved the lasting impact that site-specific public art strives for: It's a marker, a reference point, a destination and an always-welcome vision that stands out from its surroundings while providing a comment on the past, present and future of that location.
With her latest piece, Westover has accomplished something notable. In one sculpture, she has created what amounts to two distinct works that are intended to be viewed from different vantage points: from street level and from above. Each vantage point presents a unique vision.
From the ground, the sculpture rises out of the center of a traffic roundabout. Steel rods painted the truest of blues emerge from a base in a starburst formation. Each is tipped with fiber-optic illumination. From afar, the piece shimmers, undulating like a mirage. Upon closer examination, the edges seem to rise and fall. The transparency of the 166 rods, spaced uniformly apart, give a sensation of movement and fluidity. The setting of the piece is elemental to its enjoyment, as you travel around the circle and watch the edges flow up and down.
Viewed from above, out of a window in the tower of the Center for Advanced Healing, the image comes sharply into focus as an abstract form of an angel rising. It has the overwhelming effect of providing an uplift to the spirit. The illuminated rods provide a very literal outline of the shape, and the resulting impact can take your breath away.
"The space for the piece is a perfect circle, which led me to da Vinci's Vitruvian Man," explains Westover. "This was the perfect departure point for the project and the main inspiration for the form. When I started creating the line, it became a sort of angel shape. Essentially, the sculpture has one view from above and another from the approach on the ground. To me, it is a spiritual gesture, yet very much about the human body."
Westover's attentiveness to who her audience will be demonstrates her sensitivity to place. The people who will gaze out of a hospital room and see this piece will be treated to a thoughtful offering from an artist with a tremendous generosity.
She was commissioned to create this sculpture in 2006. The idea for it developed over the course of the next few months. "I was drawn to the idea that the hospital is dedicated to all aspects of the body," explains Westover. "For me, the form touches on the idea that our bodies are more than just a physical structure."
"What Amy has accomplished with this piece is exceptional," says Jacque Crist, whose J Crist Gallery provides original artwork for the Center for Advanced Healing. "For the patients and caregivers on the upper floors, it presents a very hopeful gesture.
"The sight lines for this piece are phenomenal," continues Crist. "Approaching from both directions (the Curtis Road entrance or the Emerald Street entrance), the sculpture is framed architecturally. It is simply a beautiful piece. I always felt entirely confident with Amy's vision, but the result is more than any of us ever dreamed."
"This work has been the result of a commitment by the trustees, staff, and board members of St. Alphonsus Hospital to consider art as part of the healing process," says Crist. "They wanted a sculpture at the entrance to the new tower, and it has become much more than that. It has been a tremendous honor to look into what art can do for the environment where healing takes place."
Blue Rising is a shining example of site-specific sculpture serving its intended audience. Westover's accomplishment is a testament to the power of art to inspire, to move and, perhaps, to heal.