Last week in New York, Dan Colen was honored with the RxArt Inspiration Award at the organization’s 17th Annual PARTY. The artist’s project for RxArt, Moment’s like this…, was unveiled at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Queens this year. The special installation takes over the walls and ceilings of the highly used, 2,500-square foot Activity Center, and was inspired by Colen’s “confetti” paintings.
For the debut of Whitewall’s new series, “My First,” we ask Colen about working with RxArt—a nonprofit dedicated to helping heal children through art—and the story behind his very first “confetti” painting.
WHITEWALL: After working on this project for over five years with RxArt, what role do you see art play in healing?
DAN COLEN: I think it’s important to note that this project at St. Mary’s not only treats but also houses the children. It is where they spend all their time. This project creates an entirely new environment. It allows for a new experience, one which allows them to acknowledge something beyond their own illness. It allows them to tap into their creativity in a way a regular hospital doesn’t. I hope my project creates a sense of wonder, awe and joy that the children otherwise wouldn’t have experienced.
WW: As the installation at St. Mary’s is inspired by your “confetti” paintings, can you tell us the story behind making the first “confetti” painting?
DC: The origins are not uplifting, but I do think St. Mary’s allows for a touching conclusion to this body of work. I began the first confetti painting after my friend Dash Snow died. My original interests were about meditations on the fragility of life and how swiftly things could turn from celebration to mourning. How often little space there could be between those two modes of life or states of mind.