Sculptor Ellen Steinfeld was focused on creating something that would be welcoming and uplifting, representative of life and hope. When she finished, she had created a shimmery “Tree of Hope” model out of stainless steel.
“It’s like a tree, but it’s very abstracted. I tried to have the whole image personify the universal symbol of well-being,” says Steinfeld, of Buffalo. She says admirers “can read into it what they want. There is, like, a bird at the top symbolizing flight, or hope. Some of the exterior shapes can be symbolic of a heart or a person.”
Once Steinfeld made her design, she had raw steel shipped to a factory for a special finish that removes steel’s natural dullness. She worked with a computer-aided design programmer to create a cutting pattern. The shapes were cut using a precision waterjet cutting machine.
Then Steinfeld worked with a fabricator at the old Bethlehem Steel mill in Lackawanna to assemble the tree.
The tree is about 7 feet tall and will be mounted on a pedestal. In daylight, the sun will provide subtle variations in color. Lights at night “will produce much more dramatic and magical effects,” she says.
Both of Steinfeld’s parents died from cancer. So have many of her friends. “Art is part of the healing process, as far as I’m concerned,” she says. “Art is the living life. It represents life. That’s why it’s so important.”
Meet three more artists:
Of East Syracuse
Works: Photographs of plants, landscapes, trees and birds. An architect, he has been the senior project manager for the cancer center.
Background: “I used to be a painter. My passion for photography basically began when I wanted to learn more about painting clouds, because they are so elusive. From clouds, I jumped to flowers.”
Context: “It is proven psychologically that nature gives us a certain balance and refuge. That’s why many cancer centers try to set themselves in natural environments.”
Work: 4-foot wide wall installation called “Under a Microscope,” crocheted from sewing thread. Each circle takes about 45 minutes to craft. The finished product is mounted with insect pins.
Inspiration: algae. When people look at her work, “I’m hoping that they will think of organisms. Will they think of algae? Probably not. But the name ‘Under the Microscope’ will give them the direction of looking at cells or organisms.”
Context: She worked for 20 years as a nurse at Upstate University Hospital, caring for patients in the emergency department and the adult and pediatric intensive care units. She cared for children with cancer. And four years ago, she lost her brother to kidney cancer.
Works: Semi abstract watercolors with mixed media called “Queen’s Lace” and “Pussy Willows.”
Message: “I would certainly hope my art would give people a connection with God our maker and to give them strength to get through. Cancer is a terrible thing to have to experience.”
Context: Her infant daughter, Ann was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 1976 and treated at University Hospital until her death in 1983. Later, her brother died from lung cancer.
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