A Way with Words, 2019
Juried competition, commissioned by Summa Health with a gift from the Lehner Family Foundation to honor Gordon Ewers.
Materials: Polymer gypsum, fiberglass, steel, plaster, gold leaf, aluminum leaf, copper leaf, pigment, 160.5 x 96 x 5.5”.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor, main lobby, adjacent to stairs.
Diana al-Hadid was inspired by the opportunity to celebrate the natural and man-made environments of Akron in this work, commissioned by Summa Health with a generous gift from the Lehner Family Foundation to honor Gordon Ewers. This commission was awarded after a juried competition open to all artists with an Ohio connection. A Way with Words is realized on the grand scale appropriate to its presence in the main lobby of Summa’s new patient tower, a huge, 3-dimensional “painting” that the artist created to respect the sensitivities and needs of those entering the hospital environment by leaving much of the work open to the individual responses beholders bring to it.
From left: Cliff Deveny, M.D., Diana Al-Hadid and David Custodio, M.D., during Al-Hadid's art installation in the new tower on the Summa Health System — Akron Campus.
The artist typically works with unusual, non-traditional materials — wax, resin, polymer, fiberglass — along with more traditional sculptural materials, such as plaster, bronze, and steel, to create large-format, freestanding and relief sculptures. These materials resonate with the leading role that Akron played in the rubber industry since the late 19th century, while the subject matter draws upon the even older impact of natural and man-made waterways on life in our part of Ohio. Al-Hadid uses the sometimes evanescent, shimmering materials to suggest light, water, mist, and then rock in an image of the waterfall at Lock Three, an iconic downtown Akron site which also alludes to the historical significance of the Ohio and Erie Canal as a transportation and commercial lifeline in the city. The lock made an important Akron connection north to Cleveland and Lake Erie and south to growers, merchants and towns in the middle of the state.
Yet you need not know any of this to engage with this huge piece as an exploration of subtle form and color. Its great size foremost creates an environment for the beholder to step into, figuratively. In the varying light of day, and then in the artificial light of evening or early morning, you can discern a range of delicate copper, silvery, and grey tones — referring to both the natural and man-made features to which the artist refers in the specific meaning of the work — which are interwoven through the layers of material that accretes to build up the surface of the “painting”. And that same light leads you through those layers, although you might not notice at first, where the artist has deliberately created depth in order to frame shadows that those layers create below the surface.
Part of Al-Hadid's artistic practice focuses on exploring what her materials and processes are capable of constructing and where they can be pushed into new expressive territory. Layering is an important part of some, including drawings: Her work often echoes, in contemporary vocabulary, a theme, idea, or image that has intrigued her from her study of art history, which may be referenced in the title. Complexities of meanings and textures of meaning and form in each work invite the beholder to stop and attend more fully, as in A Way With Words here.
The artist was born in Aleppo, Syria, and came with her family to the Canton area when she was a small child. She graduated from GlenOak High School and, becoming interested in art and its history in the course of growing up, Al-Hadid completed undergraduate degrees in sculpture (B.F.A. in studio art) and art history (B.A.) at Kent State University and the M.F.A. degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. Since then, she has worked and lived in New York, where she manages a large studio staffed by specialist assistants who help her with the many facets of competing for commissions; creating and shipping complex pieces; keeping track of and speaking about her many works; and doing all the necessary tasks associated with a not-so-small business. This aspect of her production seems to fascinate contemporary observers, as it has been documented no less than twice in the last decade. Al-Hadid has definitely become one of her generation’s young artists-to-watch, and we are delighted that she won the competition to create this piece expressly for the lobby of the new Summa tower.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
More on Al-Hadid can be found on her website, dianaalhadid.com. She has been widely covered in broadcast, print, and online media as her energetic production has led to appearances — in museums, in public venues, in galleries — all over the world.Just type “Diana Al-Hadid” into Google and take it from there!