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Whimsical bird photos garner permanent Harborview exhibit

  • Written by Shannon Michael Features Writer

new shoes“New Shoes” is the title of this photo of a Steller’s jay Bothell photographer Laurie Ascanio created that is now on permanent display in the lobby of Harborview’s 3 West Clinic.The Certificate Program, offered through University of Washington’s Professional and Continuing Education department, offers many options to prepare adults seeking that extra bit of education in a focused, specific area.

For Bothell resident Laurie Ascanio, enrolling in the Photography Certificate Program was her way to gain confidence that would help her to validate her budding professional photography career.

Not only did the program help Ascanio achieve her goals, they were surpassed when her final project display was purchased for a permanent exhibit at Harborview Medical Center. The display was installed a few weeks ago in the lobby of the newly remodeled 3 West Clinic.

Before that happened, Ascanio attended the year-long program, meeting 12 hours a week on the Seattle campus in the evenings after work. "I never regretted one moment of driving into Seattle from my day job in Redmond," Ascanio wrote in an email interview. The program culminated in a final project put on display at Harborview this past summer.

"Our teacher, David Johnson, explained that we needed to create a cohesive series about something we were passionate about," Ascanio wrote. While most in the class had grand ideas, Johnson challenged his students to choose something in their own backyard.

Ascanio took that suggestion literally, using a bird feeder set up in her backyard as her inspiration.

"I had been enjoying taking photos [of birds] and practicing with a new camera and lens that could handle a much higher ISO and shutter speed allowing me to capture their movement in flight. I was enthralled by these new, feathered friends enjoying the feeders," she wrote.

But, it was one photo of a chickadee’s movements caught within a singular frame as it approached the bird feeder that caught her eye. The bird’s body language captured in that particular shot struck Ascanio as funny.

Suddenly inspiration took off, and she went to work using Photoshop to move the bird to the other side of the feeder and adding a black umbrella as if the chickadee were holding it to keep protected from the rain.

She brought the photo along with several other shots she’d taken in to class. Johnson was honest with her as he looked at her photos, commenting that he’d seen better straight portraits of birds, but then he pointed to the chickadee photo and told Ascanio he’d never seen a photo like that.

Ascanio-3460Courtesy photo . Bothell resident Laurie Ascanio, center, with Harborview’s 3 West Clinic manager Tracy Boyd, left, and Harborview’s art curator Peggy Weiss, right, are seen standing in the clinic’s lobby area where Ascanio’s whimsical bird photos were recently put on permanent display. "If you want to be the Gary Larson of the bird world, let’s see what you’ve got!" Ascanio recalled him saying to her.

She was elated and felt like she had permission to go for it.

She took those words of encouragement and created several photos for her final project.

The class was invited to display their final projects, which consisted of four to 10 framed photos each, in Harborview Hospital’s cafeteria. They were on display June 13 through July 15.

Near the end of the exhibition’s run, Harborview’s curator, Peggy Weiss, contacted Ascanio by email informing her that the images from the certificate program had been a huge hit at Harborview and that their interior planning person was interested in purchasing the suite of photographs for a well-trafficked area of the hospital.

It took several months for the procurement process to be completed before Ascanio finally visited the newly installed photos on November 18.

The UW Medical Center, which owns Harborview, states on its website the purpose of carefully thought out art installations throughout their facilities: "Art provides a positive diversion, inspires hope, and contributes to an atmosphere of healing and restoration.

"In the hospital setting, art addresses the health of the human spirit and body, reminding us of the human connections, life experiences and memories that can support and comfort us as we confront illness."

Ascanio couldn’t agree more, writing, "This is what I believe my pieces bring to those who look at them and enjoy the whimsy, mirth and love in which they were created."

If even for a moment one of Ascanio’s prints brings a smile to a worried patient or a family member’s face, her art is indeed a huge hit.

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