Metal with a Message
Pinecrest sculptor Santiago Medina creates art with a purpose
Santiago Medina began studying for a professional art career at age 5 in Colombia. As with his grandfather and great-grandfather, Medina was trained as an artist in the atelier system, a European practice in which young artists serve apprenticeships with art masters. He worked after school and on weekends in the studio of master painter Dora Ramirez at her art institute in Medina’s hometown of Medellin.
Medina’s great-grandfather, Emiliano Mejia, was a photographer and painter in Colombia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. His grandfather, Rafael Mejia Uribe, also was a painter, but his profession was as a pediatrician in Colombia. Medina’s father, Jorge Medina Gomez, was a physician and radiologist.
Art and medicine flowed through Medina’s blood. “It was up to me to decide what I wanted to do,” Medina says.
Medina lives most of the year in Pinecrest, where he has his main art studio. (He also has a shared space in Milan, Italy, and another studio in Medellin). He did pursue his art but also received medical training, following in his father’s footsteps as a radiologist, then took the training one step further. He realized that he could use 3-D medical imaging to add another dimension to his artwork, and it was sculpture where the imaging could really have an impact.
“For me, it was easy to imagine a two-dimensional painting in 3-D and that was because I had this additional training on the medical side,” Medina explains. He continually has explored using advanced medical imaging technology such as computerized tomography (or cross-sectioning) and MRI to scan his sculptures. Medina says the technique enhances the appeal and form of the work. “It’s a way to bring powerful artistic expression, technological sophistication and physician sensitivity to my artwork,” Medina says.
He started to create traditional sculpture, using bronze and clay and employing the imaging technique, but the experience that made a lasting impression was meeting sculptor Anish Kapoor in London. Kapoor’s public installation, “Cloud Gate,” in Chicago’s Millennium Park is one of the world’s most famous stainless-steel sculptures. “I visited his studio around 2003 or 2004; then I was hooked.”
The mirrored images, which reflected in the shiny stainless steel, gave even more life to his sculptures. “The sculpture is never the same at any time. Because the surface has a mirrored finish, it changes according to the weather, light or people around it.”
He’s also discovered a way to make the sculptures “fluid” in other ways, using colorful LEDs that can set the mood of the works.
Currently, six stainless-steel sculptures are part of “Art in the Gardens” inside Pinecrest Gardens. The exhibition has been more than satisfying for the artist in many ways. He says he was able to fuse what is so important in his work—having the sculptures become monumental tributes and bringing stainless steel to life.
Among the works placed around Pinecrest Gardens, two of his sculptures, “Hope” and “Friendship,” are in the Steven Sotloff Memorial Garden, which honors the work and memory of the Pinecrest journalist who was slain by the Islamic State group in 2014. For the installation at the memorial, Medina wanted to “breathe life” into the sculptures to commemorate Sotloff. The artist explains that he synchronized colored light-emitting diodes that shine on the sculptures to simulate a breathing pattern.
“Slowly, the lights change colors,” Medina says. “They have this pattern, much like waves coming in and out of the shore. I wanted to symbolize life and the movement that life and nature provides. I wanted to do something to enhance the memorial.” He was granted permission to place the sculptures in the garden by Sotloff’s parents, Shirley and Arthur. “I wanted to do something that would enhance the memorial. They have been pleased with the way it looks,” he says.
The four other sculptures were paired specifically with parts of the garden. “The installations—with tropical plants around—are to be an extension of the gardens,” Medina says. “Artistically, they should seem as if they are growing out of the garden—as if they were part of it.”
Colored LEDs are adjusted through a mobile phone application and projected on the sculptures. He says the lights are powerful enough that they can be seen day or night. “However, at night, they appear completely different,” he says.
The sculptures included in the “Art in the Gardens” exhibit are his outdoor monumental sculptures, which are between 9 and 13 feet tall. His smaller sculptures are between 6 and 9 feet tall.
Medina continues his work as a radiologist while furthering his artistic endeavors so he can “stay in touch with the human side.” He’s also always learning more about the imaging technology so he can develop what he describes as cutting-edge sculptures.
“Art needs to be pleasant to the eye, but once you have something that is this interactive, it takes it to the next level,” he says. “That’s what I bring from my experience as a physician.”
ART IN THE GARDENS
WHERE: Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Road; exhibition located at the entrance to the Meadow
WHEN: Through this month
COST: General admission, $5; seniors (65 and older), $3
INFORMATION: 305.669.6990 or pinecrestgardens.org