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‘Take as directed’

Artist shares medical-themed sculptures at A-B

February 4, 2012
By Melissa Toothman, Special to The Inter-Mountain , The Inter-Mountain

Alderson-Broaddus College of Philippi recently welcomed Morgantown artist Ron Hollingshead and his installation of sculptures, "Take as Directed" to the Daywood Gallery in Burbick Hall.

The show is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through March 9, and it features Hollingshead's his take on personal health care experiences ranging from injury and treatment to recovery.

"After months of pills, discomfort and talks with doctors with few answers, there wasn't an explanation (for the pain)," Hollingshead said.

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
‘Regimen,’ a series of small sculptures, is on display at the Daywood Gallery as a testament to the 579 prescribed pills in Ron Hollingshead’s monthly dosage. Each pill was designed not only to match the colors of his actual prescriptions, but in an image reminiscent of the pill bug, an insect that reminds Hollingshead of the shape of a capsule pill.

He found himself wondering if the pain he was feeling was real and whether he could trust what he felt in his own body, although he tried to take care of himself.

"I don't smoke. I don't drink. I've never even tasted alcohol or puffed a cigarette," he said.

Although each sculpture tells a story about his own experience, Hollingshead himself is far enough removed from the sculptures that they can be interpreted as the experiences of anyone who has experienced medical issues.

Part of his sculptural work for this expedition incorporates an actual hospital bed. Hollingshead was lucky enough to find this bed along the side of the road after he had begun the planning stages for the artwork.

"I didn't put me in the bed so that it's not all about me. It allows the viewer to put themselves in the artwork," Hollingshead said.

The hospital bed piece is titled "Exhausted," and gallery visitors will discover that the bed is equipped with an exhaust system that would normally be found on a vehicle. In addition, the hospital bed's wheels have been replaced with molds of wheels that appear to be low on air, to add to the "worn-out" effect.

Another piece represents his ruptured disk. Standing tall in the floor of the gallery is a sculpture of a vertebra titled "Rupture," which incorporates a video of Hollingshead blowing bubblegum until it pops.

"When the doctor came out to update my mother and wife about my surgery, he said, 'When I cut into his spinal column, a piece of his disc the size of a gum ball popped out.' I thought his words were telling a metaphor for a ruptured disc," Hollingshead said.

Through his experiences, Hollingshead had to take 579 prescribed pills over the course of one month - and he was on the medication for seven years.

On the gallery walls, visitors will discover exactly one month's worth of medication prescribed to Hollingshead. Each pill, created in the exact colors of the prescribed pills, rests upon a sculptural tongue. Together, these tongues are titled, "Regimen."

Hollingshead said he is especially pleased with the way "Regimen" displays in Daywood Gallery. The 579 small sculptures are fixed on all four walls of the gallery in a way that one can interpret as a cycle of taking the medication.

The show is the second version of the same subject matter Hollingshead created for his thesis exhibition at West Virginia University. Hollingshead graduated from WVU in May 2011 with a master's degree in sculpture and is now teaching as an adjunct professor.

Not all sculptures that complement Hollingshead's show in the gallery were able to be included in this installation of the show because of space constraints.

Grant Johnson, professor of art at A-B, invited Hollingshead to display the work.

"I'm especially pleased to be able to bring an expedition that is directly involved with health care. There's a strong connection to our educational purpose at A-B," Johnson said.

Hollingshead said he was happy he was invited.

"I think it's important for students to see art that is different from what they see every day," Hollingshead said.

More information is available at, where people can leave comments or ask the artist questions. In addition, a book outside of Daywood Gallery is available for visitors to record their thoughts and leave comments for the artist.



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