Art meets science

Through the art program at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead a project has been developed for National Science Week 2020 (15 – 23 August) titled Art meets science; How to Fix a Pixie.

The seven-part video series centres around 14 paintings by Pixie O’Harris in the Hospital’s art collection which require conservation. By examining the processes of diagnosis and treatment, parallels are drawn between the similarities in applied science (art conservation) and medical science.

Each painting ‘becomes the patient’ and undergoes examination, diagnosis and treatment. Art Curator at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Ivy Baddock, developed the video series alongside Art Conservators from International Conservation Services and various staff from Medical Imaging and Haematology at CHW to help showcase and describe the parallel processes used in medicine.

“The process of art conservation is quite similar to what doctors and nurses use to help treat a patient. We wanted to explore this connection through a series of Pixie O’Harris paintings depicting native birds and animals,” says Ms Baddock.

Pixie O’Harris (Rhona Olive Harris 1903 – 1991) was an artist and children's author. She was one of the first Australian artists to recognise that children in hospital might feel anxious or bored and that the hospital environment plays an important role in calming, comforting and entertaining children.

Pixie painted murals on the walls of children’s hospitals all over NSW and was a prolific producer of book illustrations and oil paintings on board. The paintings in this project feature Australian birds and animals in their native habitat and in 2019 were assessed as having National Significance by the National Library of Australia. 

The How to Fix a Pixie project will be delivered as a series of videos and activity sheets which can be viewed by following the link below, on the Operation Art Facebook Page or the official How to Fix a Pixie web page. Patients in the hospital can join the activities via the Hospital School or through the Starlight Express Room.

 This National Science Week project is supported by the Australian Government.