Greely Myatt: Balloons for Le Bonheur

Published On 07/11/2011

Location: Clinic Waiting Area
Underwriting Cost: $20,000

Local artist Greely Myatt was green before it was cool.

“I love to recycle,” he said. “I believe the job of an artist is to look at one thing and see something else.”

When Myatt was commissioned for a large installation in the new Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, he brought his artistic viewpoint and decades of experience with him. He even managed to recycle materials from the old hospital for his piece “Balloons for Le Bonheur.”

Greely MyattMyatt was given 36 feet to cover, and the flexibility to work beyond the main wall of the heart and neuro clinic waiting room. He decided that instead of one gigantic piece of art, he would create several small sculptures to establish what he called a more “environmental” situation.

He began sculpting found materials (including wood from Libertyland) to resemble cartoon speaking balloons, a signature of his. The balloons also reference the first grand opening ceremony of Le Bonheur Children’s in 1952, when balloons with keys were released to symbolize that no child would be turned away from care, regardless of ability to pay. Myatt worked with the original graphics on the old wood, including a toy-truck that had been painted on a child’s dresser, and a bright-red heart.

The found material was laminated on birch plywood, cut and assembled into clusters. Using a bracket system, the bundles were floated off the wall to make the art pop.

“The bracketing gets them into the air,” where dialogue and balloons both belong, said Myatt.

Originally from Aberdeen, Mississippi, Myatt lives and works as a sculptor in Memphis. He received his BFA from Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., in 1975 and his MFA from the University of Mississippi, in Oxford in 1980. Myatt is currently a professor of art at the University of Memphis and associate chair of the Department of Art.

Myatt's sculptures and installations have been exhibited in more than 25 solo shows and numerous group exhibitions across the United States, Europe and Japan. He has received grants and fellowships from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the University of Memphis, the University of Georgia, and Alternate Roots, Atlanta. Myatt received the 1994 Mississippi Arts and Letters Visual Arts Award and served as an exchange artist to Israel in 1998. He is represented by David Lusk Gallery in Memphis and Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.

“I think art is for the spirit,” said Myatt. “I think it helps us get through; it softens our lives. For me, personally, it’s what I do, so I couldn’t live without it.”

Myatt said he would like to see his empty speech bubbles fill with the words of patients and families who enter the new hospital.

“For Le Bonheur, what I’m trying to do is take people’s minds off of what they are there for and to give them something to think about,” he said. “The meaning of this work is left up to the viewers to project their own thoughts and hopefully it becomes their voice.”

If you would like to inquire about underwriting this or any of the other pieces in the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Art Collection, please call the Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Foundation at 901-287-6308.