Given our location in the Heartland, it may seem improbable that Marlene Lewis' work (the artist is shown here in her CWE studio during CAM's Open Studios tour last summer) would be represented in tomorrow's annual New Year's Day Rose Parade, part of Pasadena's Tournament of Roses celebration.
When I visited Marlene earlier this month she was putting finishing touches on 80 hand-painted hearts (see below) that will be given in advance of the parade to families whose loved ones have donated an organ or to those who have been the recipient of an organ donation. The "Donate Life America" Float leads the Rose Parade each year.
The artist's original connection to the transplant organization is through Bridge to Life Solutions, an organ transplantation company that partners with Donate Life America for the Rose Parade. The way this all came about can be described as both serendipitous and bittersweet. During an internet search Marlene's work surfaced when directors of Bridge to Life Solutions were looking for a St. Louis artist in advance of a conference scheduled here (the transplantation company meets in a different city each year). Directors told Marlene that they found her work both joyful and hopeful, and asked her to paint something for the conference. In addition to the art created for the Rose Parade, that initial commission led to one from the State of Virginia for 100 hearts to put in DMV offices to encourage citizens to check the organ donation box when renewing drivers' licenses. The Donate Life America website states that 123,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant and thousands more are awaiting tissue and cornea transplants to restore mobility and sight.
Bridge to Life Solutions also commissioned Marlene to paint the 36 x 36" painting shown above which was donated to one of its transplant teams.
The bittersweet mention at the beginning of this post is this: An organ donor gave the gift of life to a member of Marlene's own family. Marlene's sister, Dianne, had a heart/lung transplant that enabled her to live 7 additional happy years. It's rather amazing that an internet search would bring Marlene years of gratifying work that is so close to her own heart.
No post about Marlene would be complete without a snapshot of her sidekick Sammy, above, who accompanies her to the studio each day.
To contact Marlene Lewis: firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Marlene on Facebook too.