Picture of Health – Great new book on healthcare art, with many references to nature

My friend and colleague Henry Domke recently sent me a hard copy of his new book, Picture of Health: Handbook for Healthcare Art. If you think that the subject of art for healthcare may not seem all that closely related to the subject of therapeutic landscapes, think again!

After serving his community in Missouri as a family physician for almost thirty years, Henry decided in 2007 to pursue his passion as a nature photographer full-time. You can see his beautiful images on his website, Henry Domke Fine Art, and if you’re a follower of this blog, you will see some familiar pictures. Henry has always been generous with allowing me to use his images since he believes in what we’re doing here at the TLN. He also has his own excellent blog, Healthcare Fine Art, in which he explores the connection between art and healthcare. The two years of blog entries form the basis of this very informative book; I’ve already referred to it several times, and I refer to the blog often.

Henry believes strongly in a few things. One is the power of nature, and nature imagery, to make people feel good and to to even help sick people feel better. Second is the importance of being a steward of nature: His parents started the Prairie Garden Trust, a 500-acre restoration project on their own land, in the 1970s, and Henry and his wife are dwellers and caretakers of the land and the Trust. Many photographs are taken on the Trusts’ grounds. And last but not least, Henry believes in making decisions that are based not just on intuition, but on facts. This is called Evidence-Based Design (EBD), in which researched and documented evidence about such things as patient outcomes, staff turnover, and hospital safety are used to inform design decisions such as the healthcare facility’s architecture, gardens, programming, and artwork. Many of Henry’s posts deal with this issue, and his blog (and now book) is one of the best resources for healthcare art. It’s also a pretty darn good resource for all designers, artists, and healthcare providers who are trying to introduce more nature into healthcare.

Here’s one quote that illustrates Henry’s motivation for his artwork and his writing:

“As a doctor, I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I know how stressful they can be. Even in the best of circumstances, such as having a baby, it can be a scary and anxious time. But when you’re experiencing something truly life-threatening, being in a clinical environment can make you feel even worse. What if, instead of that cold space, you could look at images that triggered thoughts of happy times in nature, scenes that transported you mentally to a better place?”

Landscape architects and designers agree with this statement 100%, and we work hard to get real gardens into the healthcare setting. If a picture can make someone feel better, imagine what an escape into a real garden can do! Henry discusses “real vs. represented” in at least two posts, Nature vs. Virtual, and Real Nature vs. Pictures of Nature, which are also published in the book.

I recently discovered another way that Healthcare Fine Art and Picture of Health can useful to landscape designers: Art in the garden. Many healing gardens integrate artwork – tiles, or sculptures, or murals – and it’s often up to the landscape architect/designer to figure out how the art, the hardscape, and the plant material will interact. Henry’s work serves as an excellent guide. Stay tuned for a blog posting on this very subject coming soon to a Therapeutic Landscapes Network Blog near you.

You can order a hard copy, or download a free pdf version, of the book from the Henry Domke Fine Art website.