Welcome to my blog, a place to explore and learn about the experience of running a psychiatric practice. I post about things that I find useful to know or think about. So, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Artwork for the Office

Enough already with the E&M coding. It's time for some pretty pictures.

What artwork do psychiatrists have in their offices?

I always wonder what the impact of the artwork is, which has made me very particular about what I choose to put on my walls.

In my first office, which was in the hospital I was working for, I had a painting that I bought from a man in the park across from the hospital. His name is Alan Streets, and here's a link to his site.

This is a painting he did of the Brooklyn Bridge, in the same style:

The one I have is this awesome painting of the buildings on the park across from the hospital, except that everything is just a little crooked, like the one above, and I watched him paint it.

But when I moved to my own office, it seemed a bit too personal (and a little too creepy), to put on my wall. I wanted something brighter, and maybe thought provoking. But not too thought provoking.

Well, I couldn't find anything like that, so then I just bought some nice paper that I happened to like and framed it.

It seemed fairly innocuous, and I still think it looks like balanced stones. My patients commented on it occasionally.

In my current office, I really wanted something special, that I liked looking at. But it couldn't be too personal or showcase my tastes too much. It could be thought provoking for my patients, but not too controversial or "out there". I wanted it to be colorful. I wanted it to be a real "work", but not too valuable, especially since I can't afford anything like that. And I wanted it to not scare anyone.

I had purchased another painting on the street about a year before the Alan Streets one. It was by a man named Ivan Jenson. It's very similar to this one:

I really like it, and I had intended it for my office, but on looking at it, there's something disturbing. Maybe that's what I like about it. But I couldn't see subjecting paranoid patients to it, or even regressed analytic patients on the couch.

I also bought a poster from him, that looks a lot like this, except with bolder strokes and more brown than blue:

This one's called "Bearded Man", and I suspect mine is, too, and that they're not intended to be anyone in particular. A little Van Gogh, a little Stalin when he still had hair. But it was a little too "Freud" for me to be comfortable putting it in my office with my analytic couch. I already feel like something out of a Woody Allen movie.

I thought about going the standard New Yorker route. You know:


They were just too predictable. And I didn't want anything silly.

I liked the idea of having something New Yorky, though. Ikea has this one:

But it's a bit too Ikea.

I did buy a little 10x8 painting from a young man who was selling his work on Union Square. The poor guy was trying to make rent, and I didn't have much cash on me, so he sold it to me for whatever I had, I think $30. I offered to bring him more money the next day-he was just a kid-but I never saw him again. It's a great painting of the Bushwick Subway Station, slightly impressionistic, in muted blues and purples, like it was raining the day he painted it. But it's tiny, and it sits on my desk. I doubt most of my patients can even see it well.  I don't remember his name or I'd list it, because the kid has talent.

Then what?

I love Charlie Harper

but I thought that would be too specialized.

I think Banksy is great

But he's a little sarcastic.

I'm a huge animation fan

But in my office?

For quite a while, I just left the walls completely blank, other than my diplomas and license registration. Admittedly, there was something soothing about the plain white walls.

Then one day, I was in a store that sells used house stuff, and I saw this up on the wall:

The walls were very high, so I couldn't see it well, and I almost walked away. But I couldn't stop looking at it, and I finally asked the guy to take it down. He wanted $10 for it, and it was already framed, so I figured the frame alone was worth 10 bucks.

I took it home, dusted it off, and looked it up online. It's a poster Frank Stella did for the, obviously, Lincoln Center Festival '67. I don't know if mine's one of the originals, but they sell for $400-$800 online.

This is the one I put on my wall. It's colorful and interesting. It has an intricate graphic pattern and cool lettering (you can't see it in this image, but the background is graph paper). It's cheerful but not silly, and certainly not scary. It's New Yorky, but not in an in-your-face way. And I like it.

Writing this got me thinking about why what decorates the walls of ones office matters. And to whom.

Am I concerned about influencing my patients too much with my tastes? With my self? Am I worried about criticism or ridicule of the things that are important to me? By hiding my aesthetic preferences, do I want to limit my patients' intrusion into my world? Am I trying to get my patients to comment? Or not to comment?

I was thinking that if I really wanted to be non-comital about it, I'd put up a Rothko poster, which doesn't tell you much about what I like. But which one?

And wouldn't my patients just wonder why I picked the pink one rather than the purple?

So what do other shrinks have on their walls? And why? I'd love to hear about it.