Buellton artist honors local nurses with unique artwork
Nurses have always been heroes to Lenore Tolegian Hughes, whose mother was a registered nurse.
So when the artist read the July 25 News-Press article about the year-long international art competition called “Nurse Heroes” to raise funds for nurses and their children, she was among the first to enter with a watercolor collage titled “Life Savers,” using Ashley Snyder, an office nurse, as her subject.
“In my opinion, nurses are lifesavers, all purpose gold medal, super heroes all the time, but especially now as they fight for our lives without hesitation during the pandemic. I’m honored to acknowledge their bravery, dedication and love with my art,” said Ms. Hughes
Last month, she was informed that the Contest Selection Committee had chosen the art she created to be among the featured pieces in the Nurse Heroes Digital Gallery. Winners’ artwork is being shown across Times Square billboards in New York City each month, and when conditions permit, the public will have a chance to see the art of finalists and winners in person as part of a gallery exhibition in Times Square.
“For the past 35 years, I’ve been creating watercolor collages that weave the secular and the sacred in hopes of finding new meanings in the ordinary,” said Ms. Hughes, who has a master’s degree in theology. “I use common everyday food packaging and other pop images combined with religious images to explore deep theological mysteries. I physically tear, paint, cut and strip and then weave them together, resulting in a new reality.”
After creating her entry for the contest, she decided to make collages of three other local nurses — Jennifer Sullivan, hospice nurse; Erin B. Rigg, maternity nurse; and Nancy Garibay, office nurse.
Ms. Sullivan’s collage is titled “Gold Medal Marvel”; Ms. Rigg, “Above and Beyond”; and Ms. Garibay, “Super Her.”
“These nurses and others like them are the true heroes of the pandemic, venturing into the world with very little to protect them from this deadly virus hanging over all of us and armed with their devotion to their profession and what science has taught them to keep themselves and their patients safe,” said Ms. Hughes. “Nurses are some of the most giving people I know.”
As the daughter of a nurse, who trained at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles, Ms. Hughes remembers “all the wonderful things my mom did in nursing. But what sticks out in my mind was when I was around 10 and all the other moms were making special Christmas breakfasts for their families, and she was at the hospital. She’d tip-toe out of the house around 5 a.m. for her 6 a.m. shift.
“She was always happy to step in for the maternity nurses who had young families at home on special holidays. But on Christmas, she also looked forward to presenting the newborns to their moms in long knitted Christmas stockings. I loved that about her.”
Ms. Hughes explained why she chose the four local nurses for her watercolor collages.
“Ms. Snyder and Ms. Garibay embody the amazing qualities of caregiving. They have the task of working hand in hand with doctors keeping us all calm and cared for as office nurses. Throughout each day, they help us navigate our concerns that arise about COVID, how to take care of ourselves and build up our resistance to fight this dreaded virus, how to distinguish between having the flu and COVID, keeping anxiety under control with facts instead of letting our fears take hold and there to deal with the eventuality of actually contracting COVID. Ashley and Nancy are prime examples of caregivers in the truest sense of the word.”
Ms. Sullivan and Ms. Rigg are neighbors of Ms. Hughes and her husband, the Rt. Rev. Gethin Hughes in Buellton.
“I really didn’t see them coming and going much. We were all busy going our different ways. Now that I’m here all the time making art, writing and working in the garden, a lot of the time I see these young moms and wives playing with their little children and then leaving for their work, and I am amazed at how they do it and how cheerfully they take care of the needs of everyone at home as well as go to their nursing jobs,” said the artist.
“I was so impressed with how many different ways they present themselves as loving moms to their little children, as devoted wives to their husbands, as good friends to their neighbors and when they are ready to go on duty, they take on the presence of super heroes.”
When Ms. Hughes took their photos to transform into the collages, she said, “Their interior strength and fortitude became clearly visible on the outside. They projected their determination to do their work to the utmost of their abilities as they stood proudly before me and my camera. As soon as COVID is no longer a threat to our health and I can venture out of the safety of my cocoon in the studio, I will be looking for other nurses to work with as well as to add to this collection of Nurse Heroes.”