Burke Rehabilitation Hospital unveiled a new art installation titled Signs of Compassion, celebrating poetry through photography.

Signs of Compassion is comprised of 30 photographs depicting people of all ages and backgrounds reciting the Emily Dickinson poem, “If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking,” using American Sign Language (ASL). The piece seeks to offer hope and encouragement to patients, staff members, and visitors. It is prominently displayed at a central location in the hospital. 

Photographer Miggs Burroughs of Westport, Conn, used a technique called lenticular transition to show movement throughout the work of art. When a viewer stands in front of the photos and moves from side to side, the subjects appear to sign a word or phrase from the poem.  

“It is a dance. You are actually dancing with a piece of art,” Burroughs explains. “On the surface, it is visually engaging, but on the next level, I want people to understand the message.” The first line of the poem reads, “If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”

Burroughs says that he became fascinated with sign language translators and their efficient use of ASL approximately 5 years ago while he viewed news conferences on television. He wanted to bring comfort and compassion to a troubled world through his medium and says the need still exists. “My hope is for people to engage and to remove discomfort, worries, and whatever pain they are experiencing for a while.” 

The installation is an ideal melding of two concepts. Compassion is a Burke core value, and Burke’s mission is to encourage movement through the rehabilitation process.

Signs of Compassion offers Burke’s patients and staff a moment to pause, and the opportunity to view something that they normally do not see in a hospital setting. Everyone is encouraged to engage with the lenticular photography employing ASL. This is unique.”

— Jodi Moise, the Director of the Fine Art Program and Collection at Montefiore

Those who stop by the installation can also take a postcard with the ASL alphabet, read the entire poem, and discover more about Burroughs and lenticular transition. 

Burke expresses its gratitude to Montefiore Trustee Melissa Ceriale for her support of the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital Art Program.

[Source: Burke Rehabilitation Hospital]