Four Paintings by Dr. Harold Adams hanging in the Hutchins Library Mezzanine
Berea College was the recipient of a gift of paintings and drawings by Harold Adams. Adam was a painter of note in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, though the Berea College alumni office and his classmates knew him as an obstetrician.
As a deliverer of life, he delivered hundreds of babies over the span of his career. Unfortunately, he contracted Hepatitis B during a birth and was told by doctors at May clinic that he had a limited time to live. But rather than waiting for death to find him, he poured his spirit and energies into art. He took art classes at MaCalester College and Hamline University and at the age of sixty-nine made the leap to obtain an MFA in Painting a the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.
At seventy-two his hard work and schooling came to completion as he hung his MFA thesis show, "The Imagery of a Personal Pathology." He said "I practiced medicine from the time I was thirty, but I've practiced art since I was six." After years of being immersed in academic training, desire and commitment, his paintings directly relate to his life-threatening personal medical journey as he walked with death in hand. His paintings are about specific medical crises, dark and confusing dreams, sickness, disappointment, healings and successes. They are a mixture of sweat, love, pain, and despair. Whatever the content of the work, the images are represented in broad experimental and abstract ways.
His technique is different: he applies various media in thick, multi-layers and collages. He sands, scrapes, digs, layers and re-works "in the painting." His symbolic forms and gestural brush work suggest urgency, purpose, entanglements, personal messages or private symbols. He incorporates a sophisticated relationship between form and surface. His paintings have a physicality and muscularity that does not transfer to photographs; nor do they imply his weakened physical energies.
His paintings represent the struggle between life and death, they represent his struggle. Adam states "Only when I am painting or drawing do I not dwell on my future." His major professor says of Adam "Harold is one of the most incredible human spirits that I have come to know. I have learned far more from him that I supposedly dispensed to him. Clearly he was the teacher."
Adams' paintings depict a very personal journey through the darkness and gravity of his illness, but through his journey he discovered the life altering grace and power of art. He has said "Painting has become my oxygen, I cannot live without it."