Courtesy: Eskenazi Health, Photo: Hadley Fruits
click thumbnail to enlarge

Cloud Busting

Indianapolis, Indiana

Malcolm Mobutu Smith (

Eskenazi Health | Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital l 3rd Floor Surgical Specialties Outpatient Waiting Room, 720 Eskenazi Ave., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46202
Owner:  Eskenazi Health (
Date:  2013
Placement:  hospitals
Collection:  Eskenazi Health Art Collection
Artwork Type:  ceramics (objects), installations (visual works)
Material:  ceramic (material), paint
Description:  A common pastime for children (and adults!) is lying on the ground and gazing up into the sky, finding inspirational shapes in the clouds and sharing stories about what they see. The forms, although open-ended, form a springboard for imagination and connection. “Cloud Busting,” the ceramic mural artwork by Malcolm Mobutu Smith for the third-floor waiting area in the Ambulatory Care Building, presents one similarly recognizable cloud form among the shapes on the wall that represent joy, creativity and optimism, turning the space into a colorful respite where visitors can reflect on the ever-changing richness of the natural world.

This cloud busting composition is an expression of joy—roiling and shifting forms representing creativity and optimism. The works float atop a painted swirling motif, creating a playful dance of shapes. This work functions as a meditative abstraction. The varied forms and their seeming independence is contradicted by the uniform scale, touch and similarities in tile contour rhythm, glaze color palettes and the singular painted background motif. The disparate surface designs for each tile are meant to dislocate any sense of singular scale of the entire work, while at the same time triggering some measure of recognition through generic patterns and conventions of imagery such as stripes, dots, splashes, graphic lines and the like.

“In this work I hope the viewer can engage in a continuous sense of mystery and imagination, aided by the grandness of scale, bold and complex surfaces, and the “liquid elevation” of elements. These are gravity-defying ceramic forms floating in mid-air; the air implied or “made real” by the undulating painted motif on the background and the physicality of the hovering tile forms. Other themes include allusions to painting, abstraction expressionism, meditation, puzzles, journey and play.”

“The cloud motif incorporated in my artwork operates not only graphically but symbolically. Through time and across cultures, humans have looked to the sky and reflected on these transitional and transportive forms. Clouds are at once real yet ever shifting and intangible—transcendent and ephemeral; clouds are universal and can embody multiple moods and meanings. Like real clouds these tiles, as open read forms, are springboards for imaginative musings and for communication.”

“Additionally, the work is also enhanced by subtly shifting colors, shadow and dappled darkness as natural light moves through the space over the course of the day. All this makes for both an engaging, none-static awareness of flying forms and a tranquil meditative visual experience. The drama of the wall should entice return visitors, as well as an easily recognizable destination point. The unfixed, non-narrative character of the work lends itself to repeated visits and interpretations. Symbolizing the potential for human imagination, a colorful respite where one can reflect on the ever- changing richness of the world.” - Malcolm Mobutu Smith

This installation is made up of eight large handmade tiles individually mounted to a whimsical gusting wind patterned painted wall. There is approximately 500 lbs. of clay in the eight tiles. While the tile fabrication took over 8 months to complete, the installation took less than an hour. The inspirations for the design ranged from comic books, graphics and modern paintings to ceramics and textile patterns. It is currently on display in the 3rd Floor Specialty Clinical Lobby in the Eskenazi Hospital Building. Each tile took approximately a week and a half to dry in preparation for firing.

Smith is an artist and associate professor of ceramic art at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. He studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and The Penn State University, where he earned his BFA in ceramics in 1994, and he received his MFA in ceramics from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. He is an active exhibiting artist, recently mounting solo exhibitions at Leedy-Voulkos Art Center in Kansas City, at Pyro Gallery in Louisville and at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art.

Dedicated with gratitude
Deborah Daniels and Lyle Mannweiler



Eskenazi Health Art Installations

Follow Us