A Commission Story
p. 240 The Guild Sourcebook of Architectural & Interior Art 22

Imago Dei

The Five Elements, 2006

Nikko Cosmetic Surgery Center,
Houston, TX

6 weeks

Five panels, each: 60” x 24”

Diane Alexander and Rex Spencer,
Interior Designers,
Diane Alexander Designs

An office’s all-important space sets the tone for the business, shaping the outlook of all who enter. Houston’s Nikko Cosmetic Surgery Center offered designer Diane Alexander an opportunity to compose an interior for a state-of-the-art clinic grounded in an ancient philosophy. “Our client was Japanese and asked us to develop a blend of earth-centered Zen design with contemporary overtones,” Alexander explains. Together with Jamie and Jeremy Wells and their creative team at Imago Dei, Alexander developed a concept based on five elements; water, fire, earth, metal and forest. Spanning a twenty foot wall, five mixed-media panels explore and interpret each of the elements. Jeremy Wells recalls, “One of the things we looked for was abstract images of each of those elements. We then combined multiple imagery to create each unified piece.”

Playing further with the concept, the artists then incorporated each of the actual elements as an art medium. “For instance, in the Metal piece, we used paints that actually have metal particles in them, then sprayed patina solutions on the surface to form oxidation processes such as rust,” Jeremy Wells explains. Like-wise, the Forest panel was rendered with handmade papers that have strips of wood fiber woven into them. Earth is encrusted with soil and various earth-based plasters, while Fire is emblazoned with flames of gold leaf.

As a final touch, Imago Dei translated each element’s name into its Japanese character and melded it into the surface of each panel. Diane Alexander adds, “Since Eastern artists often used chop marks as signatures, we wanted Imago Dei to develop an appropriate chop mark for their signature. They did and it is beautiful.”

Jamie Wells articulates the artwork’s Zen-infused potency: “We hope that as visitors are waiting they will have time to contemplate the textures and try to figure out the characters, meaning and symbolism in these paintings, which have produced an ambiance of rest and quiet meditation.”