Our Helge Speth recently had the thrill of presenting one of her ceramic artworks to Dr. Anthony Fauci just before he retired as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Chief Medical Advisor to the President.
How did this come about? It all began during the pandemic of 2020. Normally, Helge uses the Raku method for firing her ceramics. But, due to the social distancing and isolation, Raku firings were placed on hold. So she pursued assemblages using wire, nails, and clay forms that were fired in the electric kiln. Said Helge, “The nightmare of the Covid pandemic influenced my work with a sense of urgency. Despite the horror of COVID-19, the minuscule viral particles possess a wondrous beauty that stands in unimaginable contrast to its overpowering evil capacity.” The result was a fascinating and dynamic group of sculptural pieces called the Corona Series.
Eventually, the artwork entitled “Coronials” was purchased by a retired judge from California, Hon.Lise Pearlman, whom Helge’s forensic pathologist husband, Peter, had worked with on a project. The Judge purchased the piece to give to Dr. Fauci in honor of his work as one of the leading members of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. But because of Covid, it took 2 ½ years before security restrictions were lifted enough for anyone to be allowed to deliver the work to Dr.Fauci. As fate would have it, by then Helge herself was admitted to the NIH as a patient, and accepted in their “Undiagnosed Disease Program” concerning her “Central Airway Disease” which has been troubling her for years. This gave Helge the perfect opportunity to hand deliver the sculpture to Dr. Fauci.
Since the sculpture was a bit heavy and awkward, the large box containing it was placed into a wheelchair and wheeled past security, through the hospital, and across the campus to Dr. Fauci’s office, where Dr. Fauci appeared with his bodyguard. Helge and Peter met and shook hands with Dr. Fauci. She then explained that the Judge was hoping that he would accept her gift either to remain in the institute, or to take home for himself personally. He said that he would like to take it home since he would be retiring within the next couple of weeks, which made Helge very happy indeed!
How cool is that? Congratulations, and well done, Helge!