Public Art at the University of South Alabama Medical Center Mosaic
The mural "The History of Medicine", located in the lobby of University of South Alabama Medical Center, was executed in Italian marble by artist Conrad Albrizio for the June 1966 opening of the hospital. The 22' x 24' mosaic is one of the largest public artworks in Mobile. The large central figure is Hippocrates, the father of medicine, receiving the oath; representing, in turn, the moral discipline of the "Hippocratic Oath" imposed upon all doctors.
Immediately to the left, is the figure of Aesculapius, one of the earliest known Greek physicians and a demi-god to those of his era. His attempts to cure were based on mystery, incantations and magic. Above his head is the winged mask representing the "oracle," or voices of the gods.
The figure of the famed Egyptian Imhotep (3000 B.C.) can be seen on the opposite side. He was an architect, scientist and surgeon--the triangle and scalpel are symbolic of these professions.
This triad of major figures is sustained in design and composition by two groups on either side. Shown at the lower right is the Greek physician Galen (circa 75 A.D.), examining a human skull. His findings and theories concerning animal and human anatomies were highly criticized due to prejudices and taboos towards the study of anatomy.
By the 16th century, these prejudices had dissipated, and anatomical study was accomplished by an anatomist and physician of Flemish descent named Vesalius. He is represented in the lower left corner.
The upper part of the panel is devoted to symbolic representations of the human body, beginning with birth on through life. The total design serves as the backdrop for the superimposed white line drawing of the surgeon, preparing for an operation.
Also located in the USA Medical Center lobby, on either side of the mural, are sculptures by artist Enrique Alferez (b. 1901).
The three figures on one side represent the family unit, symbolizing the nucleus of society, whose health is the concern of medicine. The three figures on the opposite wall, a teacher, a medical student and a nurse, represent the educational mission of the hospital.
The six, almost life-size, figures were carved of Honduran mahogany in 1963 at the sculptor's studio in Tuxpam, Mexico. They were exhibited at the International House in New Orleans before being shipped to Mobile for installation in the new hospital lobby.
About the Sculptor
The son of a sculptor, Enrique Alferez ran away from home at the age of 12, only to be forced into joining the revolutionary forces of Pancho Villa. In 1923, Alferez deserted the Mexican army, fled to the United States and eventually studied sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Alferez enjoyed a long, illustrious and often controversial life as an artist. Even into his 90s, he continued to create monumental works that were admired by his peers and the art community. He died in 1999. His works are represented in collections throughout the world.