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Sensing Nature
Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale-New Haven, CT

Photographic and video displays to promote well-being, reduce stress and accelerate healing by introducing sights and sounds of nature into interior environments.

At Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale-New Haven, CT the Sensing Nature art experience was shown to:

  • Improve patient satisfaction in the healthcare environment
  • Increase patient perception of well-being, hope and affirmations of health
  • Reduce stress of patients, staff and caregivers
  • Focus attention on beauty and cycles of Nature
  • Facilitate positive interaction with others through shared associations to Nature

Project Gallery

Installation views and testimonials from Smilow Cancer Hospital of Yale-New Haven, CT.

Nowhere is there more evidence for the effectiveness of this contribution to healing in our patients lives than in the recent film created by Linda Cummings, incorporating sights and sounds of water and flowing into patient rooms. It has been received with such enthusiasm that it will become a part of what is done in our institution and hopefully others as well...

Dr. Thomas P. Duffy, M.D.Hematology | Yale New Haven Hospital

We have numerous different art exhibits patients can go and look at, but this one they were familiar with because they had actually seen and heard the presentation in their rooms and now wanted to come down and look closer at the photos … Patients really related to certain aspects of the presentation that equated directly to what they are going through now in their life…

Dana ShafferIntegrative Medicine Creative Expressions Coordinator, Smilow Cancer Hospital | Yale New Haven

I look forward to looking at the pictures on the wall. The natural angle means a lot to me. It brings a little bit of life and nature, a little bit of a diversion to all of us. I just like it.

N. G.Patient Smilow Cancer Hospital | Yale New Haven

A lot of our patients can’t come off of our floor so we’re bringing the artwork into their rooms. And it's a nice way for us as nurses to have a totally different conversation and to bond with our patients on a totally different level besides medicine.

Margaret Z.R.N., Smilow Cancer Hospital | Yale New Haven

When I come out here I see this nature and I just forget everything that goes on in the daytime and have a relaxing moment. It’s like meditation… the river is a connection, it's the water that is the connection - may the water heal the wound…

Navin T.Medical Technician, Smilow Cancer Hospital | Yale New Haven

The type of response was got was completely unexpected. We had people telling us how calming it was for them, how it gives them a central focus when they are in pain. We had some people tell us that they watched it to go to sleep. It is a beautiful project but what will I think we didn't know is what kind effect it would have on people and we are so happy we have it here at Smilow…

Caroline T.Administrator, Smilow Cancer Hospital | Yale New Haven

Related Portfolios

Selected portfolios included in Sensing Nature.

Linear Veil III, 2012 (Touching the Farm River)

Touching the Farm River


Sky Play II, 2017 (Multipanel)



Transient Notes, 2012

Sensing Nature

Nature reawakens our senses and art reinterprets it.

My inspiration for Sensing Nature comes directly from nature – especially the tidal river and ecosystem outside my studio in coastal Connecticut. I am fascinated by a whole new world revealed while kayaking in the estuary. A moving screen of images flows beneath me as fragments of a vast expanse distill upon the surface of the water – flickering and dancing around my tiny boat. These visual discoveries inspired me to imagine and develop new ways to photograph and re-create this experience and share it with others. 

The aim of the project is to stimulate the viewer’s imagination through the senses, and ignite a biophilic relaxation response triggered by the artwork’s connection to nature. The late Dr. Stephen R, Kellert, Professor Emeritus at Yale University, championed the biophilia hypothesis, first coined by E.O. Wilson (1984). The term refers to the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral benefits that contact with nature provides for the enhancement of well-being and improved treatment outcomes. (1995)

Ever since the now ground-breaking study by Roger Ulrich (1984) in the journal Science, entitled “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery”, many studies have been published corroborating the significant benefit that contact with nature has in patient recovery. When direct contact with nature is not possible, the sight and sound of nature, either through windows or simulations, like photographs of nature and soundscapes, can be quite effective. My feeling is that in order for artwork of nature to be most effective, it needs to be incorporated into hospital settings such that patients can encounter it in meaningful and immersive ways – ingested and metabolized – taken in and felt, like any medicine. 

My goal is to facilitate absorption of the artwork, through its presentation, so the spirit of nature – interactions of natural forces like light and water and wind – might come alive in the mind and imagination of the viewer. For me, the intersection of science, arts and health grows from the inherent curiosity and creativity that lives within every person – from the doctor, to the artist, the architects, the patient, staff and all the caregivers in a healing community. Creativity is shared between us because it is fundamentally a natural part of who we are as human beings. Nature reawakens our senses and art reinterprets it. 

It is the viewer’s own creative capacity, attention and curiosity that enables the restorative potential the artwork provides. When this moment of connection occurs, like the transmission of a synaptic signal, both a biophilic response and spark of imagination can become activated in the mind. In this split-second sensual awakening lies the dose – a dose of recognition, of something new, or past associations to pleasant memories of nature that opens access to new possibilities in the present. 

Linda Cummings, 2019

Kellert, S. R., & Wilson, E. O. (1995). The biophilia hypothesis. Island Press. p. 94

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery”. Science, 224, 42-421.

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

More Information

To learn more about this and other projects, or to request proposals for public or private commissions, please contact Linda Cummings Studio.