A very special trio
Ex-CIA agent and artist Tony Mendez left his mark on WMHS
When former CIA agent Tony Mendez passed away earlier this month, many people in the Western Maryland Health System community likely took notice. Their sympathy and interest were probably due to Mendez’s fame and connection to the 1980 CIA plot to spring a group of Americans from Iran after they escaped a US embassy overrun by protestors. The story, in which Mendez played an integral part, was famously adapted into the Oscar-winning film Argo.
What folks likely do not realize, is that Mendez was also an accomplished artist, and three of his pieces is part of the collection of regional art displayed on the WMHS walls.
Retired Community Relations and Marketing Director Kathy Rogers played an integral part in organizing and collecting art from all over the region when the new Western Maryland Regional Medical Center opened. “We contracted with an art consultant who specialized in art that would be specifically relevant in hospitals,” Rogers said.
That connection led to Tony Mendez through his son Toby, a renowned sculptor who famously crafted the statue of the mule by the fountain in front of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad station.
“We originally spoke with Toby about a sculpture in the courtyard of the hospital,” Rogers said. That connection led them to Tony. “The Mendez family has a studio between Frederick and Hagerstown. Tony was a painter and his wife a photographer,” she said.
All in all, Tony has three pieces on display at WMHS. Two were purchased as is, and one of those pieces hangs in the WMHS chapel. The third piece, which was commissioned specifically by WMHS, is a triptych on canvas and hangs prominently in the Schwab Family Cancer Center. It features a scene of the Potomac River as viewed from a vantage point near Berkeley Springs.
During the process of commissioning and acquiring the art, Rogers spent time at the Mendez’s studio and even got to know Tony a little. “He was a very interesting person. He was fascinating to talk to. He even had some of his CIA disguises on display.”
Rogers said she was sad when she heard he had passed away, but that “having a well-recognized artist do a commissioned piece for WMHS will always be very special.”