Ferrari often spoke about the importance of the work’s environmental contexts and how they ultimately informed his approach to making the sculpture. When visiting the incomplete architectural site, he said:
I learned of hopes and dreams this building symbolized both for the men of medicine and the parents and children who would be entering thru (sic) its doors.
Ferrari’s sculpture both in its original siting in the lobby and its contemporary setting outdoors serves as a threshold for hope. Both sites position the sculpture within an entrance, whether the viewer is being welcomed once inside the lobby or when approaching the front doors. The current siting may be even more effective in pronouncing the idea of a threshold—as the viewer scales the stairs, they are greeted by the imagery of a mother’s welcome arms and lap, which directs the viewer’s eyes upward toward the large, curving sheet of bronze and the uplifted arms of the child figure.
However, it is unclear to what extent Ferrari wishes to direct the respective expressions of love and hope only to the families. He also draws inspiration from the aspirations of those in the medical profession. In his explanation he cites the hospital as a symbol of hope “both for the men of medicine and the parents and children.” While the mother and child motif suggests love and hope as central to the idea of a family, the sculpture itself engages with an atypical approach to figuration through the use of somewhat uncanny abstract figures and asymmetrical bronze planes motioning upwards in various directions. These formal aspects which direct the sculptures movement outwards—rather than inwards towards what could have been an intimate maternal scene—imply that the message of hope extends to a broader audience, especially that of the medical complex and the field of medicine in general.
In a Chicago Tribune article, Ferrari said that the idea for the sculpture arose from “medicine as a new mother for the sick child”. Perhaps this is why the sculpture departs from classical imagery of mother and child. Early works, such as Sandro Botticelli’s painting The Virgin and Child, depict a resigned Madonna, gazing down, gently clutching an angelic infant in her arms. In Love and Hope, however, there is a sense of wide open arms and a welcoming gaze. The two figures on the left can be read as two triumphant children soaring upwards while perhaps the sheet of bronze could be read as the mother herself, facing outwards like a mast on a ship. The body of the sheet of bronze can both be read as a protective barrier shielding the infants while also capturing imagery of an exultant mother giving birth to her children who float above. Ferrari’s depiction stands in contrast even to more modern abstract illustrations of mother and child.
With these points of reference in mind, Ferrari’s abstraction can be seen as a choice to break a canonical mode of depicting a mother and child while also referring back to his conception of medicine as a mother for sick children. Medicine as mother certainly explains the grandiose gestures rampant throughout the sculpture which echo the investment at the time being put into modern science and medicine. The building of a large, state–of–the–art children’s hospital equipped with modern design and modern facilities stands as a testament to this trend. Even the meticulous surface treatment of the sculpture could be read as echoing the exacting precision of a doctor’s hands during surgery. While the surface is not clean and polished, the scrupulous care given to small surface attributes like the intricate cylindrical bars attached to the large sheet of bronze demonstrate Ferrari’s attention to detail.