newspaper article: Winning hand for breast cancer

Winning hand for breast cancer

By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, November 29
NORTH ADAMS — When Bennington, Vt., artist Viola Moriarty began chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2007, she found the treatment did more than strip her of her energy and her ability to focus for long periods of time — it also kept her away from her easel.

But the radiation treatments couldn’t stop her creativity. Moriarty continued to find other outlets for her artwork and eventually designed a pack of playing cards featuring “54 intimate portraits of breast cancer.” She said she hopes the cards will help other breast cancer patients be able to express the hardships and humor they often can’t articulate while undergoing treatment.

“Drugs and treatment often left me in a fog,” Moriarty, former coordinator of English Language Learners for the North Adams Public Schools, said during an interview Wednesday. “By recording these images, I hope to leave a footprint for others that might help them find their own way through — or at least elicit a helpful response.

“Each person’s story will vary, but there is a strong thread that binds us, too. Part of the story was how scared I was of all the medical things, of even going to regular appointments. If I’d been better at that and not so scared, I’d maybe have been diagnosed sooner.”

The Breast Cancer Playing Cards, at $10 per deck, are available from “To Life!” an organization in Delmar, N.Y., that provides wigs and other resources to women with breast cancer. The cards can be purchased directly from Laurie Abbott, the organization’s executive director, by calling 518-439-5975, ext. 22. All funds will go toward breast cancer awareness and education.

Moriarty said the cards feature images made in an artistic medium that she discovered during treatment.

“I wasn’t able to oil-paint. I wasn’t able to be up at the easel,” she said. “But then I found collage. I had never worked with collage, or ‘found items,’ before my illness. It was during my art therapy sessions that I began to experiment with the medium, and I began to work with it. I could make small 5-by-7 collages in my lap. It began as a way for me to journal and remember each day.”

She said the project initially began as something personal — something she never intended to share so publicly.

“I was working intuitively,” she said. “I had what we call ‘chemo’ brain. I originally felt bad because I wasn’t making art. In the end, I found I had all these multi-media works. I had showed them to my radiation therapist and one of my doctors, who both encouraged me to share them with others.”

She began showing her deck of cards to family and friends.

“My friends Barbara and Paul Dworkin took the initial deck to the next step by donating the printing of 1,000 decks of cards,” she said. “The generosity of the Dworkins and of everyone who has touched this project, makes me feel like those nights of ripping paper in the middle of the night, immersed in a kind of hazy fog, were not wasted — and in fact, something useful and beautiful was happening.”

Moriarty said she hopes to have the playing cards placed in waiting rooms of local cancer treatment facilities and donated to support groups.

“From mammography through radiation, I worked on this deck of 54 collage playing cards, thinking that if decks were placed in cancer treatment waiting rooms, patients could have something to play with or just look at while they waited,” she said. “Cancer and its treatment are dark, yet also funny in some ways, and that’s what these images are. I’m hoping that they’ll be used as conversation or journal starters for patients and their families. The cards hold images and feelings we can relate to but often can’t articulate. And, when patients tire of thinking and reflecting, they can put the cards to work and play bridge.”

She added, “The power of art is amazing — it can heal you, transform you and help you communicate. I’m hoping to have all 1,000 decks sold by Christmas. We have the potential to raise $10,000 from this first print run for benefit breast-cancer initiatives.”

The release of the Breast Cancer Playing Cards follows on the heels of Moriarty’s three-month exhibition, “Ex Voto Suscepto,” at South Street Café in Bennington. The exhibit, which was on view from June through October, is a body of work and work-in-progress created while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

She is creating an upcoming exhibit for Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center in Bennington, which will feature the original artworks from which the playing cards were created. The exhibit will later travel to other cancer centers.

1 Response to “newspaper article: Winning hand for breast cancer”

  1. December 4, 2012 at 4:00 am

    Good article! We are linking to this particularly great post on our site.
    Keep up the great writing.

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viola moriarty

(American, b. 1958)
Modern Expressionist Painter
2012-13 Recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant

Upcoming Exhibitions

Current and ongoing: New Works, Allegro Ristorante in Bennington on Main Street.

Elm Street Market, Bennington

Spiral Press Cafe, Manchester, Vermont (2013) details TBA

Please click this link to see review of this blog: http://citiesofthemind.org/blogr-violamoriart/

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