newspaper article: Breast cancer awareness is (literally) in the cards

Breast cancer awareness is (literally) in the cards

The Bennington Banner
December 5, 2008

BENNINGTON — Bennington painter and multimedia artist Viola Moriarty has teamed up with To Life! (www.tolife.org), in Delmar, New York, to create and distribute decks of playing cards that aim to initiate awareness and openness about breast cancer. All funds from sales of the Breast Cancer Playing Cards, available exclusively from “To Life!” at $10 per deck, will go to breast cancer awareness and education — with the potential for $10,000 from this first print run to benefit breast cancer initiatives. The cards, which can be purchased from To Life! Executive Director Laurie Abbott by calling 518-439-5975, ext 22, make great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers for anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by breast cancer, and also make ideal donations to doctor’s waiting rooms.

One thousand decks of standard, 54-card playing cards, (52 cards plus two jokers), have been printed in the initial print run. All cards feature original, multimedia collage artwork created during Moriarty’s own treatment of breast cancer, as she underwent chemotherapy and radiation. She hopes the 54 intimate portraits of breast cancer will inspire other breast cancer patients, and their friends, families and health care practitioners, to contemplate, express and talk about breast cancer. 
Moriarty, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007, says, “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. Cancer and its treatment are dark, yet also funny in some ways, and that’s what these images are: a conversation about the shadows and light of cancer. 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 or ‘Go Fish.’”
Moriarty initially thought only cancer patients would relate to the cards, but she began showing them to her own radiation oncologist, radiation therapists and other caregivers, “and they all loved them,” she says. “One radiation therapist even cried as she looked through them. So, I really discovered that not only the patients looked at them and related, but it helped inform the medical caretakers and include them in that wordless conversation. An image is so powerful.”
The Breast Cancer Playing Cards were brought to fruition by Effective Playing Cards & Publications of Plant City, Florida (www.effectiveplayingcards.com, 888-80CARDS), which has previously created playing card decks featuring unsolved homicide and missing persons cases. The Cold Case Playing Cards initiative is a joint effort between the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Corrections, Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Association of Crime Stoppers that aims to help crack Florida’s unsolved cold cases by distributing playing cards to inmates in the state’s prisons. As reported by CBS and Fox News, the Cold Case Playing Cards have already helped initiate discussions and provide leads when distributed among inmate communities in prisons — several “cold cases” in Florida have been solved thanks to the decks.
Moriarty’s Breast Cancer Playing Cards are available for $10 each through “To Life!,” a non-profit organization providing free-of-charge breast cancer education and support services in a 10-county region, including and surrounding Albany County in New York. Since 1998, “To Life!” has extended outreach to women and families facing breast cancer, and to any person who is concerned about the disease. The cards can be purchased directly from To Life! Executive Director Laurie Abbott by calling 518-439-5975, x22. For more information about the organization, its mission, services and programs, events, or to support its efforts, please visit www.tolife.org, e-mail info@tolife.org or call 518-439-5975.
“The process of creating the cards, a comic book and the multimedia pieces was a fulfilling one that gave me a sense of who I am and where I had journeyed,” says Moriarty. “Drugs and treatment often left me in a fog. 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.”
She adds, “My art therapist at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, Beth Newman, encouraged me to started using collage as my personal expression. The collages lead to the idea of the cards. When people saw them they naturally wanted to play with them. Then my friends Barbara and Paul Dworkin took the initial deck to the next step by donating the printing of the cards. They found the extremely talented and kind staff at Effective Playing Cards who were excited to be part of the project. 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, was not wasted — and in fact, something useful and beautiful was happening.”
The release of the Breast Cancer Playing Cards follows on the heels of Moriarty’s three-month exhibition at Bennington’s South Street Café, “Ex Voto Suscepto.” The exhibit, which was on view from June through October, is a body of work and work-in-progress created while Moriarty was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Moriarty is also creating an upcoming exhibit for Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, which will feature the original artworks from which the playing cards were created. The exhibit will later travel to other cancer centers.
Moriarty says these exhibits and her most recent work is “very much in progress, being made constantly in order to process my nearly two years life of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.” All of it is her offering of an example the power of art and art-making to heal, to accompany a person through suffering as well as joy and the capacity art-making gives her to hold and process her experience, as well as share it.

Breast Cancer Playing Cards

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viola moriarty

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

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