New exhibit: “Ex-Voto Suscepto”

Friday, January 2, 2009

Radiation Barbie, 2008Radiation Barbie, 2008


BENNINGTON, VT — “Ex Voto Suscepto,” Bennington painter and cancer survivor Viola Moriarty’s exhibit of her most recent work, will open with a reception at Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, 100 Hospital Drive in Bennington, on Friday, January 16, from 4 to 7 pm.

Moriarty is a self-taught painter who has widely exhibited her portraits, landscapes, still-lifes and other work in the southern Vermont and Berkshire County, MA, region. This new exhibit, “Ex Voto Suscepto,” is a body of work and work-in-progress created while Moriarty was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. After the exhibit ends on February 27, it will ultimately travel to other cancer centers.

“’Ex-voto’ paintings have existed since the beginning of time, or I guess since people began recording their thanks for deliverance from maladies and misfortunes,” Moriarty explains. “’Ex voto suscepto’ means, in Latin, ‘from the vow made’ — or can be translated ‘in pursuance of a vow.’ Many cultures have examples of them, but it is the simple Mexican versions that I have been seeing in my life for the most part and that have influenced me here. Usually the ex-voto has symbols that are meaningful to the event and the person in the middle portion, spiritual guides (usually saints or la virgen) in the top portion and then a testimony of thanks at the bottom. They are usually made on inexpensive metal and are very simply done. Of course, I have taken my own direction on these prayers of thanks, but that’s what the paintings and collages in this exhibit are — my prayers of thanks.”

The exhibit has a ’14 stations’ aspect to it,” says Moriarty. “There is an order to the experience of the exhibit created naturally by the various rooms at the cancer center — deciding how to line up space and feeling and color and media — it’s been a holistic process that has kept me actively reconfiguring with each poem and painting, recategorizing, and ultimately that process has been a huge part of my own sense of well-being, of healing. As I deconstructed all those carefully kept journals throughout my experience of cancer diagnosis and treatment, following the breadcrumbs back to the sites, the work allowed me to shake hands with my ‘New Normal,’ a favorite character in the work. All of the work in the exhibit is ultimately meant to hang in breast cancer centers to provide company for the women and their families, for the people who care for us, and for the walls themselves, which cry out with and hold the energy of so many of our stories.”

This work is intense, and it’s a lot to take in, so plan to spend some time with it. There are poems and print pieces, mixed-media art works, oil paintings, watercolors, toys, collage, and photography. It is also a huge collaboration, featuring a painting done by [Bennington artist] Nick Garder for me while I was in treatment, which has never been shown publicly before. There are photographs from Michael Kornelsen in Denver, borrowed from his recent show ‘To Life,’ and there just might be some surprise comics by the ever-popular hometown girl, Anna Mo-Lev, and the many faces of a certain VERY handsome model,” Moriarty says, referring to her eldest daughter and husband.

The show also features the 54 original multimedia collages that have become Moriarty’s recently released Breast Cancer Playing Cards, made possible by the efforts of friends Barbara and Paul Dworkin in Albany, NY; Effective Playing Cards & Publications of Plant City, FL; and the Delmar, NY, non-profit cancer education organization “To Life!” The cards are available exclusively from To Life! at $10 per deck, with proceeds going to breast cancer awareness and education. To purchase, call To Life! Executive Director Laurie Abbott at 518-439-5975, ext 22. 

“This is by far the most personal and biographic work I’ve done, and certainly the most reflective and vulnerable to display,” Moriarty says of the new exhibit. “It is also my chance to give something back to all the work being done by fantastic organizations like the Susan B. Komen Foundation, Relay for Life, the Mammography Center at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and most of all our own Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center in Bennington, as well as The Institute of Medical Humanism in Bennington — run by Celia and Bernard Bandman — and the Integrative Therapies department at Southwestern Vermont Health Care. While I had cancer, I received such incredibly great treatment because of all of those places, from all of those people.”

Moriarty also hopes the show, which is dedicated to her mother, also a survivor of breast cancer, will help educate viewers about the disease. “The exhibit also offers up some awareness about the opportunities available in our healing community for support during diagnosis and treatment. There’s an old saying, something like, ‘If you want to know how to get somewhere, ask someone on the way back.’ Well, this is my contribution to that conversation and my nod to those folks who gave me directions along the road.”

For more information on Moriarty and her work, please visit http://www.vimorpainter.wordpress.com. For more information on the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center and its services, call 802-447-1836 or visit http://www.svhealthcare.org/services/cancer-center.


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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

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