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UConn Advance

From kitsch to religion:
Exhibit examines healing power of art
By Sherry Fisher - March 7, 1997

Ronald Gonzalez created "Death Figure" while dealing with the pain of his sister's death. The sculpture is made of plaster, cloth and an animal skull, and is accompanied by a poem Gonzalez wrote about his late sister.

Dennis Ward's linoleum prints, carved on recycled rubber mats, explore his post-traumatic stress disorder, a product of serving in the Vietnam War.

Michael Reddick, an inmate at a Connecticut prison, expresses his feelings through dark and mysterious drawings.

All are artists whose work are being shown at the Atrium Gallery through March 28. The exhibit, "Traces of Healing," showcases the work of 13 artists who used pencils, paint, wax and plaster to heal their pain.

Some of the works were "born from a connection to illness, or a desire to heal from some sort of life disruption," said Sal Scalora, curator of the exhibit.

Scalora also has used art in the same way. In 1990, his wife, Mary, faced a life-threatening illness and for a period of time lost the ability to see, speak, walk or swallow. "While I held her hand through hundreds of hours of fear and uncertainty, I was driven by a desire to somehow visualize this alien disease that had invaded my wife's body," he said.

One day in his garage-studio he came upon an old framed picture that he had picked up at a flea market. "I began to take globs of paint and apply it to the glass surface," he said. "I worked with definition, struggling to find form." Several hours later, he saw it: "The face of Mary's tormentor was no longer transparent, no longer invisible."

Once Scalora had symbolically come face to face with the demon, he regained a sense of control. "I no longer felt powerless," he said.

Scalora will present a slide lecture, "Healing the Lonely Heart/Transmissions from the Outsider Realm" at 3:30 p.m. March 11 in Room 107 of the Fine Arts Building.

Varied styles
The artists in "Traces of Healing" create works that range from kitsch and religion to the fields of nature and magic and the realms of the visionary, Scalora said.

Esther Solondz had endured four years of "heartbreaking problems" with pregnancy. During that time, she experienced tubal pregnancies, an emergency hospitalization and several unsuccessful in-vitro fertilization attempts. Shortly after her second child, Ana, was born, (a birth Solondz calls "nothing short of miraculous") she created a piece of art work. The work is made of 48 separate photo portraits of babies. The portraits are dipped and sealed in wax, preserving and yet embalming the images, Scalora said.

"In some ways this piece was a catharsis," Solondz said, "a celebration after keeping my hope and excitement in check for so long."

Other artists in the exhibit are: Lester Allen, Genara Banzon, Marek Czarnecki, Bessie Harvey, Mary Kenealy, Caroline Malley, Vicki Ragan, Silvia Taccani and Nancy E. Wynn.

The Atrium Gallery, located in the Fine Arts Building, is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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