I’m pleased to be a part of the Oregon Women’s Caucus for Art (WCA) special exhibition “Focus on Women,” a benefit for Madeline Meza Janovec. It’s at the Janovec Gallery, 4504 SE Milwaukee Ave in Portland. The gallery will be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12 – 5 p.m. for the month of March.
This exhibit was originally conceived as a celebration of local woman artists for Women’s History Month for the Janovec Gallery, which has a reputation for promoting new art and women’s art. Madeline was both a founder and an ongoing member of the Oregon WCA.
In December, however, Madeline found out she had a particularly virulent form of lymph cancer. The exhibit changed to a benefit to help her with the expenses of medical treatment. To our sorrow, however, chemo therapy didn’t work on Madeline, and she was placed in hospice care. She then fell and broke her hip, and the day of the opening of this show, Madeline passed away. She had just celebrated her 76th birthday on Valentines Day.
The exhibit opened on March 4th and there was a touching tribute to her on March 5th. The exhibit turned into a powerful tribute to Madeline’s influence on the art of the region. The gallery is just packed with beautiful and insightful art work. From glorious paintings to fiber-art to mixed media pieces, this exhibit is like a living anthology of area artists. It also has taken on a sort of regal aura and there’s a mood of appreciation within the walls of the Janovec studio. It was a tremendous blessing that Madeline was able to see all the love and respect that poured out for her before she passed.
The depth of work and the generosity of regional artists is not entirely surprising. Madeline has inspired and encouraged many of us. I have only known her for a few years and she was very helpful in helping me decide to leave my day job and get back to writing and creating art. She has spearheaded efforts to get Oregon artists on the international scene. Her work has resulted in many international exhibits through the Oregon WCA. She helped organize art exchanges, international tours, and educational expeditions.
The piece I contributed to the exhibit is a fabric doll/figure called the Survivor. I’ve written about it before, but thought I’d post it again. Madeline’s decline was pretty quick, although at times she rallied so well, we all thought she’d conquer this thing and stay with us a good long time. I didn’t have time to do a healing doll for her, but I had already made this homage to women who have survived breast cancer.
I took it to her while she was still on chemo-therapy and staying with her sister. Both Madeline and her sister Stephania found the doll’s presence to be a comfort. The Survivor cast a bright blue ray of hope in the recovery room. There is no way to stop the progress of an illness, but we all believe that making the transition space as beautiful and hopeful as possible makes it much easier to bear.
The Survivor is an homage to women who have survived breast cancer — and to all who have survived complicated illnesses and injuries. The inspiration came from a discussion on scars and how so many are repelled by them. I see scars as badges of honor, with a beauty all their own – the beauty of repair and recovery. Scars also show the aesthetics of nature, which often is in conflict with the human aesthetic, especially when it comes to our bodies. I like to think that life is a sculptor and we are the medium. How we are shaped by experience and transition is part of the art of life.
I used a fabric that is the color of water since we are made up almost entirely of water. I used prism beads to represent both the scar and the miracle of recovery. The Survivor’s focus is on the structure in her hand – a symbol that grew out of a profound respect for the mystery of healing. Her focus is on that mystery. She is moving forward into the next phase of life.”
The Survivor is for sale for $300. at the Janovec gallery. She is 15″ tall, fabric over a wire armature. She is all handstitched from 100% cotton and has wool hair. The features are painted. All the money will go to the Janovec family to cover burial expenses and to help fund a retrospective book of Madeline’s artwork.
There are also many other wonderful works starting at $40. From highly detailed, sophisticated work to variation on folk art. Artists include Harriet Levy, Trina Hesson, Karen Swallow, Laurie Svec, Janet Admunson and many others. Some of Madeline’s pieces will be for sale, both her paintings and her jewelry. There is a raffle for one of her silver brooches.
Many pieces sold at the opening, but many are still available. It’s a very extensive show and I urge Portlanders to go see this wonderful gallery. Madeline’s studio is still set up; she was working until the very end of her life. It’s quite inspiring. Her friends have set up little photographic altars throughout the studio so you can get a real sense of the work Madeline has done.
My husband, Jim Corcoran, wrote a lovely letter to our friends when she passed, “Let’s send our hearts’ prayers and wishes to lift the wings of our beautiful angel as she rises to her next adventure!” I think viewing this exhibit might be the best way to do that.