WASHINGTON, PA (Sept. 16, 2015) — As Patricia Maloney packed a suitcase, preparing for her first trip to Africa in 1993, her mother asked a question she will never forget: ‘Do you really need all those clothes? Why don’t you pack LEGOs® instead?”
It was a turning point for Maloney, already a professor at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), and the first of several journeys that shape her upcoming exhibit, “A Child’s Story,” which opens Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. in Olin Fine Art Gallery and runs through Oct. 11. Maloney will give a gallery talk at 6:30 p.m.
“A Child’s Story” is inspired by themes of universal loss, abandonment and vanishing childhood that she encountered in her travels, and it communicates the weighted identity of a child who has experienced turmoil. Missing siblings, pain, fragility and resilience are tangible in her small-scale sculptures of books and children’s clothing, which combine techniques of decaling, drawing, under glazing and multiple firings of images on porcelain and earthenware.
Maloney said the show’s theme came to her after she’d had several dreams about books – which are prominent pieces in her exhibit – and started to put the dreams into the context of her experiences in third-world countries. She received Fulbright scholarships to teach art in Africa, and from 1993 to 1995 worked at a teachers’ college in Ghana and opened her front porch to local children – all of whom lived without running water – to build dream worlds with the LEGO® blocks she’d brought. They had never seen such a toy.
In 2000 and 2003 she joined volunteer missions to Haiti, and returned in 2011 to document the villages and children recovering from a devastating earthquake the year before. In 2005, she joined Rotary International’s effort to eradicate Polio and traveled with a group of local Rotarians to India to vaccinate children in slum villages. While in India, she was most struck by one event: a child, younger than four years old, bringing his baby brother to a medical tent to receive a vaccination. She never found out if the child’s parents were alive.
“I think these images just stayed with me for so long,” she said. “I had just had a flood of dreams about books. I had been reading at night to relax … I started thinking about books that had been buried and lost, and then of children that had been lost, and the question, ‘What might this child have become?’ came to me and triggered this whole show.”
Maloney said she hopes Gallery visitors will take away a sense of the struggle to protect innocence for children around the world, but she also hopes audiences recognize hope in her exhibit.
“You can think about the children who are abused and who are physically destroyed, and they’ll never be the same. But sometimes it is that kind of human being that turns around and fights and says, ‘I’m ok. I’m a different person but this is my life now and I’m going to do something to protect other people.’ And those are the heroes of the world.”
**All Olin Fine Art Gallery events and exhibitions are free and open to the public. The Gallery is open seven days a week, noon to 7 p.m. during exhibitions, and is closed during college breaks. The Gallery is in Olin Fine Arts Center at 285 East Wheeling Street, Washington, Pa. 15301.
About the Artist
Patricia Maloney is Professor of Art at Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, Pa. She received her MFA from Oklahoma University, Norman, OK; her MA from Murray State University, Murray, KY; and her BFA from Louisville School of Art, Anchorage, KY.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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