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Artist processes pandemic experiences through sculpture in new exhibit at The Mac

During her 18-month residency at Wesleyan College, Artist Mary O’Malley began working on pieces for an exhibition now showing at The McEachern Art Center (MAC) in downtown Macon. Her tiles tell the story of COVID culture shock and her experiences moving from New York to Macon during the Pandemic.

Author: Alexandria Dorsey

Artist Mary O'Malley uses a series of sculptures to recount her emotions and experiences during the early months of the COVID pandemic in New York.

MACON, Ga. — The McEachern Art Center (The Mac) has a new exhibit featuring an artist processing the COVID pandemic through sculpture.

The exhibit is titled Reliquary. Artist Mary O'Malley uses a series of sculptures to recount her emotions and experiences during the early months of the pandemic in New York.

Her work began during her 18-month residency at Wesleyan College, and her focus is on doing that emotional work through nature and memories of her religious childhood.

"My generation is almost either agnostic or atheist, so these tools that we were raised with through Irish Catholicism, we don't really have anymore to [process] big life events or traumas or celebrations... events like the pandemic kind of brought to life the void that's been left by not having those tools anymore," she said.

One wall of the exhibit at The Mac features what O'Malley calls 'Nihilism Tiles.' When she hit a creative wall, she used the tiles to get back into the rhythm of making her other pieces and continuing the process.

On another wall are similar tiles but they play on O'Malley's memories of participating in the Stations of the Cross. The tiles depict the eight major holidays in Ancient Celtic Paganism, and the center features images and texts from her family and friends during the pandemic.

When talking about the importance of reflecting on the pandemic, O'Malley says art is important in that process.

"We can all talk about it and ingest media and social media but visual communication and communication through the creative industries is a different part of the brain and sometimes it resonates just a little bit deeper," she said.

Her experiences in New York and then her move to Georgia were an important part of her processing. She says when she moved, she experienced what she calls a COVID culture shock.

"Feeling like, 'Wow our experience is completely different from everybody else's. Do they believe us even?' So I felt compelled to tell the story for that reason, as well like this is how it was for us... it was really hard," said O'Malley said.

You can see her work until Aug. 5 at the Mac.



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