Visual

Healing Through Art

The Malissa Perry Project

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WHAT: “The Malissa Perry Project” shows as one of five “Healing Through Art” exhibits
WHEN: Through Jan. 31
WHERE: St. Joseph Medical Center, 2901 Squalicum Pkwy
COST: The works of art are for sale
INFO: http://www.peacehealth.org or www.christenmattix.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Malissa Perry likes to listen to Christmas music throughout the year. The 46-year-old artist is also known for waking up at 6am to start her day—typically by dancing, followed by making her bed and practicing her own version of yoga.

“She is absolutely herself, completely authentic and free,” says Christen Mattix, who’s been one of Malissa’s caregivers since the summer of 2013, when a chance meeting with Malissa’s mother at the Community Food Co-op led to a meaningful career change.

Christen says that although she’s encountered plenty of people who initially have stereotypes about Malissa—who has Down’s Syndrome, and communicates primarily through body and sign language—many change their minds once they’ve gotten to know the force of nature.

“Some well-meaning folks react with pity when I tell them about Malissa—as if her condition is sad, as though her life is a waste,” Christian says. “Actually, she is one of the most contented and energetic women I know.”

At one of five “Healing Through Art” exhibits on display until Jan. 31 throughout PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, visitors to the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Lobby can discover for themselves another aspect of Malissa’s personality. “The Malissa Perry Project” combines Christen’s portraits of her friend alongside Malissa’s abstract paintings—eye-catching works that combine layers of marker, glitter and paint with found objects sourced from her daily life (shoelaces, beads, balloons, etc.)

“I think the assumption is that because Malissa is dependent on her staff (including me) for 24-hour care, that she is somehow ‘less than,’” Christen says. “By doing a two-person show with her, I want to affirm that she is my equal. When one views my portraits of Malissa alongside her own paintings, one gets a sense of her voice, her authority and subjectivity as an artist, and more importantly, as a human person.”

Christen says Malissa had already been making drawings with felt tip pens on old computer paper when another staff member, Nancy Daugherty, realized she had talent and gifted her with a blank canvas and paint. When she started working with superior materials, Christen says a “whole new world of possibilities” opened up for her in terms of the subtlety of her colors and layering.

When she’s completed a piece, Malissa simply refuses to add more paint to the work, even if others aren’t sure that she’s finished with it.

“When Malissa says it’s done, it’s done,” Christen says.

For Christen’s own work in the exhibit—portraits of Malissa smiling, petting a golden retriever, hugging friends, lacing cards and celebrating her birthday—she was inspired by the power of Malissa’s gestures.

“As a nonverbal woman, Malissa expresses herself completely through her body—her sparkly eyes with a hint of mischief, her hands caressing her dog, the soft roundness of her shoulders,” Christen says. “I also adore her bright colors and clashing patterns. She opens up fun, refreshing possibilities that are avant garde in their bold defiance of fashion norms.”

Those viewing Christen’s works that are part of “The Malissa Perry Project” will quickly note the affection and love she has for her co-exhibitor and charge, but Christen says she’d be remiss if she didn’t point out that there are still moments that she gets discouraged.

She recently asked Malissa’s mom, Fran Perry, to speak about the challenges of being in a close relationship with her daughter. Fran responded, pointing out that “Malissa inhabits whatever she feels completely, whether joy or sorrow. Given that she is nonverbal and uses limited sign language, there can be real anguish for her that is shared by her staff when she is in physical or emotional pain—and can’t communicate about it.  [Working with Malissa] is not either/or, it’s both joy and sorrow—but the good outweighs the bad.”

Christen agrees. It’s one of the reasons she included the piece “White Painting” in the show. It’s a small portrait of Malissa curled in on herself, crying. She painted it to “honor her moments of sorrow alongside the happiness.

“Quite frankly, I think that’s the human condition. We are all laughing through our tears.”

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A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…