All Exhibitions

Ecstasy and Escape at the Swan Song Motel by Meg Lionel Murphy

Jan 19–Apr 7, 2024


Museum of Wisconsin Art presents "Ecstasy and Escape at the Swan Song Motel," an evocative exhibition by artist Meg Lionel Murphy. This highly personal display, exploring personal growth and liberation from intimate partner violence against women, will be viewed from January 19 to April 7, 2024.

Meg Lionel Murphy draws inspiration from her family-owned motel in rural Wisconsin, thoughtfully transforming MOWA | DTN into the "Swan Song Motel"—a poignant setting serving as a final refuge for women escaping domestic abuse. The exhibition unfolds as a powerful narrative, reflecting Murphy's personal experiences with pain and trauma.

In her mesmerizing works, giant female figures emerge as warriors donned in armor and wielding swords. In control of their bodies and lives, these figures become guardians, protecting themselves and one another. The exhibition traces their journey as they gradually outgrow the refugees, symbolizing resilience and triumph over adversity.

Murphy, known for her background as a children's book illustrator, infuses heavy themes with a touch of whimsy. The vibrant color palette, intricately detailed imagery, and subverted Catholic symbolism create an imaginative sanctuary within the installation—a realm of healing and hope. The emotional narrative extends beyond painted canvases to include real objects such as furniture, toys, and trinkets. Ranging from intimate to colossal scale, the dynamic installation conjures lived memories, oscillating between childhood innocence and the lingering pains of adulthood.

Meg Lionel Murphy received degrees in Art, Art History, and English Literature from the University of Minnesota and studied painting in Florence, Italy. As a co-founder of Paper Darts, an art and literary magazine, she has made significant contributions to the artistic and literary community. Additionally, Murphy is a regular contributor to Pollen Midwest, a nonprofit organization that utilizes storytelling and art to explore social justice.

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