Mattie Miracle 8th Annual Walk & Family Festival was an $88,000 Success!!!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.


As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter



The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: www.mattiemiracle.com and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

Random Shots of Mattie, Family and Friends

September 5, 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2009. As you can see Mattie lost his front tooth and had placed it in his tooth fairy box, which he was holding. That tooth fairy box was selected by Mattie from a gift shop we went to during a December trip to Florida. Mattie just loved the notion of a box and was particularly intrigued by the tooth fairy! Mattie would always leave a note with his tooth because he had specific requests from the tooth fairy. Mattie did not want money, but would request things like a hotwheel car and one day he even requested a necklace made out of raw pasta from the fairy! Don't ask, I have no idea where this idea came from, but Mattie was full of ideas.

Quote of the day: The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost. Arthur Schopenhauer


On August 4th, we learned that our friend, Ann Glennon, and loyal Mattie Miracle supporter died from her battle with ovarian cancer. I met Ann in 2005, when Mattie entered Resurrection Children's Center. Ann was the grandmother of a classmate of Mattie's. Ann was a very vivacious, bright, and invested grandparent, who was always out there on the playground after school with her grandchildren. Because Ann was an educator and counselor by training, there was always something to talk to Ann about. 

It isn't unusual for people you meet in preschool or any school for that matter, to go their separate ways from you, once you no longer are bound by the commonality of school. However, when Mattie was diagnosed with cancer, Ann and her entire family stepped up to help in all ways. Ann's daughter in law, Ashley, is a minister and Ashley spirituality helped our care community to unite right after Mattie's diagnosis. She actually held a service and at it encouraged people to talk and share their fears and concerns. I was caring for Mattie, and didn't attend. Which was probably for the better, since Ashley was providing an outlet for our community and having me be present would have thrown the dialogue off from open conversation. 

Throughout Mattie's battle and then through our grieving process, Ann always wrote me cards and notes on holidays or special occasions, like Mattie's anniversary. She never forgot and always wanted me to know that I was loved and Mattie was remembered. So much so, that soon after Mattie died Ann commissioned a memorial brick at her church (the same church Mattie's funeral was held) in honor of Mattie to be placed in the church garden. Ann came to every one of our Foundation walks, was a strong contributor, and even while coping with cancer, Ann would write to me! I mean a real letter, not an email or text message. She was a quality person, a force and spirit, and a lady that will be deeply missed. 

Ann Glennon's Obituary:
http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/bostonglobe/obituary.aspx?pid=175457992


In August, Ann's son wrote to me to let me know about his mom's death. He wanted me to also know the funeral arrangements that were being made for his mom. Typically I do not go to funerals. That is my overall policy since Mattie died. But if someone reaches out to me, then I will go, because funerals are NOT for the dead, but for the living. To help the living cope with the reality of the loss. 

Holy Trinity Church was founded by the Jesuit Community of Georgetown "College" in 1851. The church was restored and rededicated in 1979. It is considered the oldest standing church in Washington, DC. Holy Trinity is a beautiful church and the last time Peter and I were inside of it, was for Mattie's funeral. I have to admit I was very hesitant to even go today because I haven't set foot in that church for almost 6 years.  


One of the things I wanted to do today besides visit with Ann's family and for us to share our condolences, was to visit the Church's Garden. For it is in this garden that Mattie's memorial brick is located. Ann had told me about this brick years ago, but I never went to visit it. I just couldn't get myself back to the actual church, given the memories it held for us. 

However, Peter and I were on a mission today to find Mattie's brick. This is the approach to the brick in the garden. 







Mattie's brick is literally at the base of this statue. There is a plaque on the statue, but I honestly did not read it. I was too overwhelmed with the brick itself. I assume the statue is of Jesus, and he is holding the hand of a child. Which to me is very symbolic and meaningful, and I have no doubt that is why Ann requested that the brick be placed by the statue. 










Here is what the brick says............

In loving memory
Mattie Brown
King of the Legos
Classmate & Friend
Peace
Sam, Maddie, and Ryan GG (for Goff Glennon, their last name). 

Ann had three grandchildren, and Sam in particular was in Mattie's preschool class.







Years ago Ann sent me this miniature brick, so I would know what the Church's garden brick looked like, and that I would also have this memorial piece in Mattie's honor. This brick sits in my kitchen and has been there since Ann sent it to me. Now when I look at the brick, I will be thinking of both Mattie and Ann.  

September 4, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2008. Colleagues of Peter's sent Mattie this Edmonton Oilers (a hockey team) jersey and hat. They wanted to let us know that from Canada they were thinking of us and wanted to show their support during Mattie's diagnosis and battle. Mattie was in good spirits and after opening his package, proudly put the items on! Receiving gifts during Mattie's cancer journey were so important to him. They instantly brightened up his day and they helped us tremendously because it was hard to keep Mattie distracted and entertained each day. It got much harder as the time wore on. Which is why we will always be grateful to our care community for sending gifts and cards! They made a difference. 

Quote of the day: There are some things in this world you rely on, like a sure bet. And when they let you down, shifting from where you've carefully placed them, it shakes your faith, right where you stand. Sarah Dessen



This morning I received a phone call from our complex's management who wanted to let me know that workers needed to access our deck and do construction on our large brick wall. I knew exactly what that meant because these workers have been staged outside my deck door for weeks now, working on the other end of the wall. Between the drilling and the dust caused by this construction, it is a daily cleaning job that I have to undertake. Each afternoon when the workers are done, I have what feels like an inch of dust covering everything outside. Including my plants. It is very unsettling and when they are up on scaffolding, they are looking right into our windows. So I feel like a goldfish, except instead of water, I have noise and dust to contend with!

In order to get the scaffolding inside our deck ALL our plants and furniture needed to be moved. I had six men helping me with this project because we have a lot of items on our deck.... as you can see from the photo above. The main reason I chose to remove all my plants from the space is that they would be completely covered in dust and I frankly did not want them damaged!

The question this morning became..... where to put all these plants? Someone suggested inside our home or on our balcony. I said no to that, and the next suggestion was throwing a tarp over all the plants. Which I also said no to given the intensity of the heat..... I would have dead plants! So instead we came up with an alternative place to store them close by to us.  

Right now our deck looks like a disaster zone! An absolute mess and the notion that this will be going on for a week, just to then have to reassemble all of our garden isn't making me happy! They chose the WRONG time to do this, especially when they had ALL summer to get this done. 














So I have that going on at home and on top of that I went to visit Mattie's tree today at his school. I went to see what condition the tree was in and what items I would need to bring with us this weekend as we want to decorate the tree for Mattie's 6th anniversary of his death. Each Fall we also plant bulbs and mulch the tree. When I got to his school, I noticed there was construction occurring. The playground by the tree is being totally remodeled. What I wasn't expecting to see however is the mess around Mattie's tree. From a wheelbarrow to other debris. Given there is a memorial plaque at the base of the tree, it would be my hope that people dealing with construction would mind the tree and have some respect for it. I wonder how they would feel if this tree belonged to their child? 

The problem is no one gave any thought to the significance of this tree or in my opinion how this would make a family member feel by seeing this! To me it is like putting stuff all over a grave marker. I do not see the difference. Needless to say while standing there, I took a photo of this disgrace and sent it to the school. I have been assured that these items are now removed and after we decorate and mulch the tree this weekend, a fence will be placed around the tree to protect it. I am just saddened that I am the one who had to advocate for this tree. It just seems very symbolic of the feeling so many of us have who have lost a child to cancer. After a period of time, people seem to forget, and unfortunately do not understand us or the issues that matter the most to us. 

September 3, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken on August 31, 2008. This was Mattie's first month in the hospital managing his cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy. Pictured with Mattie is Jude. Jude is one of the hospital volunteer musicians. That weekend, Jude came to visit Mattie, and with Jude's visit always came a cute red wagon filled with all sorts of musical instruments. Jude always encouraged Mattie to pick an instrument and play along with him! Mattie typically participated if he felt up to it! You also notice that Mattie was wearing a Nationals Baseball jersey. That afternoon, Linda (Mattie's child life specialist) and Jenny (Mattie's art therapist) came to visit Mattie after they had just taken a bunch of kids from the hospital to a Nats game. Clearly Mattie couldn't go on this trip, but they instead brought back Nats park for Mattie, which we all very much appreciated. 


Quote of the day: Depression affects almost 80% of migraine sufferers at one time or another. People with migraine, especially chronic migraine, also are more likely to experience intense anxiety and to have suicidal tendencies. If we want to live happy and joyful lives with migraine, it is vital that we acknowledge and deal with the emotional realities of the disease. ~ Sarah Hackley


I came across Hackley's quote tonight and it caught my attention. I would say that living with chronic headaches are indeed challenging at best. They impact every aspect of one's life, and I should know since my first real headache started on the day Mattie was born. It hasn't left me yet. It is just what number on the pain scale is my headache in a given day. It is hard to believe that I have not known a headache free day in over a decade. 

To try to deal with the symptoms, my neurologist put me on a medication for cluster headaches about two years ago. I have been on this medication since that time and it keeps the headaches from spiraling totally out of control, and enabling me to have some sort of life. However, this Fall, I began getting kidney stones. Well in turns out that this headache medication causes kidney stones in some people who use it on a long term basis. I happen to be one of the lucky few. Which therefore means I needed to come off of my headache meds. Which has taken all summer to accomplish this task! But now I am not only back to having severe headaches but also dealing with a kidney stone flair up at the moment. The reality of the state of health care today is that you may address one problem SLIGHTLY, and then landed up with a list of other issues from the medication.

On a grander scale, I certainly saw that type of medication downward spiral with Mattie. Mattie never had depression, anxiety, of post traumatic stress symptoms prior to cancer treatment. However, after his second surgery, and all his experiences in the hospital, these treatments took a toll on Mattie. So much so that he was diagnosed with several mental health issues. However, at every turn, when we gave Mattie some sort of medication to manage a symptom, that medication would cause 12 other problems to arise. It was always overwhelming and disheartening to see in a six year old. So I don't know what the answer is! Clearly in Mattie's case he needed the treatment, otherwise he wouldn't have lived 14 more months after his diagnosis. But for people like myself who have chronic and long term issues, in which there are no exact treatments, it is challenging to know what to do. Especially given what I am dealing with now.....kidney stones every three months... which is a total roller coaster ride of fun. 


September 2, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in September of 2008. As soon as Mattie assembled this foam pieced puzzle and then sat on it, I entitled it, "Mattie sits on top of the world." It is really quite amazing that with all Mattie had to accept in a short period of time he was able to smile and play.  


Quote of the day: Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth. William Faulkner


Facebook and social media are lighting up the Internet regarding childhood cancer awareness. This is due to the fact that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

Peter has been working on our Foundation's social media campaign and sent out these two images on Facebook and Twitter today. 

Based on the Institute of Medicine's workshop we attended in March 2015 and the soon to be released report entitled, "Comprehensive Cancer Care for Children with Cancer and their Families," Peter created this palliative care image that went out on Facebook and Twitter today. 



Last night, Fenway Park, which is the home of the Red Sox, went GOLD in honor of childhood cancer. As you can see they even changed their red sox to GOLD last night!













Each player held up a sign that read, "I go GOLD for...." and then a child's name was listed on it. 





Also note that every seat in the stadium held up a GOLD card! That is a lot of children with cancer being recognized in one night, and yet that only represents the tip of the iceberg of children who have cancer all around the Country. Since around 15,000 children are diagnosed with cancer per year and there are close to 400,000 childhood cancer survivors managing the long-term late effects of the treatment. Of course there are children like Mattie, (four children a day die from cancer), who die and whose families are left behind to live with the aftermath of cancer.










A Gold Awareness Ribbon was painted on the grass of the ballpark. It would be wonderful if other major league baseball teams followed suit, and also went GOLD for childhood cancer.

The childhood cancer community is now signing a petition that would ask the NFL to go GOLD in honor of Childhood Cancer. This isn't an unreasonable request since the NFL wears pink in the month of October for breast cancer. 

Though I admit I am not a sports fan of any kind, I am very well aware of the impact that sports has on our society and how the image of sports influences minds and hearts. If NFL players wore GOLD, I have no doubt people would be asking why? Which would lead to a conversation about childhood cancer! For change to occur for our children, the public must be aware of the problem.......that children get cancer, that more needs to be done to enhance access to treatment, to increase research funding, and to provide access to psychosocial supportive services from the time of diagnosis, into survivorship or end of life and bereavement care. 

Peter and I did this today, and we hope you will do this too!!! Please consider signing the NFL petition. It is easy and it won't take more than a matter of seconds to complete.  

Click on the link below to sign the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/nfl-comissioner-roger-goddell-dear-nfl-please-support-childhood-cancer-awareness-by-going-gold?recruiter=373214528&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_page&utm_term=des-lg-share_petition-custom_msg

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 -- Mattie died 312 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. Mattie was posing in front of the fountain by our hotel in Coronado. Mattie was intrigued by the flamingos. Now what you may not be able to determine here was what Mattie was trying to do? Mattie was giving you his impression of a flamingo. I thought this was TOO precious..... so naturally I captured it on camera. 


Quote of the day: All great changes are preceded by chaos. ~ Deepak Chopra


I am back in Washington, DC after a smooth and safe flight across the Country today! As it is September 1, this marks the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I wanted to post this wonderful video that went viral on Facebook today. It was put together by Megan Fonte, a fellow cancer mom, who reached out to many families and members of the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, a national organization which represents over 80 childhood cancer foundations across the Country. 

This is a very moving video filled with facts about childhood cancer as well as pictures of children who have been lost to these cancers. A photo of Mattie is displayed at 1:17 minutes!

I found the facts in the video to be excellent and reliable and at times I had to pause the video in order to really read them and absorb what was being expressed. However, I think one needs to realize that ALL the beautiful faces seen in this video are of children who have lost their battle to cancer! This is overwhelming, especially when you reflect on the fact that around 4 children a day in the US are dying of cancer. As I told Megan, this video was greatly appreciated not only for its content in bringing awareness to the cause, but as a mom who lost a child to cancer. It is a wonderful tribute in memory of Mattie this September. 

Cancer Stole Our Children Video: https://youtu.be/4vp4O6M5s74

August 31, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. My mom took this photo of the three of us while we were having lunch by the water in San Diego! As you can see Mattie was happy, creating the letter "M" with his crayons at the table, and simply full of life and energy. Sitting for a meal was a feat because we had to keep Mattie very intellectually challenged otherwise he would neither comply with sitting or eating. 


Quote of the day: As soon as anyone starts telling you to be “realistic,” cross that person off your invitation list. ~ John Eliot


In the past several days, my parents and I have gone through boxes and things that they have been storing in their home over the years. It is never easy to sort through memories and possessions. Especially when in these possessions one has items that belonged to one's mom and dad, and people who have passed away. I know this issue all too well, because when Mattie died, I just couldn't deal with addressing any of Mattie's items that were all around me. In fact, for the first month after Mattie's death we did not even live at home. We moved into our friend Ann's home. Certainly that removed us from our home and the immediate impact of the space, but we went into Ann's home with a purpose... to help her dad die. Something I knew very well how to manage and do. 

Clearing out Mattie's possessions took years! It was much easier to start with items that he got from the hospital that he never played with or touched. I had no sentimental attachment to them, and could easily donate them. But toys and especially clothes that reminded me of Mattie, I did not even go near for three years after Mattie died. I am not sure where I then got the courage to take on the sorting and cleaning possess, but I think what ultimately bothered me was I felt that Mattie's room was a mess and nothing in there truly was organized enough to celebrate his life or showcase the beautiful art pieces he created. So that inspired me. 

While sorting through items with my parents, in the midst of my grandparents items I also found things that belonged to me when I was a baby. I think if Mattie were alive, I most likely would have saved these items to show them to him and perhaps to pass them down to him and his family in the future. But when you lose your only child, you think differently. Though I am a relatively young person, my mindset in many ways is much older. I maybe sentimental about things that belong to people close to me, but I have absolutely no real interest in items that belonged to me. To me they serve no purpose, have no future value, and therefore I have no problem giving them away.  

Tonight I sign off from Los Angeles, as I am heading back to Washington, DC tomorrow!

August 30, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. This has to be one of my favorite photos that Peter took of Mattie. While we were staying in Coronado (San Diego), Peter frequently took Mattie for a bicycle ride around the Island. One particular afternoon, they paused for this wonderful photo with the historic Del Coronado Resort (the Victorian Lady with the red roof!) in the background. 


Quote of the day: By changing nothing, nothing changes. ~ Tony Robbins

Though I reflect on Mattie's life daily in some shape or form, most of the time my thoughts do not seem to translate into dreams. Or if they do, then I do not remember them when I awake. But the past two weeks while I have been in Los Angeles, I had two very vivid dreams in which Mattie was visiting me in my dreams. In both dreams, he and I knew that he died from cancer and therefore he wasn't alive. Therefore it begs a bigger question as to what form he was appearing to me in? Was Mattie a ghost or a spirit? I have no idea, nonetheless Mattie was talking to me and it seemed quite real.

In the first dream, I am sleeping in my bed at home. The sensations and feelings within the dream seemed like they were really happening to me! I was lying down and sleeping and I could feel as if someone was crawling up on my bed and on me. As this person got to my ear, I heard that it was Mattie and he gave me a kiss. In my dream I awake and confront Mattie and tell him that he died from cancer, so how could he possibly be there with me. There were no answers, but it was at which point, I woke up dazed and confused.

The second dream seemed just as real and vivid as the first. Again, in the dream Mattie and I both knew he wasn't alive. Mattie seemed to find me in my dream and asked me if I would buy him a new shirt. A shirt that a 13 year old would wear, not a seven year old (the age that he died at). Mattie wanted a shirt because he wanted to see how much he actually had grown over the years and he felt the shirt that would fit a 13 year old would help him determine his growth. He assured me that he would visit me again, so it was necessary to get the shirt! The irony was in my dream, though he was talking to me like his current age would be (13 years), he appeared to me to still be 7! 

I certainly could stop and ask myself what does all of this mean? I typically do not have such vivid dreams with Mattie in them. Or at least I can't recall them, in which he is talking to me, and telling me that he is coming back to visit me because we both acknowledge he is DEAD. To me this is a very unusual set of dreams, which perhaps is timed with the fact that Mattie's sixth anniversary of his death is fast approaching, or perhaps there are other explanations. Either case, with Mattie in life and in death, I believe anything is possible.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tonight's picture was taken in August of 2007. We were sitting in the stands of Sea World in San Diego, awaiting to see Shamu, the Killer Whale. Having grown up in Los Angeles as a teenager, I had been to Sea World many times. It was always a special park to me, and it is maintained like no other theme park I know. I am happy that Mattie got to see so many of these amazing creatures and experience the magic of this park. A park that does have magic in its own right and it doesn't need roller coasters and rides to achieve this excitement. Naturally I date myself, because as I went on line to look at Sea World, they too now offer amusement rides. Not many, like other themed parks, but they have introduced them to the Park. Which disappoints me. That was the beauty of going to Sea World in the past. It wasn't about the rides, it was about experiencing the sea life and animals. 


Quote of the day: Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best. ~ Henry van Dyke


We went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art today and saw two wonderful exhibits. The first one was entitled, Four Allegories by Veronese: A Rediscovery and Reunion. Paolo Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese (1528 – 1588) was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of both religious and mythological subjects. He was also known as a supreme colorist and to have influenced many great artists such as Rubens, Delacroix, and Renoir. Though his last name was really Caliari, he was known as Veronese because he was born in the town of Verona in Italy. It wasn't unusual in the Renaissance to rename artists by the town they were born and came from, so for example Leonardo Da Vinci's last name was NOT really Da Vinci. He was born in Vinci, a region of Florence, so in essence he was nicknamed "Leonardo of Vinci." Similar with Veronese!

In 2014, the two LACMA paintings (pictured in the center) traveled to London to be included in an exhibition at the National Gallery. An exciting discovery was made at the same time: the canvases had a matching set, belonging to the Region of Piedmont in Italy. In need of conservation (a cleaning and restoration), the matching set could not be included in the London exhibition, but they were eventually shown alongside the LACMA paintings, first in Vicenza, and then in Turin. This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see the four paintings reunited in Los Angeles. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE US THAT THESE FOUR PAINTINGS HAVE BEEN SEEN TOGETHER!

The four paintings in this installation constitute a major achievement for artist Paolo Veronese. Three feature allegories of navigation—a subject particularly relevant to Venice, a city of merchants and traders who depended on ancient but precise technology to traverse the Mediterranean. The fourth painting features an allegory of sculpture, which may seem unexpected, but in fact reflects the rich and complex culture of Veronese’s time, when art and science, literature, mathematics, architecture, and painting all went hand in hand.

What may not be evident from these photos was that the paintings are HUGE! They seemed at least 8 to 10 feet tall! When hung overhead, they gave a feeling of prominence. Which was the intention. The viewer had to look up to these allegories and not down. In each painting, Veronese depicted an historical structure from antiquity. Incorporating such thematic content into a painting was NOT a common practice in Venice, but something that was well established in the mainland of Italy. However, Venetian artists were well known for their use of color, which was a skill Veronese developed and integrated into his style. In each of these paintings the sky was actually painted BLUE, but as I learned from my recent trip to the Norton Simon Museum, blue was a very expensive color and therefore during the Renaissance many of the blues did not last and hold up over time. Which is why you only see the sky in all of these paintings to look brown. The only blue that is evident is seen in the bodice of the woman's clothing, and that was because ultramarine paint was used, which was an expensive as gold. Therefore it is very evident that whomever commissioned these paintings was VERY wealthy. 


Allegory of Navigation with Astrolabe (left)

Allegory of Navigation with Cross-Staff (right)
















Allegory of Navigation with Armillary Sphere





















Allegory of Sculpture





















The second exhibit we saw was entitled, Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East, which is the first major exhibition of LACMA's holdings of Middle Eastern contemporary art—the largest such institutional collection in the United States. In recent years, the parameters of Islamic art at LACMA have expanded to include contemporary works by artists from or with roots in the Middle East. Drawing inspiration from their own cultural traditions, these artists use techniques and incorporate imagery and ideas from earlier periods.  As the first of a two-part exhibition program, Islamic Art Now features 25 works—including photography, sculpture, video, and installation—by 20 artists from Iran and the Arab world. Most of the works in Islamic Art Now have never been displayed previously at LACMA. Below are two that were very noteworthy and caught our attention.............................................

Shirin Neshat, Speechless, 1996


Shirin Neshat is perhaps the best-known artist of the Iranian diaspora following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Born in Qazvin, she left Iran in 1974 at the age of 16 to study in the United States. Neshat returned to Iran in 1990, and much of what she saw and experienced informed her first major body of work, the photographic series Women of Allah. The series is comprised of black-and-white images of chador-clad women, often the artist herself, covered with text in black ink, and frequently focusing on different body parts—face, feet, hands, eyes. Neshat has noted the recurrence of four symbolic elements in this series: veil, gun, text, and gaze. She intends these images to contradict a western notion of Muslim women as diminished and desexualized by the veil and disempowered by their faith.


Wafaa Bilal, Chair, 2013

Wafaa Bilal is an assistant professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, who fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991. Known internationally for his provocative performative and interactive works, Bilal came to the attention of a wider audience in 2010 when he had a camera surgically implanted in the back of his head. Entitled 3rdi, Bilal transmitted images to the web 24/7 in part as a statement on surveillance, the mundane, and the things left behind. His latest series—Ashes—depicts in photographs his handmade miniature reconstructions of media images that document buildings destroyed in the Iraq war (2003–13); the models are covered with ashes, including human ashes. These powerful photographs capture and reflect Bilal’s own reactions to the war as an exiled Iraqi who witnessed the devastation from the relative safety of America.