Published in The Hartford Courant 

The Real and the Marvelous Mother America

Farmington Valley Arts Center Hosts Exhibition of Paintings Inspired by
America's Shifting Identity in the Decade Following the 9/11 Tragedy

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slings and arrows

AVON, CT, February 28, 2011—When she heard the news a plane had struck the World Trade Center, Melissa Croghan turned her car toward the Farmington Valley Arts Center, where she knew she'd find solace and perspective in the company of fellow artists. She never anticipated, however, that the red-drenched canvas she would paint the next day would ignite a decade-long artistic and intellectual quest to reimagine American symbolism and to spark conversations about patriotism and national identity. As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Croghan shares her journey in an exhibition, The Real and the Marvelous Mother America, which runs March 11-26, 2011 at the Esther Drezner Visitors' Gallery at the Farmington Valley Arts Center (FVAC) in Avon, Connecticut.

At an opening wine and hors d'oeuvres reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 11 (snow date: Saturday, March 12), Croghan will be on hand to discuss how the arresting oil paintings in the Mother America series use imagery of Lady Liberty and thoughtful text to bridge the divide between the universal emotions stirred by unspeakable tragedy and the frank, edgy discourse that has historically characterized American politics. The show will be on view Wednesday through Saturday from noon until 4 p.m. through April 4. Admission to the exhibition and opening reception is free.

The artist, who lives in Simsbury and regularly welcomes visitors to her studio at the FVAC, says, "Each work in this show is a conversation piece. These figurative canvases, from There Was a Disturbance in the Forsythia to Walking Wounded will delight, inspire, and pose colorful questions."

The centerpiece of the series is Up She Rises, a five-foot-tall painting of Lady Liberty with a mysterious background and the iconic tablet in her hands. "I found that I could not stop re-painting the words on the tablet," says Croghan, who has at times altered the text based on viewer feedback. On September 11, 2011, she will select the tablet's permanent message "to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the courage of the American people," she says.

In conjunction with the Mother America exhibition, Croghan will lead two "Identity & the Creative Process" sessions on Saturday, March 19, designed to engage participants in creative exploration of their connection to our national consciousness. A session for children ages 8 to 12 runs from 10 a.m. until noon and offers hands-on art and writing activities, along with a chance to determine the next message to appear on Lady Liberty's tablet. In a workshop for teens and adults from 1 until 3 p.m., Croghan will delve deeper into her works' symbolism and read published poems that accompany the paintings. Participants will awaken their own sense of wonder through fun and lively exercises in collage, writing and intuitive drawing. The fee for participation in either workshop is $25, and no artistic experience is necessary. Pre-registration is suggested.

The Farmington Valley Arts Center is located at 25 Arts Center Lane in Avon Park North, Avon, Connecticut. For additional information, visit or call 860-678-1867.

About Melissa Croghan

Melissa Croghan is a visual artist whose work speaks to our collective national identity. Her color-saturated canvases, which often include text ranging from the serious to the hilarious, reflect her dual training in studio arts and American literature. The storytelling component of her paintings has captivated art lovers and attracted media attention, as well.

Croghan was a student at the FVAC in Avon, Connecticut, when tragedy struck on September 11, 2001. She and her family had recently returned to her husband's home state, where Croghan's own ancestors rest in Hartford's Ancient Burying Ground. Nearly a decade later, Croghan was accepted by juried process to join the community of artists with studios on-site at the FVAC.

Melissa holds a Master's degree and a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, where she worked for several years as a professor of English. Her poems have been published in national magazines such as The Massachusetts Review and Verse Wisconsin, which recently featured her pastel painting and poem titled "Blue Tree." Croghan's artwork is in permanent collections, both private and public, and has been exhibited at solo shows at Hartford-area venues including The Investor's Center in Avon and John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington.

About The Farmington Valley Arts Center

Incorporated in 1974 as a not-for-profit organization, The Farmington Valley Arts Center is dedicated to the belief that artistic expression and creativity are vital to daily life. FVAC connects the community to the creative process by offering arts education for people of all ages, supporting and encouraging working artists, and serving as a community resource for promoting the arts. The Arts Center is a vibrant arts community that enables visitors to experience the entire creative process, from seeing artists at work to viewing finished creations in a gallery to learning the skills necessary to create works of their own.

Source: Farmington Valley Arts Center

Photo 1: Portrait of the artist, Melissa Croghan

Photo 2: There Was a Disturbance in the Forsythia, oil on canvas, Melissa Croghan

Additional images of the artist's work available on request.