Marie’s work captures a back-breaking journey

By  Judy Murphy

-June 29, 2017

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Art college made such a difference to my life, giving me something to look forward to every week. Even if I never made art, the people I met there and the friends I made have become so important.”

So says Galway City woman Marie Cunningham, one of 13 mature students who graduated in Fine Arts from GMIT last month. Marie did make art as well as friends and her work will on show at a group exhibition in Kinvara this week, alongside work from six fellow graduates.

Marie’s powerful paintings capture the major surgery she had in June 2016 to tackle adult onset scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine). The condition was destroying her body and leaving her in continual pain.

“I lost most of my 50s to scoliosis,” she says as we sit in the sunroom of her home in Newcastle – it serves as her studio and the space where her daughter Jennifer, also an artist, gives lessons.

Marie takes out her sketchbooks which are a window into what her life was like with scoliosis and how, despite the pain, the artist in her wanted to capture last year’s operations – one lasting nine hours, the other seven. These books are like a form of diary, where sketches are sometimes accompanied by her own thoughts, or by newspaper cuttings or book covers.

There’s one photo of a huge titanium screw, part of the ‘hardware’ that was inserted in her back to help tackle her condition. The surgeon carrying out the operation allowed Marie to have it the night before the operation so she could photograph it. She subsequently captured its blue-grey hue in a striking painting.

She also did a painting of her feet as she lay in the hospital bed, and there’s one of her arm featuring the many cannulas that supplied her with medicine, including the strong painkillers she needed post-operation.


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