a.Muse is honored to present Compassion Made Visible, a mixed media gallery exhibit focusing on the residents, staff and volunteers of the Maitri Compassionate Care community. The artist reception June 15th will feature excerpts from a new play written by a.Muse herself, Lori Shantzis.
Looking for a way to get out of herself, Shantzis, a gallery owner and solo performer, began visiting Maitri last year, believing it to be a hospice. She soon realized that more than half of the residents were there to "recover" and not to die, which she felt made a huge statement about the current state of the crisis. She decided to write a play about what, from her vantage point as a storyteller, seemed to make the ultimate difference between a choice for life or death.
"If Maitri has taught me one thing, it’s that love has the power to heal," says Shantzis. "If people don’t feel loved or don’t love themselves, they will often not take the steps necessary to facilitate or continue their own healing. Low self-esteem and lack of community and support seem to be as devastating as the disease itself."
As the owner of a local gallery known for "inter-art" exhibitions, she invited several photographers to join the project, hoping specifically for friends with a particular interest in spirituality and in serving their communities.
Photographer Su Evers had volunteered at Maitri years ago and found special meaning being "a hunter of sorts aiming (my camera) at spirits." The unique composition of Evers’ photographs highlights the individuality and energy of each of her subjects.
Christopher Spurrell has discovered the healing power of helping others through his Buddhist Sangha spiritual practice. He was honored to be invited to participate in this project by Shantzis, whom he introduced to formal meditation practice. In his words, Maitri is "a place where suffering is met with love."
Robbie Sweeny, an Irish-born photographer who is known for his evocative photos of local performers, admits he was initially reluctant to join the project. "I envisioned a place of suffering and sadness. What I encountered was a place of joy, of life and of community." The opportunity to photograph "N.," one of the residents whom he considers "a legend in the SF drag world" convinced Sweeny to sign on.
"We gossiped about the queens and the cute boys. We tried out some different looks, each one just as fabulous as the one before. When walking home from Maitri it struck me how life there was contagious, the joy there was contagious, but it was N’s smile that was perhaps the most infectious of all."
Cancer survivor, Tess McCarthy, a local comic strip artist and Hadley Northrop, a portrait painter, add some diversity to the line up of artists for this exhibit. There will also be a few pieces by one of the residents, and a variety of images contributed by members of the community.