Maria Maneos, a 2002 Montgomery County Community College Fine Arts graduate, was chosen to be a part of the prestigious 2018 Art of the State Exhibition in Harrisburg. Her exhibit entitled, “5535-2017,” represents the 5535 lives that were lost to opiate or heroin overdoses in 2017.
“5535-2017” consists of more than 300 monofilament lines, clustered into one small area, and hangs about 15 feet from the ceiling of the State Museum of Pennsylvania. Each line is anchored by a weight at the bottom and is adorned along its length with one-inch clear glassine bags—the type heroin is generally sold in. Maneos explained:
“Each bag also contains a shining crystal to represent the beauty and light of the soul for each of the 5,535 victims lost to opioid or heroin overdose in Pennsylvania during 2017…Just hearing a number doesn’t impact you the same way as actually seeing it. The installation is both beautiful and horrific at the same time.”
Standing, from left: Carol Buck, History Curator at the State Museum of PA; Maria Maneos of North Wales; Beverly Lichkus, special assistant for Art of the State. Sitting, from left: Michele Ensminger, Exhibits Chief at the State Museum of PA; and Ameika Malcolm of Hope Works.
The artist was inspired to create this timely piece through a series of events centered around her son, John, and his struggle with drug addiction while a high school student and his subsequent incarceration. Maneos added:
“This art piece is intended to give visitors an opportunity to see the lives lost and perhaps the feeling of loss attributed to the over-prescribing of opiates, the infestation of heroin in our country and the lack of help or identification of mental health issues…Maybe it will help people recognize that each crystal represents a real person who went through severe trials in their lives and help us all to remember them and be aware of the issue to hopefully deter others from falling into this rabbit hole.”
Today, Maneos brings her art to the community, where she guides others in discovering their own creative abilities and using them to help heal from addiction.
After her first visit to her son in the county jail, she founded Brush With The Law (BWTL), a non-profit, community service-based visual arts program that helps educate and enlighten the public to the struggles of those experiencing the effects of drug addiction, homelessness, mental and behavioral health, and the criminal justice system while offering these socially marginalized populations a chance to express themselves creatively through art projects that beautify public spaces in and around Montgomery County and other regions within the Philadelphia area.
Maneos is thrilled and still surprised her work was chosen for the 2018 Art of the State exhibit:
“I have long realized that the biggest part of my art relies on the sublime…I explore the beautiful that leads to an immensity … I’m always looking for the sublime feeling that I know has something bigger behind it.”
The annual Art of the State exhibition is the official, statewide, juried competition for Pennsylvania artists. Artwork is selected from five categories: craft, painting, photography, sculpture and work on paper. The exhibit runs from June 24 through September 9, 2018, in the State Museum of Pennsylvania, located at 300 North Street in Harrisburg.