‘Petite Voie’ Holiday Art Exhibit at Curious Matter Exploring Big Faith in Small Ways

The holiday season is an important time of faith and devotion for many Jersey City residents. At a new exhibit opening today at Curious Matter, a Downtown Jersey City gallery, some small testaments to big faith will inspire religious and nonreligious art lovers alike.

Co-managers Arthur Bruso and Raymond Mingst culled the exhibit’s artifacts from their personal collections as well as the Cabinet Gallery, Curious Matter’s earliest incarnation which was housed in a small room in Manhattan’s East Village.

“Each item has it’s own history. Some are heirlooms, some were donated, some were discovered at flea markets. Many were part of The Cabinet Gallery. But our collection grows as the fates see fit,” says Bruso.

“This year our holiday installation was inspired by the spiritual philosophy of Thérèse of Liseaux,” says Mingst. “She had decided that her life would not be heroic. She was not made for the grand gesture. Instead she would devote herself to perfection in the smallest acts, whether darning a garment, tending a garden or serving the other nuns of her convent. Thérèse would eventually achieve sainthood by going ‘her little way’ or ‘petite voie.’ Although her intention was not to live a heroic life eventually her spiritual memoirs and letters would be read by and inspire legions of devoted followers.”

Bruso adds that “Petite Voie” was also inspired by the bible of Laura M. Maart (seen above), one of the highlights of the show. “(It) has been in the possession of Raymond since he created The Cabinet Gallery. It is an impressive and moving document of one person’s spiritual journey,” he says.

Mingst describes the impressive tome: “The bible contains the ephemera of her religious life. Slipped within its pages are the obituaries of her parents and sisters, a scallop edged photograph of a grave, prayer cards, scapulars, tiny metal pendants, several pressed flowers and a four-leaf clover. These are among numerous other small personal treasures. Her bible, with its trove of documents and souvenirs illuminates the touchstones of a thoughtful, church-going lifetime.”

Other highlights include a bottle whimsey showing the Passion of the Christ used carved wood and magazine clippings inside a furniture polish bottle (at left), a work which Bruso commends for its inventiveness and skill. Also on view is an impressive replica of a church constructed using popsicle sticks by John Volaiter in 1979.

“The work speaks more to the devotional act and how each individual approaches their personal devotion. Like the building of a Gothic cathedral, each person brings their own talent and skill to the creation of an object that glorifies the divine. Each act of creation is a meditation on how they approach their belief,” says Bruso, noting that the exhibit aims to explore “an overarching sense of the spiritual, not any specific faith.”

“This exhibition is comprised of homemade devotions not necessarily created by professional artists or craftspeople,” says Mingst. “We’re looking to these modest works because they possess the capacity to inspire us, like Thérèse of Liseaux, in ways that may not necessarily be heroic, but with significance nonetheless.”

“Petite Voie” opens tonight, Dec. 21, at Curious Matter, 272 Fifth St., and is open by appointment through Jan. 20. For more information, call 201-659-5771 or visit their website.

Photos courtesy of Curious Matter

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Summer Dawn Hortillosa

is a freelance arts and entertainment writer whose work has appeared in the Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal, the International and other publications. She is also a creative writer and theatrical director.