Ritual votives of thanks

Positive thinking: Tania Maria Mastroianni with her exhibition at Wollongong City Gallery. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Positive thinking: Tania Maria Mastroianni with her exhibition at Wollongong City Gallery. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Hundreds of strange objects dot the walls. Layer on layer of wax and gold leaf, cotton crochet and small sculptures, human hair and glass eyes.

The installation, The Sanctuary (of Roses, Love and Loathing), is a menagerie of the strange and the beautiful and the offbeat; a peek into the mind of its creator, Wollongong artist Tania Maria Mastroianni, through the lens of her Catholicism and its associated rituals and folklore.

The exhibit is her own ex-voto wall, a feature of churches where worshippers leave tokens of thanks for prayers answered and miracles granted.

"An ex-voto wall is about individuals expressing their heart," Mastroianni said.

"I've spent a lot of time in Rome, and when prayers for health or children are received, they put something on the wall to signify grace was received."

She created her installation, on show at Wollongong City Gallery, after praying to the Madonna of Loreto in Rome after problems with her health.

Back in Wollongong, she found the church she had been baptised in had a shrine to the same Madonna, and a piece of stone from the church in Italy.

"I made a pledge that if healing came for me, I would undertake this venture," she said.

The piece was about how positive thinking, and not being stuck in grief and anger, could transform things to look like miracles.

The exhibition catalogue speaks of influences including curses and demons, sainthood and strange dreams.

Mastroianni said the work consisted of up to 400 pieces, from sculptures to paintings to small trinkets and digital media, and even the smell of roses.

The Sanctuary runs until July 6. Mastroianni will hold a floor talk on May 31 at 2pm, and a workshop on June 14.

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