About the Exhibition

I paint a far, far away land, where violence magically transforms femme bodies into a monstrous size, so that their pain must be seen, felt, and reckoned with.

Opening Party January 19 | 5:00–7:00

MOWA | DTN inside Saint Kate—The Arts Hotel

Meg Lionel Murphy: Ecstasy and Escape at the Swan Song Motel is an exploration of personal growth and liberation from intimate partner violence against women. Murphy’s family owns a motel in rural Wisconsin that inspires the transformation of MOWA | DTN into the “Swan Song Motel,” a familiar setting and refuge for women escaping domestic abuse.

Murphy’s work reflects the pain and trauma of her own experiences. Here, her giant female figures are warriors, armored and wielding swords. In control of their bodies and their lives, they protect themselves and each other. Gradually, they outgrow their refuge.

Murphy’s background as a children’s book illustrator infuses her heavy themes with a note of whimsy. Using a brilliant color palette, intricately detailed imagery, and a subverted Catholic symbolism, she turns the installation into an imaginative sanctuary—a realm of healing and hope. Her emotional narrative extends beyond the painted canvas to include real objects—furniture, toys, and trinkets. Ranging from intimate to colossal scale, the dynamic installation conjures lived memories that oscillate between childhood innocence and the lingering pains of adulthood.

Murphy received degrees in Art, Art History, and English Literature from the University of Minnesota and studied painting in Florence, Italy. As a co-founder of Paper Darts, an art and literary magazine, she has made significant contributions to the artistic and literary community. “Ecstasy and Escape at the Swan Song Motel” is Murphy’s first solo museum show and holds particular significance as her last before motherhood—a swan song where themes of pregnancy delicately emerge amidst horror and the euphoria of escape.

This exhibition is open to the public at MOWA | DTN, the museum’s satellite inside Saint Kate—The Arts Hotel in downtown Milwaukee.

Image: Vacancy, 2023
Image: Swan Song, 2023