Hail Mary, 2017, oil on canvas, 72" x 60"
Suspended in a moment with my newborn baby in my arms, I felt holy and perfect. I still cannot really put into words the entire feeling of that moment in 1995 other than to say I was holy once.
I was raised Catholic but once under my own self control, my choice was to reject religion. So my understanding of holiness is based on my own Catholic education and upbringing. The contradiction then becomes how do I reconcile believing in feeling holy while not being a "believer". One can't be holy and not holy all at the same time....kind of like a virgin giving birth. Interesting how hard it can be to make sense of impossible things and how much easier it is to simply accept them. Still, acceptance does not always mean to stop asking questions.
Mary, the impossible ideal; the perfect mother. Every artist painting a scene from Mary's life layers it with another, either from her own life or from biblical history. Layers being the key word for me. Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anna, Immaculately Conceived and born without sin, Perpetual Virgin, Obedient (anti-Eve), Chosen by God, the Ark of the New Covenant, Mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Mother of the Mystical Body of Christ, Mother of Jesus, Mother of the Church, Mother of Mercy, Mother of Believers to whom all cares and petitions can be entrusted and who will be your personal escort to meet Jesus after you die, Blessed among women, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Instrumental means of Salvation, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Bridge between Old and New Testament, Mediatrix (through her all graces for humanity are dispensed), and Co-Redemptrix (her participation in the redemption of mankind.)
This painting did not start out being a painting of Mary, not directly. It is, in fact, layered over another painting I had done in graduate school at Pratt. It was the first painting of my thesis. I had broken free from old habits and birthed my own mark. That was in 2006 and those canvases have been in the basement ever since.
Older paintings, rolled up and in storage, easily become new canvases for me. I often find inspiration and freshness in the old work. And I have been eager to get back to painting larger canvases because I like the idea of the overall painting being the size of a human body; to feel like I could fit inside it.
This particular older canvas titled "Discovering" was about my ten-year old child finding a place in the world. To be clear, this was MY perception of those thoughts and feelings. It has always felt unresolved to me. While looking at it again eleven years later, I finally understood why. My kids story is not mine to tell. The story can only be authentic if it is about how I felt or how I feel, in this case, being Tori's mother. And so I just started painting...turning the canvas to reach, to search, to find the image. I had a very hard time painting over Tori's face until I tapped into what I do every day. Every day I imagine a warm, golden light protecting Tori. I painted that light. Rotating the painting again, I saw Mary. And I remembered. And for another brief suspended moment in time, I felt holy.