For over a year now I’ve been working on a series of tapestries inspired by this icon of the Virgin Mary. The icon dates from the sixth century CE and is located in the Santa Francesca Romana church in Rome, Italy. There’s something about Mary’s direct gaze, and the aged, battered surface of the painting, that I find incredibly powerful, haunting and mysterious. I want my own tapestries about Mary to communicate that compelling mystery in a contemporary and personal way.
Let me back up. My own given name is Mary, though everyone has always called me Molly. So as a child I paid special attention in Sunday School to stories about the Virgin Mary, especially the verse about how she “pondered these things in her heart.” (As readers of this blog will learn, I myself am a ponderer from way back. Perhaps an over-ponderer.) And growing up female in the church, it was apparent to me that many folks considered Mary to be an important role model for women, for her motherhood, for her submission to the will of God, for her traditional purity and beauty. And yet—who can possibly live up this standard? So for awhile now I’ve been reading up on Mary and looking at works of art depicting her. Pondering.
To see the first three tapestries in this series, click here.
This new tapestry I'm working on is based on a collage and a quotation. The quote is from the great theologian St. Augustine: “The truth of Christ is in the mind of Mary; greater is what she bears in her mind than in her womb.” Pretty shocking, right? For Augustine, Mary’s imagination, her vision and the courage to say Yes to the angel Gabriel when he informed her that she had been chosen to bear the Son of God, is even more remarkable than the fact that she gave birth to Jesus Christ.
Here on the left is the collage that is the kernel of the design for this tapestry.
Watch this space for further updates! And thanks for dropping by.