Monday, January 26, 2015

On the Tapestry Loom: Mary #4

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.

You can see Mary’s face from the icon, an image of a cave (some believe that is where she gave birth, not a stable), and a gold arc shape on one side.  The cave image is outlined into the basic shapes I will weave, and the numbers indicate color and value changes for the yarn I will use.  I started serious work on this design in a workshop I took in October with the other members of Tapestry Weavers South, led by the incredible Scottish tapestry artist Joan Baxter.   I finally started weaving this piece last week. On the right you can see where I am so far.  You can just make out the black and white line drawing (or cartoon) that is my map for the piece behind the weaving. (The yellow is a piece of paper that makes it easier to see the vertical warp threads.)  I added the green areas to the original collage, and I've just started weaving the bottom of Mary's face in white. 

Watch this space for further updates!  And thanks for dropping by.

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