In/Hospitable Women group exhibit
Group exhibit for Skirts Afire Festival 2017
Nina Haggerty Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta
6 – 12 March, 2017
Mary, Star of the Sea
My contribution to the group exhibit, In/Hospitable Women, curated by Mary Joyce for the 2017 SkirtsAfire Festival, was Mary, Star of the Sea, consisting of a 3-dimensional mixed media installation piece and 10 small encaustic image transfer portraits.
This is a contemplation on the Virgin Marys of Newfoundland’s cemeteries. I am an Edmonton artist and appreciator of the landlocked prairie landscape, but I also spend time at a small property in Newfoundland overlooking the wild and exotic Atlantic Ocean.
As an artist whose work is largely memory-based, I visit cemeteries for inspiration, both at home and when I travel. I seek out and photograph representations of the Virgin Mary for her aspect of meditative calm and peace. I do not view Mary through a religious lens, since I am not a religious person, but rather through an aesthetic lens. My interest in women’s history also brings Mary to me; a strong female figure in a religion that can be inhospitable to women.
The cemeteries of Newfoundland are populated by small Mary figures. Newfoundland has three or four unfinished plaster-cast versions of Mary that can be purchased and hand painted by family and/or friends of deceased loved ones. These Marys suffer some of the most inhospitable conditions of Newfoundland’s wind and weather due to the local tradition that the dead be buried overlooking the ocean.
The commercially produced Virgin Mary that most of us encounter is one of consistent beauty. The hand-painted, heartfelt Marys of Newfoundland evoke both humour and pathos, but above all, represent a loving tribute that is touchingly and imperfectly human.