Sunday, December 26, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
I created this poem for the P.S. 57 bathroom murals, and now finally got to give it a new shape as a digitally illustrated image. It is a poem that I hope speaks to girls with thoughts about freedom, a word and an idea that has been essential to me as a person and as an artist.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
As a strong character of Christian mythology, Mary Magdalene brings balance to the idea of what a woman is, should be or could be. When the world has respect for all human beings, and learns to consider women as equals all over the world, we will be closer to true peace. In essence, this is what attracts me to the Magdalene: she represents the potential of changing the the world through love and peace by achieving true humanity. Peace is like a baby in her arms, ready to take flight at any moment.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
your tears arrived,
when you embraced,
weaving the warp and weft,
where we now rest,
in the perpetual lace
In Spanish, there is a very popular expression: "Crying like a Magdalene." I don't know if the same is true for other languages and cultures, but for Puerto Ricans, the Magdalene is always the image of crying in desperation. This Magdalene, the last one I completed (for now!), is the only one I painted with tears as an iconographical reference. But once again, I am substituting the traditional meaning and offering a new interpretation. In this painting the tears are not a reference to pain, but to freedom.
Mary Magdalene must have experienced an immense amount of pain. She chose to face it. She stayed by the Cross as her Beloved died a terrible death. She did not run away before or after, but lived through it. Those of us who know pain of any kind, physical or emotional, know that once we live through it, something happens. Nothing is the same as it was before, there is a calm, a silence of a meditative and clear nature. A silence that lets us hear its lesson.
Pain is a great teacher. Once we meet pain, we will forever be aware of the suffering of others. What we could not imagine possible in terms of suffering, we realize as true after knowing pain. Empathy and compassion can blossom out of this experience, and a new kind of strength as well. It is as if pain can have the power weaken our bodies, while also containing the possibility of adding muscle to our souls.
I, like many people, have experienced both physical and emotional pain. The physical pain of cancer is excruciating. It creates an impenetrable layer of fear that can soon make you wish death. It is clear and loud, like a bomb. Emotional pain can be the opposite. It is so quiet and ineffable that we can't notice it as it takes over our life and then crawls all over us like a slimy snail. Both can take us into the most immense loneliness, and both can kill us, or liberate us.
Why can pain liberate us? Because when we face it, we make the decision to be free. Even if we cannot get rid of the pain, we can be free to start finding a new way to live, a new way to see. There are terrible things in the world, and I cannot console or offer any words of comfort to the victims of all the terrible errors of humanity, or to the victims of illness or even of pure chance. All I can say, from my very limited perspective, is that when people embrace their experience of pain, they make a difference in the lives of those who are just beginning to live it, and as a result, their own lives acquire purpose. Of all the things I read about cancer during the moments when I first had to face it, only the stories of survivors stayed with me. That was all I had, and that was all I held on to. The Magdalene had more than I did at the time. She had her faith in the Resurrection.
Whether we understand the Resurrection as a literal or interpretative event, faith remains the base of its redeeming power. Faith is the notion that we can be reborn out of a life-changing experience. Mary Magdalene was reborn through her tears of pain, the same tears that brought her liberation from being a woman to being a human being in its full expression. Her tears formed the veil she penetrated in order to see the true nature of her teacher, and in order to see her own true nature. It was through her faith in her vision of the Resurrection that she brought the news to the world that we were more than just our flesh, that we were beyond sin. If we accepted the redeeming nature of death and rebirth, we would be born into a new being free from the archaic notion of sin, free from judgement, free from the restraints we had invented in response to fear. She brought faith in answer to fear, rebirth in answer to death.
Monday, October 04, 2010
Friday, October 01, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
In Puerto Rico, I have heard people say that the Black Virgin is the syncretism of the Virgin Mary and the African slaves' religion. I believe this syncretism in fact exists, but I was always curious why she was so adored in Europe and where she came from. The Black Madonna does not originate in the Caribbean or America at all, but her early statues and icons were in Europe long before the Old World and the New World found each other. She is so ancient that she might already have been there when Christianity arrived. Some scholars claim that the peoples of Europe merged their own ancient goddess of the earth with the Virgin Mary, and made her into the Black Virgin. It was one of the theories exposed by scholars about the Black Madonna that ultimately attracted me to her. This theory is her connection to Mary Magdalene.
The Black Madonnas of Europe are usually called Our Lady. It is believed that at some point the Magdalene became linked to the Black Maddona by association to the Song of Songs when it says "I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem." Mary Magdalene is associated to the bride in the poem, and Jesus to the bridegroom. Also, the cathedrals dedicated to "Our Lady" were built by the Knights Templar, who were "champions of Mary Magdalene." There is also the link to Sarah the Black saint, believed by some to be the daughter brought by Mary Magdalene from Egypt.
The original icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa particularly attracts me because it might be Byzantine, or at least might have inspired Byzantine art (since Helen is said to have brought it to her son Constantine from Jerusalem) and, most of all, because of its scar. Margaret Starbird makes an interesting association in reference to the icon Our Lady of Czestochowa representing the vanished goddess/Magdalene, "she is not only dark, she is wounded." Even if she is the mother of God, even if she is adored and revered, the scar is the first thing you see when you look at this image.
Just as I try to make my Mary Magdalenes universal, I like the idea of the Black Virgin not being of any particular ethnicity, but a representation of the life-giving power of the Earth itself, the darkness of which light is born, the "Hodegetria", One Who Shows the Way, the Mother who points to her son so that we may, through her guidance, reach the ultimate goal of our human journey. And I also love her because she is dark, wounded, ancient, beautiful and miraculous, and because I am a mother with a once-little, dark, byzantine-eyed child. I too have many scars in my ancient body, which I am also not afraid to show.
This Virgin of Czestokowa is available. E-mail Me! or visit my store. Reproductions and greeting cards are also available.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
If you would like a reproduction or greeting card, visit my store!
Friday, September 24, 2010
Oil on Canvas Board, 7” x 9”, 2005
My friend Migdalia made a comment yesterday that anticipated what I wanted to say about this painting. She said that the Magdalene looked Hispanic. She saw her like her own self. And this is what I intend for all of the Magdalenes: to make them look universal. I think that, if you look at this Magdalene, she could be from America, or Africa or the Middle East, or even Europe. She is you and she is me, the sacred feminine in all of us.
I painted Mary Magdalene in prayer because it is a universal praying gesture human beings use to connect with themselves and with the divine. Her eyes are closed from distractions, she is looking within in order to really see. This way, her light becomes bright yellow because her whole being is responding to this timeless moment.
When I paint her, I think of the Magdalene more as an idea than as an actual person who lived years ago. As a child, I heard somewhere, somehow, that we human beings are all part of a whole. I used to imagine myself as a dot of light going towards a great big Sun. I guess I was meditating without knowing it. Many people also believe in spirits, angels, and saints, and that these energies are all around us. I didn't think much of these things as I was painting this Magdalene, but later on, I realized that ideas become a reality when I am painting. I feel connected to the Magdalene in both of those ways: as part of a whole, and as a presence that guides me. By paying attention to what happens when I paint (or stop painting,) I have come to feel guided and nourished by the presence I identify as the Magdalene.
This is the second Magdalene I painted in 2005. I always start with a drawing, and what I look for is a sort of iconic image, lines that will help define the character of the painting. I always try to remember to keep these drawings for another project that I am working on, a coloring book, so here it is. It is a little gift for you to express my gratitude for your visit to this blog. Download it and color it, make it your own and remember the bliss of creation!
https://files.me.com/tanyaetorres/zej2h2 (available for the next 5 days)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Since my previous paintings were about mothers and babies, this Mary Magdalene is a sort of transition into the newer series of Mary Magdalenes. It also helped me establish the color palette that would evolve into the more intense reds and yellows of the paintings that were to follow.