Mary Magdalene of the Light, Oil on Canvas Board, 16" x 20", 2010
I do not claim to know about everything I paint. In fact, it is through painting that I find clues as to what I should be learning. Painting the Magdalene has guided me in discovering the larger dimensions of our world.
I often get the urge to draw a canvas when it is impossible to begin painting, such as the last few minutes in my studio before leaving for the night. I remember I drew this Magdalene at one such moment, and then, months later, began painting. Since this is a very symmetrical image, I knew I must work in ways that complement its symmetry, but also help the eye move around the painting and provide variety. I found myself lightening more and more certain areas of her face, and semi realizing that I was painting the chakras.
I knew extremely little about the chakras. I knew there were chakras, and that's pretty much it. I must have seen pictures, no doubt, but it still surprised me to be painting the Magdalaene with chakras. The painting stayed unfinished in my living room for probably more than one year, or even two. I was not sure how to finish it, or why I had painted it. I really didn't feel qualified to paint things with chakras, but in the meantime, I began learning about color, energy and healing. Although there is still much to learn, I believe I finally understand why I painted the Magdalene this way.
I believe the human Magdalene to have been an enlightened being. Some scholars say that "the seven demons" that Jesus Christ casted out of her refer to an alignment of the seven chakras. She received a healing, and what this means, above all, is a shift in consciousness. A shift in consciousness means leaving behind old patterns and behaviors to emerge as a new being. Her chakras glow because she is light and energy. Her halo, the crown chakra that connects her to LOVE, glows large and bright. Mary Magdalene, by opening herself to Infinite Love, let her energy flow freely and thus became enlightened. She "let it shine", like my friend Pablito would say!
On July 25, I exhibited these Magdalenes for the first time at St. Mark's Church in the Lower East Side. It was a very special occasion for me because I had wanted this from the beginning. And it was a great and unexpected gift when the reverend asked me to place some of the paintings on the altar. The smaller ones went on the altar while the bigger ones, including this one, were on easels in front of a large and rustic cross, almost "at the foot of the Cross" like the biblical Mary Magdalene. When the mass ended and I was getting ready to teach a workshop, a man asked me if I would let him show me "your masterpiece". He said it was one of those pieces that artists paint once in their lifetime. He said it was my Modigliani! Modigliani is one of my favorite artists, so I got curious, Which is it? I thought. Well, he meant this painting, and I could never have expected it. Only time will be able to tell if it is my best piece! But I am glad that this Magdalene spoke to him so deeply. And I am grateful to him for sharing his feelings with me.
Painting Mary Magdalene has taken me to very unexpected places. She has guided me to learn about energy and healing, colors and their healing properties. I think this is a miracle: She is guiding me where I need to go, but where I would never dare go all by myself!