Mary Magdalene in the Garden, Oil on Canvas Board, 7” x 9”, 2005
This is the third Mary Magdalene I painted in 2005. She is in peaceful meditation, surrounded by light and nature. She is in a garden that has both live and dead plants. The green leaves contrast the reds of the dress, sky and flowers. The dove sits on a branch, watching over her.
I have been asked several times why I use the color red for my Magdalenes. In traditional iconography, the Magdalene's color is red, just like the Virgin Mary's is blue. It is interesting to note that early on the Virgin Mary wore red as well because it was the color worn by influential Jewish women, but an edict was issued by the Catholic Church that red was the color of a prostitute and that the Virgin Mary was to wear blue (read here to read more about this). Since a Pope declared Mary Magdalene to be the same person as the sinner in the Bible, her customary color became red.
My Magdalene is definitely not a prostitute, but an influential Jewish woman. Of course, when I painted this, I was only referring to traditional iconography, because I didn't know any better! Since then, I have learned that red is the color of passion, power and action. I think these are qualities of the traditional Magdalene. She had passion to follow Jesus Christ and become a disciple in search for knowledge, she had power over herself to make her own choices, and she took action by staying at the foot of the cross while the other apostles hid, and by being the first witness to the Resurrection, Apostle to the Apostles.
I also did not know at the time that Mary Magdalene is considered the patron saint of perfumers and gardeners. The flowers that appear in the painting are my made up flowers. One day, when I still had Mixta Gallery, I made a large mural drawing on the wall and drew some of these flowers. A friend, who is also a reverend and studies religion, told me that I drew the Vesica Venus. Later, he sent me some information, correcting himself and saying that he had meant Vesica Piscis. This is a symbol of great mysticism, that I had never studied, but that we all have seen in art and mathematics. Learning this was very important for me, because it made me aware of being in touch with knowledge I did not consciously have. But being poets, of course, my friends and I loved the first name, and it stuck. So I call these flowers Vesicas de Venus, and you will see them in several other paintings and drawings.
Finally, death. My experience with cancer taught me that death is always present. My paintings celebrate life, but they also contain, as I contain, the knowledge of death. For me, death means that we only have access to our bodies for a finite amount of time, and that we must use then as best as we can to learn and experience the joys of our own creation. And we do this by using our gifts and sharing them. So death is a contrast, like the branches contrast with the bright halo of the Magdalene, a light we all contain within ourselves, the light of Infinite Love. And Love is the other name of God.
The little dove is the Holy Spirit. She is watching over the Magdalene, really, they are one. Holy Spirit is Sophia is Wisdom. And Wisdom, or knowledge of ourselves, is the goal we all have for this life.
I want to share with you that Mary Magdalene and Sarah is sold to a wonderful woman and her daughter, and is going to Ecuador for the New Year! It fills me with joy that my painting will be with people I feel close to in my heart and spirit. Thank you!
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