When I first started painting Mary Magdalene of the Leaves, I thought of exploring Margaret Starbird's notion (in her book The Woman with the Alabaster Jar) of Mary Magdalene as "the vine" or secret wife of Jesus Christ. I have never seen a vine, or at least I have never paid attention to a real-life vine, so I looked at some pictures of roots and leaves. In the end, I kept the leaves, that form a halo of nature's gifts around the Magdalene. And I also kept the vine, which is hidden under her dress, that very dark place at the bottom center of the painting, a secret place. In the end, I think the iconographic reference works, even though it is invisible and only you and I know about it.
As I continued to study and assimilate all the different things that are written about Mary Magdalene, I began to move away from traditional iconography and embrace my own mythology, created over time with my dear friend and creative partner Raquel Z. Rivera. It was then that the Magdalene started evolving into Our Lady of Lexington, Patroness of all faithful creative ones who don't believe in anything, but believe in the redeeming quality of the creative act. My own faith has only grown in the process, and now I believe in everything.
Today, as I was visiting the blog The Magdalene Review by Lesa Bellevie, who is also the person behind Magdalene.org, I wanted to sign her Personal Manifesto. I found the two points in the quote above, among many others, that describe what Raquel and I have been striving for. I do not feel the need for the Magdalene to be more than an idea because I believe in the imagination as a creative force. All the stories about the Magdalene enrich my view and my references, and as she continues to grow, she points me to never before explored territories that are both fascinating and informative. I absolutely loved Margaret Starbird's book, it is so rich in information and connections, but I do not need them to be true for me to embrace the Magdalene. She is real because I make her real in my own imagination, and because she represents what I feel a human being has the potential to be: the embodiment of Ataraxia. She attained realization through knowledge, learning, experience and faith.
As a woman, the historical Magdalene believed in herself, and was not afraid of being among men who were often dismissive and aggressive towards her. Like Don Miguel Ruiz says "It's not about you, it's about them"... she let them be and continued to learn from her Rabboni. I think this is one of the best lessons the Magdalene has to offer, not so much in terms of machismo since it's about time we all get over that, but in terms of self-responsibility. In order to grow and evolve, we all need to take responsibility for our own circumstances. If a First Century Jewish woman could do it, then we all can!
I retouched this Magdalene just before her public appearance on September 10, 2010. She is very miraculous! A couple years ago the wind blew her away during a street fair and she came out unscathed! She has also fallen, had a bunch of dust fall all over her, gone up and down the four stories between my home and my studio (several times), and been caressed by my cat Mixta on various occasions. Yet, this is not why I retouched her. I feel I have grown a great deal in my painting technique and in my ability to catch weak spots over the last few years. So I wanted her to look the best she could. She is the Patron Saint of Gardeners, and they will all come after me if I don't make her look like the most beautiful flower in the field!