It was as though she was speaking to me, saying, “You knew me as a child. You lit candles for me and talked to me. I was your refuge when your human mother was overwhelmed and in the crazed dream of a borderline. I was with you when you gave birth to Lucien; I took you into my Heart and held you during the unbearable pain at the end… Don’t worry about Me being forgotten when others do not call me by my name. I am eternal, omnipresent. I am in the trees and snow and the moon, in all of creation, and chaos, too.
This painting began with a Heart’s Question that after a year of grappling with it, needed an answer. As part of my preparation for a Quest-walk in the snowy Sandia mountains this past Winter, I drew a Tarot card: it was the Orphan card. I said to my son, Lucien, “I don’t want this card. Let me choose another.” Lucien counseled me, “It would be okay if you had started with the intention of pulling two cards, but you can’t ask for a card then reject what is given and want something else.” When Mary came to me in the mountains, she said, “I Am Your Mother. You are not an Orphan.” I wrote it down to remember it. I am recalling now that during a ceremony at Teotihuacan (15 years ago), I received the message in the Temple of Women, “The Sky is your Father, the Earth is your Mother. George and Theresa were human parents we used to to bring you here. You are a Divine Child.”
The answer to my Heart’s Question came in the almost palpable image of “Mary in the Snow”; it was unexpected but I could not reject the answer. Instead, I had to follow the image and see where it led me.
My Early Meetings with Mary: I was sent to parochial school and church as a child. Although the indoctrination seeded my life-long love of sacred art, myth, symbols, ceremony, and incense, I embraced neither the hypocrisy of miserable, loveless women wearing their religious habit nor the patriarchy. But as a child, I needed a loving mother-figure, so I loved Mary. Each day that I passed through the glass doors of St. Mary’s School, the first thing I saw was Mary’s bare feet standing on a snake–because my eyes were on the same level as Mary’s bare feet. I had to pause and look up the towering statue to see her kind eyes looking down at me and admire her crown of seven stars. But, after I grew up, my relationship to Mary was spotty at best.
When Lucien and I got home from the snow walk, I went to the garage and retrieved the antique ironing board I’ve had for at least a decade. I thought one day I would paint Inanna on it, but now I knew it was for Mary. Evening was coming on, it was getting dark in my studio, so I moved quickly and silently trying to hold the felt-image of Mary in the Snow. I put on Gregorian chanting, hastily arranged the oils on a palette, and began painting her with passionate intensity. When it became dark, I lit candles and continued painting into the night. Lucien brought tea and set it beside me; he was also painting in silence in the studio. I rested until I woke at 5 am, put on Ave Maria, lit candles and resumed painting. Mary wasn’t finished, but I needed to be with her a while to listen and see what to do next. I hung the ironing board and made minor adjustments for months. But, with Mother’s Day approaching, I felt called to finish.
Music mixed with oils rendered the emotional movement of the brush. Most of the painting after the first night was done in silence or to the CD “Unspeakable Grace” by Gary Malkin.
A Litany of Symbols:
Some people say an artist does not need to explain symbols in art, that the viewer should interpret them. But, I am ever frustrated in looking at symbolic art to wonder what meaning a symbol held for the artist, so I am compelled to carry on about symbols.
In many ways, “Mary in the Snow” is yet another classic Virgin Mary painting. But, there are a few symbols and details that hold unique meaning:
Mary’s Heart chakra is radiating light green light through her white veil
The pattern from her left arm downward is the bark of the alligator juniper, made colorful with rust and gold-colored lichen; the stunning impression of the bark and lichen against the snow on my walk had to be celebrated and preserved in the painting.
With no thought whatsoever painted a rosary made of roses. Later, I wondered if there were rosaries made of rosaries. Indeed, roses are a symbol of the rosary and of divine protection; the rosary has been called Aphrodite’s flow, and Mary is called Mystical Rose.
In iconic Catholic art, Mary is often standing on the snake. I think at St. Mary’s she was standing on the snake which impressed me because I was afraid of snakes. Catholic symbolism is about chasing the snake out of the Garden of Eden. This Snake is a Cosmic Serpent, a trans-cultural symbol of moving between the worlds and dimensions because snakes live deep in the ocean and earth, as well as on the surfaces; shedding their skin is a symbol of regeneration and rebirth.
On the right side of Mary’s flowing veil are multi-colored uterine myometrial spindles (as I paint them in the Simonton Process for pregnant women). I covered them in a shower of oxytocin (dots) as I imagined Mary’s youthful joy of carrying and giving birth to her child, her son, the Christ Child; oh, happy womb!
And to symbolize Mary as an Earth Mother, there is a trailing vine of heart-shaped leaves.
Finally, Mary wanted a feather, a blue feather tucked in her veil. She didn’t say why, but I painted it for her and then, after six months, she said, “Now I’m done. Thank you.”
In-love, I paint,
PS. Oil on antique ironing board, 55”x 14”. In a few weeks, prints will be available in two sizes (small and large) of “Mary in the Snow.”
Want to Commission a Mary or Inanna Painting:
If you would like to commission a custom-made painting of Mary, contact me. If you have a surface such as an old small door, table top, wood from a barn… you can ship it to me. It takes me 4-6 months to make almost every painting,