For the longest time, a wooden egg I found at a remnants sale has sat on a shelf in my closet.
I’ve had a confusing variety of ideas about what should cover the egg—everything from decoupage flowers to simple gradations of overlaid colors to family portraits to black and white tangles of designs (I always think of them as doodles, but the right name would be zentangles) to bird and plant prints.
I finally settled on a favorite subject–iconography–with an emphasis on the icons of motherhood.
I believe in the power of mixed metaphor. Mary and attendant archangels (who in truth branch from different mythological trunks) seem to me completely at home among the branches of Gaian trees, all of one source, all of one meaning, well, for me—which could be something about roots or strength or something about pretty colors and shapes. I’m fickle, unable to focus on a dogma, but I love symbols and embrace the idea of feeling by looking, by doing. I look at an icon, I paint an icon, I feel something lovely stir, something like memory, something like reading a mystic message, though less distinct than that implies: like seeing one possible, visualized deciphering of a message sent in a red and gold and blue code.
The technical rub began to, um, rub when I looked at the size my figures would have to be—the central figure is smaller than my thumb, a lot smaller. And other figures are even tinier than the centerpiece Mary because my Madonna is going nowhere without her entourage, swords and all (this is an icon, so no flippant shortcuts).
Here is the work in progress:
This brings up a new difficulty: my vision.
For years, in order to paint close work, I’ve had to wear stronger reading glasses than I normally take. This time, I found I had to stack my glasses up on my nose, one pair on top of another, in order to get anything like control over strokes.
Hey, whatever it takes. I spent a couple of hours a day on this for a week and in some ways, therefore, this was a week hung in the wind while work piled up. But at the end of it, after painting a bit everyday, I was freer, less fragmented by stress, and had more energy, despite struggling with eye strain related headaches. I wrote all weekend and finished a drastic rewrite of a long story that had been troubling me for a year and a half. This is the thing I keep saying—art makes the internal space for more art. I need to make that into some kind of Scout pledge and recite it every single day. Art Scouts, pledge up! “DOING ART MAKES MORE SPACE FOR DOING MORE ART.” Say it with me now…
Scroll on down if you want to see more images of the work in progress.