A painting of the Virgin Mary and 2 angels at a table with a a crown of thorns, wooden cross and nails.

Images of Mary .

In Zoe Cameron Blog by Zoe Cameron

A painting of the Virgin Mary and 2 angels at a table with a a crown of thorns, wooden cross and nails.
2019. Mary. A prayer for strong, brave Mothers. From the series One Hundred Painted Vows.

Take an image of the Virgin…..Hang it in the entrance to your house. Everyone who lives in your house will be blessed….The spirit will be expelled and flee . And it will not come to you again because God is near.

Pater Arriano Fotino Manicheo Sabellio.6th Century C.E.

I read this statement recently, but I couldn’t actually find an original source , so perhaps it came from a translation. All the same, it’s a proposition I fully understand …. our need for a pivotal belief . The concept has been put into practice and accepted by many, that to hang an image of Mary, Mother of Jesus, or another holy figure at the entrance to your house, will in some way protect you and your loved ones from evil crossing your threshold .

A painting of the Virgin Mary at prayer , visited by Angel Gabriel.
The Annunciation . 2006. From the painting Pilgrims and Shrines which hangs in All Saints Church Marazion, Cornwall.

To me this is an elemental and ceremonial act, in which a chosen image of ones faith can offer support, and remind us that on earth we remain connected to heaven, and answer to a higher Authority .  Humans have been doing this for millennia and even before…. consider cave paintings and the many religious and symbolic explanations of their function.

A painting in which Mary shows baby Jesus to the angel.
Madonna and Child. Acrylic on board.2017. 5×7″.

As the Mother of Jesus, Mary is a central figure in the Bible and a venerated saint.

“Through her the old enmity against the Creator is destroyed. Through her our reconciliation with Him is strengthened, peace and grace are given to us, men are the companions of angels, and we, who were in dishonour, are made the children of God. From her we have plucked the fruit of life. St. John Damascene

As an artist and a woman in the twenty-first century I have painted through and past many interpretations and explanations of Mary , applying an open mind and respect to expectations and differences. I have found that it is possible, although not always acceptable to others, to hold two seemingly opposing ideas in ones mind without needing one to gain the upper hand . I am no expert on this huge and complicated subject, but Mary has over the years been the subject of my paintings . Each time , I have painted her as I imagine , not simply how she is described in the bible, but how I thought she may have felt , behaved and navigated life . Even now, she remains for me and for many, a woman that exemplifies and symbolises love and an extraordinary strength of character .

A painting detail of Mary holding Jesus , handing him a small cross.
Madonna and Child. Oil & Gold leaf on board. 2012.
From the Stations of The Cross series, made for All Saints Chapel, Truro Cathedral.

It goes without saying, that a figure so loved by so many and for so long, and with so many facets will inevitably become a target for disruption by some, not least creatively. Many religious images of Mary or Icons I have encountered are neither displayed or viewed as anticipated by the maker, as one might expect, because things move on historically which alter our culture and beliefs. Imagery has also been reinvented into decoration and embellishment, the religious message has become subordinate. Others have used religious imagery as a means of provoking a response, by intentionally subverting its original integrity , or held it up for ridicule, in order to claim cultural superiority. I have encountered Mary deployed as a tool for subliminal deception, virtue signalling to visitors, who reassured, step over the threshold into a web of manipulation . In truth having written this and having made these paintings, I too could be accused of the same virtue signalling and in addition, of being delusional and superstitious . As an artist, it does cross my mind though , particularly when I encounter a religious Icon away from a religious setting, what is its purpose in this context, what is the intent ?

The Madonna, The Virgin Mary, Mary Mother of Jesus, Our Lady and other titles are to me one Mary, envisioned for centuries by artists with differing viewpoints, angles and purposes . But I feel there is a commonality which runs through the imagery that carries sacred religious content, each artist has attempted to reach out to ‘you and me’ in this world, to connect and remind us, as fellow travellers on a turbulent journey that we are not alone , and in that quiet moment of connectedness, it can draw up from deep within us some small notion that nourishes our battered souls, without even a spoken word or a touch from Mary .

St Breaca Madonna, Breaca Church, Breage , Cornwall.