From the Studio

thoughts on art and process in action from a contemporary artist

Pieta- pain and acceptance

with 3 comments

Pieta in Progress (3-15-2012)

The proper title for this painting is "Everyone was once somebody's baby... or should have been"

Today my work on this painting caused me pain.  I’m at home looking for images of crack pipes and needles and spoons and similar drug items to have on the ground in this painting.  It will not be littered with them, but they will be there.  The visual research is painful.  Mothers addicted to crack neglecting children.  Children imitating their crack-addicted mothers by pretending to smoke crack with plastic tubes.  People glorying in their ride, somehow not quite aware of the rabbit-hole they are swiftly falling down.  It made me feel psychically ill.

One of the slippery slopes to homelessness is undeniably drug and alcohol addiction, so it has to be there in the painting.  There are so many ways to end up fallen through the cracks into this state of utter societal rejection- rejection as a human being.  Fleeing sexual abuse is the start for many, as is mental illness, costly debilitating disease and simply old age without money and family who will care for you.  They are people without a net.  That’s why I wanted this Mother there.  Where is that person’s mother?  Is there someone who could love unconditionally and simply embrace them?  When did that person stop being someone’s baby and become human trash?

The person in the painting is not necessarily a drug addict, but that possibility and association has to be part of the piece.  What they are is abandoned, and here they are taken up again.  Yes.  the religious imagery is loaded, but it’s not just Catholic.  The Mother is a very, very old goddess found across the world.  Something I never forgot from my Early Church History course in college was that  Mary was very nearly canonized as part of the Trinity, but the “Holy Ghost” prevailed in her place.  Even though she was not given that official status by the Church, if you go into a church you will notice that Mary’s altars often have more candles than Christ’s.  Her role in prayer for Catholics is someone more forgiving to appeal to- Mother will forgive you or pity you even if God has bigger plans.  Go ask Her to talk to Him for you.  It’s interesting.  For the record, I’m not Christian, let alone Catholic, but my academic  undergrad was in History of Religions.

The important aspect for me of the classical Pieta image is the iconic image of a greater-than-life Mother symbol, and the sense of a possibility of a second life, a rebirth through some state of grace.  It needn’t be religious Grace.  It can be compassion.  Such an archetypal Mother can be a symbol for that state of empathetic unconditional acceptance that one potentially can find in oneself for another human being.  It is recognising another person as a precious human being despite the state they may be in.  A person’s real mother might contain more baggage, real people being human and fallible, while symbols can be pure.

I work with iconic images because of their power to unpack into so many ideas of such depth.   The pieta is a pervasive, loaded icon with a lot to offer.  It need not belong only to the religious world.  Like many images and stories within religions around the world throughout history it has the potential to speak to greater human experience.

Written by Mary Corey March

March 18, 2012 at 3:08 am

3 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on Conceptual Art.

    Conceptual Muse

    March 18, 2012 at 3:14 am

  2. Interesting painting. I see some similarities to something I am working on at the moment..I will follow with interest.

    Steve Beadle

    March 18, 2012 at 4:21 am

  3. Mary –

    Lovely painting and I totally get the imagery. Funny…I just held my husband like that last night…I do that sometimes. I don’t know why. He’s a big kind of guy and it’s awkward, but I like it.

    I encourage you to obtain a copy of the cd of Clarissa Pinkola Estes The Red Shoes. She’s a poet and Jungian analyst and trauma healer. Her interpretation of why this stuff happens is stunning. It’s applicable here, about addictions – though I would add, crack is not the only things mothers and others – are addicted to that causes them to neglect their children. Crack and other addictive drugs and alcohol are the obvious addictions…but there are plenty of process addictions (eating, shopping, workaholism, mindless sex, and other things) are not so obvious sources that can have life-damaging consequences for children.

    So I feel pain for the crack addicts. I feel pain for the workaholics and the shopping addicts and the sex addicts. I feel pain for those that anesthetize themselves through over-eating. All these things are the outward signs of a failure to cope with a confusing, largely insensitive (no, not everyone is insensitive), harmful world.

    I think people turn to addictions (of any kind) to fill the hunger of the absence of a hand-crafted life. With everything we could ever want available at our nearest store or restaurant, why bother with creating a life through our hands anymore. (Oh, yes, some have found the key all on their own, for sure. Not many, though).

    Over-domestication of people by civilizing us to the point of being unable to recognize who we really are and what we really need to fill us in healthy ways. People that are addicted are addicted because they are hungry for something more…that something more which, sadly, even religions (as they are often taught today) fail to fill.

    I believe if everyone had available to them the resources and courage to pursue a life of their own making and by their own hands, they would not be such a hunger in us.

    And I’d say, my mother wasn’t a crack addict…but I almost would understand her more if she was. The feeling of being unmothered all my life is one of my greatest sorrows and sources of trauma. But, I’m finding ways to mother myself…and I think I found a great mother-figure in Estes.

    As an aside, I think you might like her Women Who Run with the Wolves too…pretty neat stuff.


    The Sprightly Writer

    March 27, 2012 at 12:22 am

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