Mind-bending, awe-inspiring

One of the many great things about my job is that I walk through a gallery every day on my way to work. In the year I’ve worked in this library, the art and artifacts have ranged from reverent, scientific, historical and literary to socially conscious and artistically instructive.

In May, our first-floor gallery took a decidedly mind-bending turn with a display of Salvador Dalí’s surreal illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. With Dalí, I fully expected the artwork to be more than meets the eye. But I did not expect the same of the large painting installed just outside the Dalí display, promoting the exhibit in the Marian Library gallery on the seventh floor.

Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker’s “Our Lady of the Way,” an almost square painting about five-and-a-half feet wide, actually startled me when hundreds of human faces underlying the work’s dominant image of the Madonna and Child – inspired by the famous “Madonna Della Strada” at La Chiesa del Gesù in Rome — went from subliminal to apparent. They’re not haunting exactly — they’re mostly joyful, in fact — but to borrow from Dalí, they persisted in my memory to the point that they found their way into a dream one night.

Schapker said her exhibition, “Inspired by Realism: Reconquering the Figurative Image of Mary,” depicts the faces of women — diverse in era, age, race, culture and religion — in whom she sees Mary personified.

“The creative process is never-ending for me,” said Schapker, a Xavier University graduate with a studio in the Over-the-Rhine section of Cincinnati. “I try to observe and learn in every minute, and hopefully, my paintings depict my quest for truth and beauty. While I paint in the studio or outdoors, I relinquish my personal control of the brush to the Universal energy, which results in a timelessness gift I humbly receive.”

The exhibits, both now in their final weeks, are worth a visit.

- Maureen Schlangen, E-scholarship and communications manager

Schapker’s exhibit closes July 31. Gallery hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

The display of Dalí’s illustrations closes Aug. 16; it’s open during library hours.

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