Mary's Flowers in Contemporary Art

March 25 – June 9, 2017

The 24 oil paintings in this exhibit, by Cincinnati artist Holly Schapker, are an attempt to bring together, in a harmonious way, three facets of Marian art: nature, history, and spirituality. The exhibit is an inviation to visio divina, a meditation about Our Lady, and her meaning for us, as tradition and new insights suggest.

Holly Schapker on the Art of Mary in Creation, History and Spirituality:

In her faith, Miriam of Nazareth was a grace-filled woman to whom God has done great things. She received an extraordinary message early in her years, “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.” That favor meant a complete change. The Jewish girl of Nazareth experienced an extraordinary life, and was eventually gifted with God-given power as our intescessor and mediatrix on earth and in heaven. When we honor Mary, we are celebrating the mystery of the living God and the perfect disciple. It also reminds us that God wants a similar graced relationship with us.

When Jesus on the cross entrusted his mother to the care of John, the “disciple whom he loved,” and him to her, she became the spiritual mother to us all. This fact has allowed all of us, including artists throughout art history, to claim her as our own with the freedom to express our devotion to her in our various interpretations and greatest accomplishments. Christianity is challenged by the fact that we are all so familiar with the Bible stories, and we forget the life they bring to our daily lives. Art helps us to see these stories in a new and fresh way which opens our hearts to receive God’s loving Word.

Many of my works pay homage to the masterpieces of great painters of their time. It is my desire to honor these artists for their work, and to continue their efforts of celebrating creation with my own contributions. I like to think that I am contributing to the ongoing conversation among artists across time and space with my imperfect and yet God given talents. My paintings in this collection portray Mary in a multitude of times, cultures, styles, and ethnic characters to show her ‘omnipresence’ through the Holy Spirit.

My approach has been to trust the creative process and allow the brush to guide my hand. The time in front of the canvas usually follows a period of Centering Prayer or Lectio Divina. I often listen to the rosary and contemplate the mysteries in the studio. At times, I feel more like a grateful witness to the creation of my work rather than the creator.

Flowers are a beautiful symbol of the ‘divine feminine,’ and there are numerous kinds that have generated delightful legends throughout the centuries regarding Mary’s life story and mysteries. Each of my paintings pertain to one or more flowers which give reference to a particular moment in Mary’s life. They all provide an opportunity for us to use our own imagination, and to contemplate Mary’s experience here on earth. Research for this body of work included reading and studying the book, Mary’s Flowers: Gardens, Legends and Meditations by Vincenzina Krymow.

In the end, my study of Mary has further reshaped my image of our Creator from one of dominance to a God of overflowing goodness, loving kindness, and unending mercy. I hope each viewer experiences this same devotional joy in recognizing the good news.


In the exhibit...

This is a small sample of the 24 paintings, along with accompanying text, that are in this must see exhibit. The text accompanying each painting includes an excerpt inspired by the book by Vincenzina Krymow, an artist statement, and a psalm verse that is an invitation to share the prayer and spiritual mentality of Jesus and Mary.

The Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth – Columbine
Madelon’s Gift to the Christchild – Christmas Rose
White Blossoms Covered Mary – Star of Bethlehem
Mary went Berry Hunting with the Children – Strawberry