Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:
San Francisco Bay area-based artist Mel Ahlborn has a history of reworking Renaissance Madonnas and pairing them with contemporary elements.
Her series “Modern Love: Intercess and Wait” comprises six Blessed Virgins in the icon style, each addressing a contemporary health concern: Addiction Madonna, Alzheimer’s and Dementia Madonna, and so on.
“As an art student, one way you learn art is by copying Old Masters. But you change something. You’re not just imitating.”
In “Addiction Madonna,” based on a 1480 work by Andrea Mantegna, the green button on the infant Christ’s tunic is actually an Oxycontin pill. In “Pandemic Madonna,” her newest offering, Mary wears a mask.
“A part of me is afraid that someone would look at the paintings and say ‘Heretic!’ Could anyone think I’m trying to parody the Blessed Mother, or trying to coopt a sacred image for a quick ‘Wow’? That’s not my intent at all.”
Instead she asks: “What might Christian iconography look like if it were drawn from a universal human vocabulary that does not depend on traditional Christian imagery?”
“The series really represents my personal desperate questioning. What can create those touchstones for people today–representations that come with an education for the faithful and point to what is beyond? The viewer’s experience as it relates to spiritual formation is what interests me and has interested me since I was a little girl.”
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