The other day a package from a dear friend arrived by post.
I spent gentle time leafing through the pages, reveling in the artistry spilling from every page. As I settled into peaceful contemplation, I found my thoughts dwelling on what is commendable, noble, and lovely. It’s hard to have those thoughts these days isn’t it, when there is a constant barrage of heartbreaking news in this broken world pushing the gray matter to steep in only the darkest thoughts. I found myself wanting to create something lovely, a tangible beauty.
The idea of a Madonna or complete nativity has been on my mind for oh, about 9 years, and there are countless my doodles scattered around the world of Mary with Jesus left on restaurant napkins or lost notebook pages. Somewhere in my attic is a box filled with bits and bobs waiting for the one and only art doll I would make someday. What a relief and revelation it was to realize I had too many ideas for just one doll and that clearly the best thing to do was to make many dolls and explore all the ideas as they unfolded!
Initially, this doll was going to be elegant in her simplicity.
By this point, I’d left simplicity far behind and fully embraced the more ornate influence of iconography and intricate stained glass windows. I used the traditional blues for Mary.
I went back and forth on including Jesus’ hands but in the end used itty bitty, nearly invisible, stitches to outline the traditional symbol of his right hand held up with the thumb, 2nd and 3rd fingers. As I stitched a single thread from the thumb to the center of his palm I thought about one of my favorite phrases from grad school cadaver lab: thenar eminence. Does that sound regal? Say it out loud for best effect “Thenar eminence”
And here is the completed doll!
It was out of character for me to start such a Christmasy themed project out of season. As I stitched the three blues together, like stained glass window panes, news came from across the pond of a mother grieving the inevitable death of her son as a country watched on having judged his life better off dead. I thought about my own son, a son who received minimal medical care in his home country, who has a significantly abnormal brain structure, who could have been judged better off dead. It seemed right to be making a mother holding her child, The Child, who would grow up to be The Man who died for all mankind in order for inevitable death to lead to life eternal as death lost its sting. Certainly not a carefree thought, but undeniably a lovely one.