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For She Is the Breadth of the Power of God   Jan Neal, Curator                                                                                                                             presented June 15, 2006



The Lamentation
by Peter Murtough
(Painting, 2006, 23" x 19")
piscopal Church of the Messiah - Santa Ana, CA


The Madonna and Child is perhaps one of Christianity’s most classic icons, portraying the pathos of motherhood and the inherent defining moments of intuition and insight a mother has for her child. In this classic style, is the Virgin Mary able to “see” what lays in store for her divine child; is the pensiveness on her face indicative of the pain and sacrifice yet to come?
Thematically, this is appropriate with: “For She is the Breadth of the Power of God,” as well as, “Love Astounding.”
My piece, “The Lamentation,” was inspired and borne out of a recent event that impacted our entire parish. One of our parishioners was married several months ago…about 6 months into her pregnancy, it went awry and her water broke…she was hospitalised with immediate bed rest for two weeks in the hopes that the infant would progress beyond the most critical developmental stages and could then be delivered. Sadly, just moments after the birth, and timely baptised, God’s hand intervened and took the child into His firmament.
In the resulting memorial service, there was not a dry eye…there was a picture of the mother there, holding her infant son. Frozen on her contorted face was the defining moment of acceptance…the defining moment when all of her hopes and dreams and aspirations…her deep love and pain all registered, and then came the ululation.
As a parent, I am attempting to pay homage to this event, as well as to all mothers who love and care from their deepest core for their children. Because I am deeply rooted in my Australian heritage, I have chosen to use the repetition of Aboriginal “dot-art” in conjunction with their motifs for mother and child. The child in the womb-hands of the Madonna-mother is the authentic U-shaped symbol used by the Aboriginals to depict their offspring; the large inverted U-shaped gold band of the halo immediately surrounding the face of the Madonna is the same abstract; it is also repeated in its smallest form within the middle band of red ground.
The colours are all-significant, and symbolise the inherent grace of motherhood and the omniscient process of the human condition: “For She is the Breadth of the Power of God.”· The outer band with the large green dots symbolise renewal, growth, and fertility. Despite this tragedy, ever do we become renewed, even in the passing of one’s soul. The purple ground is for spirituality; for the healing that must take place when we are facing a test of faith.
The middle band with its red ground and the gold repetition symbolises the adult/child relationship a mother has for her offspring…the red symbolising the passion, the courage, and the love (“Love Astounding” ), and the gold is the divine inspiration and abundance of that matriarchal presence.
The inner band of large yellow dots symbolises the faith one strives to possess in all things we are tested by, against the blue ground of peace, truth, and divine wisdom.
And again, the predominant gold band surrounding the head of the Madonna, the Aboriginal symbol of mother, is the divine inspiration, the abundance of that motherly love and the everlasting connection to a Higher Power to guide and endure one thru all of life’s trials and tribulations.
That the icon here is predominantly shrouded in black is of course by design, though the colour of which is not so much a depiction of the tragedy, as much as it is to absorb all that went awry; like the juxtaposing of how dark clothes absorb the warmth and light of the sun/Son. Thus, though the inherent pathos is evident, the darkness of that moment is countered by the colours and true light of divine intervention, subliminally set off by the small white dots symbolising clarity, vision, insight, and divine blessing.


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2006 The Episcopal Church and Visual Art