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Does (Your) Mary Convict You? An Invitation to Religious Art Discernment

Posted by Theology of Home on
Does (Your) Mary Convict You? An Invitation to Religious Art Discernment

It is one thing to have images of Mary everywhere, it is quite another to have images that truly convict us to pray, behave differently, love more, walk in holiness, to mirror Mary. This is our task.

By Paige Rien

I’m part of a few Catholic Facebook Groups. Some are about the house, and let’s face it: they are all about the house at one point or another as the home, family, and where we endeavor to raise saints is fundamental to being Catholic. This question gets posted every once in a while: What should every Catholic household have? As a convert, I’m keenly interested  – I don’t know the answer and certainly want to do and have the “correct” things and yet as a designer and creative, I typically only like to know the rules so I can be quick to break them. I am working on obedience.

All photos courtesy of Paige Rien

All photos courtesy of Paige Rien

The answers to the question on Catholic home “must-haves” are a litany of exemplary options – the original Divine Mercy Jesus, a classic Last Supper, a traditional statue of Mary, a picture of the current pope, etc., etc. There are loose references to what the catechism may or may not say about such wall art requirements. I suspect some answers are driven by cultural conventions that vary across different communities within Mother Church.

 I have a different approach to the question (shocker) that is the result of both my professional zeal for aesthetics, as well as a my tender healing heart on a walk of faith. I was listening to the podcast, “Poco a Poco” (little by little in Spanish) created by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal of the “CFRs.” These are humble millennial priests that have much to teach us. One day the topic was Mary and knowing her more intimately. One of the friars challenged listeners, and himself, about using an image of Mary; “does it convict you?” This is the question. It is one thing to have images of Mary everywhere, it is quite another to have images that truly convict us to pray, behave differently, love more, walk in holiness, to mirror Mary. This is our task. 

All this makes me giddy because it confirms my beliefs about art: that it should move us, and about the home: that it’s a tool in our walk towards holiness. Ideally our hearts will be moved by what we see throughout our homes – and ideally, moved to goodness. Where the creative piece comes in is that what convicts us is not universal – it’s personal. What speaks to us and how, is as unique as our own walks of faith.

Perhaps traditional depictions of the Blessed Mother are flat for you. Perhaps you don’t use Mary in the home because you can’t find a BIessed Mother that fits the aesthetic of your home. If this is the case, I challenge you to see what convicts you below in a collection of depictions of the Blessed Mother, rounded up from Etsy vintages sellers and artists. My goal is to convince you that you can find a depiction of Mary that both moves you and one that pleases your eye and suits your home. (N.B. Art that convicts us can also help to guide the rest of the room – setting the tone and even informing color and textural choices. What a beautiful way to begin a room – with holy art that takes you out of the world for just a moment, to be with God.) I'm listing the vintage finds first because conceivably there is only one and these options may no longer be available when you read this:

White Art Deco Mary. I’ve always been drawn to Art Deco – and perhaps some would find this slender, sensuous expression of Mary to be, shall we say, not for them. I imagine this is how Mary would show herself if she came to us in the 1920s and 1930s, aesthetic decades I’ve always been drawn to. I am convicted by the strength in her shape here. I have this same statue in blue in my kitchen: Art Deco Mary

Another vintage Mary, in blue. Elegant, delicate, feminine simplicity, there is a quiet beauty in this Blessed Mother: Vintage blue Mary

A vintage mod Mary whose simple form in marble is devoid of expression or human detail. You see the material and her quiet piety: Vintage marble Mary

Shifting to original art. Annie Vaeth, aka Paper Monastery on etsy and Instagram, makes exquisitely emotive work in relatively simple forms. This is her simple sorrowful Mary in black and white and her very emotive, Our Lady of Sorrows, which stops me and brings me to the resurrection, every time I see it: Mary art print and Our Lady of Sorrows print

Minimalists, this is for you. Again, this is a depiction that says so much – the original Mother and Child – that requires no detail or explanation – the love and devotion is there, in the tender curves of this line drawing: Minimalist Mother and Child

Having grown up in the 1980s I have a thing for collage and embellishing photography is a way to summon vintage imagery into the present. This embellished photograph has a beauty, an elegance, and a gloss: Embellished photograph 

There is an Eastern European sensibility in this patterned Mary, created with simple materials: Patterned Mary

The Marian belly…this is a playful and sorrowful. How is that even possible? And yet it is here is an expression of Mary in her Advent: Mary with Child 

 Modernists, and mid-century modernist enthusiasts in particular, rejoice: Alejandra Fregoso is an incredible artist whose Etsy store is Latin Nomad. I adore this instantly recognizable moment of holy motherhood: Latin Nomad

Switching gears, wildly this time, showing the breadth once again…I grew up in the Albanian Orthodox church, and I have a thing for Orthodox icons. As much I like the simple line drawings, I also love this big complex icon: Mary with the Unfading Flower Icon

Possibly saving the most lovely for last, (purely in my opinion) is the “Hidden Life at Nazareth” a painting that feels both ancient and modern and evokes the simplicity of holy family life. Moments that are passed in my family as my children are well beyond the age of running to me, but a moment I can savor again and again, as I imagine my littleness running to the Father, every time I see this piece: Hidden Life at Nazareth

Paige Rien is a convert to the Catholic faith, a wife and mother to four children. She is a designer chiefly interested in the intersection of the home and the spiritual life, and the author of “Love the House You’re In: 40 Ways to Improve Your House & Change Your Life.” You can find her on Instagram @paigerien or Facebook @lovethehouseyourein.

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