Mary Magdalena Images

Recent work, all images of Mary Magdalena,

egg tempera, soon to be published in our next book               

In Light of Women  

In many countries around the world, the female voice has not spoken or been heard, their voices have not been in iconography. I want to encourage the female hand and heart to create new icons for liturgy and prayer and I pray their iconic messages and insights will foster a more spiritually integrated world for all.

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Painting with Earth Pigments

Hexaemeron, means the period of six days in which God created the world. Icon workshops are usually five days long, painting mornings for 3 hours and the same in the afternoon; the 6th day is rest and refection, everyone takes home an image painted with earth pigments.

Students say, “I’m surprised to be here, or I have no painting experience or this is amazing”. It is a wonderful time out, there is no place to get to, only a chance to gaze into your life with silent satisfaction. Keeping the mind still and focused while we see and listen “is” prayer. It could be someones first icon and could be their last but one thing I am certain of, the experience is unforgettable. I am a rebel icon painter, self taught and un-orthodox but not without tremendous love of icons and an honest desire to share what creating them has taught me.

 

Twenty Five years ago, I was given a large coffee table book on iconography by my spiritual director Father Ray Ormond. He said he had no use for it and as an artist I might like the images. It was simply called ICONS. I remembered books like this from the Boston Museum library, examining those weird buildings and stylized mountains. I had no interest in college for religious imagery or any traditions in the Orthodox Church. Shortly after I received the book, I was invited to an icon painting workshop, using acrylics. I cannot say I liked the painting but the images captivated to me. After the one workshop, I was driven in some strange way to continue icon painting on my own with those crappy plastic acrylics. Six icons later, for Christmas, my friend JJ Jesse gave me my first set of earth pigments. He said, “Here, teach yourself to work in egg tempera.” I laughed and said “you’re not serious, why egg tempera?” he said, “because it’s your turn.” Where to buy.

Image becomes a language.

One icon after another hypnotizes the mind into seeing God in everything around you. I would encourage all the students to learn the step by step process and its symbolic significance because that is the way the icon becomes language for the painter. The curl in the angels hair is eternity, just like spirals form when adding milk to morning coffee. The straight brilliant white highlight in the garment is the bright afternoon sun as it streaks across a a hillside. The small crescent of light in the eye is the same curve of light in your dogs eye or the moon above. Every form and thought I have with an icon repeats in my everyday life like a symphony of Gods involvement, ongoing and everywhere. What is disjointed around us is continually being organized into order, much like in the first ground of the icon called chaos. Iconography is a life style, you paint enough of them and the world along with everyone in it become a beautiful icon.

Icons connect us to a spiritual reality

Iconography is bold and holds back nothing, the process opens and invites us to come and see. See the God who lives in you as you paint and there you begin to see the God who lived in those early iconographers. They gave us the signs and symbols for real presence; their images descend into our hearts and make us yearn for more contact with the divine.

Fledgling iconographers study the “canons” or rubrics of iconography. There are some manuals, guidelines, church council teachings, books on patterns and technique, but I found the most intimate way to approach this practice is to copy an old one. We all begin with one, the first attempt. Ancient images contain enduring mystical teachings, if you copy enough icons, the earth pigments reveal the signature the early iconographers all shared, seen and heard in repeating the shapes, forms, patterns, and colors.

No one can control the history or future of iconography. Generations of icongraphers and saints have anonymously supported the tradition. Their ancient icons transcend time and are honored by those painting new icons today. There are many websites of teachers, classes, galleries and schools popping up around the world to expose more and more people to this fine and magnificent craft. Hopefully, students notice that learning to skillfully paint a beautiful icon is one thing but the message they allow us to experience is quite another.

A student once asked me, “What is the most difficult part of painting an icon”; quickly I replied, “forgiving myself ”.

What took me twenty years to learn; I try and teach in a week. I know well the fragility of our relationship with God, how it shifts and changes. I am always quite humbled imagining I have a responsibility to something grater than myself – to God, the students and other iconographers, past and present.

 

 

Iconography is a tradition without a ceiling. Like all spiritual work, we are silly to imagine its depth can be realized in one lifetime. One workshop is not enough but like all things done in love, it is a beginning.

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Open Studio San Antonio Feb 25 and 26

 

We are back on the map after a year of change and innovation.

Mary Jane Miller #45 on Sagrado Corazon #14 Please don’t miss us this year as you’re out and about. We continually have lively conversation, new work and challenging insights into spiritual silliness. If you want a preview, our door is open. Simply,call first to see we are home.

Suggestion Get off the San Antonio bus on Sagrado Corazon. From our studio, walk back into town, all down hill. We are located one block from the Buen Cafe,(great food and drink) and Al Tirado #42 mixed media, Nikki Atkinson #43, watercolor, Barry Weiss #44 photoshop and photography.

40 Artists open their studios in Col. San Antonio in the city of San Miguel Allende.

Saturday and Sunday February 25 and 26. All these professional artists represent a wide variety of mediums and techniques. The eclectic expression is impressive, diverse image in paint and photo, large and small, abstract and figurative. Our small colonia is packed with art; clay work, sculpture, jewelry and found objects transform our perceptions. From recycled rubberware to ancient egg tempera, you do not want to miss any of the studios. All welcome.

Click Image

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Un-created Light

Uncreated light is the light of life and a requirement for being alive, we cannot live without it any more than we can live without the sun. Actually, as I say this I am mistaken, this light does not require the sun, as has been proven by the Tibetan monks and some Christian mystics. A few have lived for a year or more without food, sun or water and this confirms the observation, there is something measurable which sustains life. The spark of uncreated light which some may call awareness has no form or history, it simply exists and imbues all of creation.

Un-created light makes it possible for us to observe the wonder of BE-ing alive, it reveals life in its fullness. It is inexhaustible and abundant. The light I am speaking of is not anything you asked for or purchased or developed on your own, it is light given. It cannot be created or destroyed or taken away, we cannot control it or sell it, own it or manipulate it. Light is the “isness “ of God and a gift to everyone and began with the Big Bang.

 

God is the uncreated presence we are connected to, not by choice but by supernatural “BE”-ing.

Science is just beginning to explore our incredible mind. They are using probes, monitors, and electrodes to measure electrical impulses, to document any physical evidence that we have a mind. They want to know the why, when, where and how mind works. But they are miles from discovering what illuminates the incredible diversity and connectivity that mind manifests inside and out. This uncreated light within everyone of us is mysterious, sacred and holy. It is the light before the beginning of time, “there never was a time when it was not.”

We use uncreated light every time we love, give of our self, witness mystery, or marvel at the unknown. These tiny moments of illumination are powerful, they provoke humans to “do” amazing things. The spiritual order of this light is to first; Be in it, Know it, Recognize it and then you will have the power, wisdom, insight, and energy to participate in a larger life much greater than yourself.

Repentance in Greek means Metanoia, meaning repentance, a change of heart and mind or, “correction of consciousness”. It is an old word and regularly misunderstood. It is not intended to sternly remind you of being bad or having failed but rather to signify a change in direction, to return to the light. When our heart, soul and mind looks towards love and being connected to something greater than yourself, you become that much more whole and connected. You cannot do these things with out light.

 

When we realize and share this uncreated light within us, we break the darkness around us. It has the power to raise ours and everyone’s consciousness, to set us free, to live outside the limitations placed on us by others and recognize the wholeness of self and universe. Where the light shines in the world, love abounds and has no parameters of requirement. It is identical to the light of the sun, in that it shines on everyone and everything constantly. But more!, it can be in two places at once, it is neither dead or alive, it pops in and out of our awareness and cannot be controlled

God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), OR There is one body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:3-5)

There is a sacredness in everything. Awaken to your connection to everything–inherently, objectively, metaphysically, ontologically, and theologically. We don’t create the connection to this divine light through going to church or any other spiritual practice. Our interconnection is constantly present and revealed with awareness, it is the perceptible divine pulse in all which exists. Our DNA is already divine, strung together throughout all generations and cultures. Humans naturally seek to know, (the universe, the unknown, the cosmic energy, God etc.). It is that uncreated light desiring to know, to connect and to be part of wholeness. When we are aware of the divine spark we become attracted to beauty, love, goodness and each other.

Franciscan Mysticism: I Am That Which I Am Seeking.

Icon painting has taught me, God is not “A” being but “Be-ing” itself. I have spoken before about lemons, they teach us just by being lemons, through their image, existence and essence, their ‘BE-ing’. Icon painting is the same, along with nearly everything around us. The particles of pigment, painted image and spiritual practice wrapped together teach! All I have to do is stay awake and learn. I am not exactly talking about lemons or icon painting, I am talking about essence. There is no value in separating Good and not Good. It causes division and comparison both of which stop us from seeing the light. I am looking for the “I Am the light of the world” within the existence of all things, in every moment throughout the day.

Paradox

I watch millions of tiny grains of sand floating in egg emulsion come to rest on a landscape of color and texture and think, how can we see and feel so much? Wisdom tells me we are insignificantly small beings in the universe, smaller than grains of sand. Ironically each and every mind in the sand is limitless, this can only be divine paradox and Gods way of calling us to go beyond time and space!

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Sumerian Woman at the Well

from the GOSPLE of MARY TEXT

When the soul had overcome the third power, it went upwards and saw the fourth power, which took seven forms.

The first form is darkness, the second desire, the third ignorance, the fourth is the excitement of death, the fifth is the kingdom of the flesh, the sixth is the foolish wisdom of flesh, and the seventh is the wrathful wisdom. These are the seven powers of wrath.

They asked the soul, whence do you come slayer of men, or where are you going, conqueror of space? The soul answered and said, what binds me has been slain, and what turns me about has been overcome, and my desire has been ended, and ignorance has died.

I was released from a world, with the aid of another world; a design was erased, by virtue of a higher design. Henceforth, I travel towards repose, where time rests in the eternity of time, of the, I go now into silence?

Who is this man?

The icon of a woman communicating with the Lord was inspired by the woman at the well story, where Christ tells the Sumerian woman everything she ever knew about herself. John 4:5-42. The Savior is offering the water of Wisdom to the Sumerian woman, urging her to recover her true spiritual nature, and return to the place of honest self reflection beyond the constraints of time, matter, and false morality. She may have wondered who was this man who could have known her past. The Samaritan woman heard His voice and received His word, leaving her water jar at the well and ran to tell those in the city:

Come and see a man who knows human hearts. Can He be the Christ we expect?

Who has great mercy? Come and see Him who knows what is hidden.”

The conversation from the Gospel of Mary text above also inspired the icon. The forth power took seven forms, a different set of seven sins, not the familiar ones from catechism. Christ is the soul who speaks about darkness, desire, ignorance, excitement of death, love of flesh, foolish wisdom of flesh and wrathful wisdom. Wow! These conditions of the human spirit come from an ancient Gnostic tradition yet sound very contemporary, they sound like attributes being explored by psychologists and those who study the mind and human behavior. Perhaps if the Gospel text was looked at by scholars, scientists and the minds of modern man, we would find an expanded noetic dimension Christ was attempting to reveal to us.

This one encounter with Christ at Jacobs Well transforms this woman into a disciple, partner and evangelist.“Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst” (John 4:14). In one sentence the focus is shifted from everyday life to everlasting life. She is wise enough to inquire, listen and receive another truth Christ ( in this case the soul) gives to her. Her self awareness becomes the product of knowing God (in this case the soul) through conversation, question, and reflection. The text is not written in any style like that of the bible but it alludes to a kind of map given by Christ for healing; she is released from her doubt, from the lies she believed about herself. She is freed and released from the bondage of self/ego, she is awake.

According to the orthodox bible;

The Sumerian woman in the story becomes the first woman to testify to the advent of Christ. She was given the name of Photini, meaning ” the enlightened one ” (same name given to Buddha). She went to Carthage with her two sons and 5 daughters to preach His gospel and was later martyred. It is also believed Photini was martyred by being thrown into the Jacob’s well where she spoke with Jesus earlier in the story, the well portrayed here in the icon. Magnificently ironic isn’t it! Hebrew Women and Sumerians as well, martyred in this era for inquiring about spiritual matters or perhaps about life in general which may have contributed to why their absence from scripture is undeniable.

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Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

From the GOSPEL of MARY TEXT

“Peter said to Mary, Sister we know that the Savior loved you more than the rest of woman.Tell us the words of the Savior which you remember which you know, but we do not, nor have we heard them.

Mary answered and said to them, “what is hidden from you I will proclaim to you.I saw the Lord in a vision and I said to him, ‘Lord, I saw you today in a vision.’ He answered and said to me, ‘Blessed are you that you did not waver at the sight of me. For where the mind is, there is the treasure.’ I said to him, ‘Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit?’ The Savior answered and said, ‘He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind which [is] between the two – that is [what] sees the vision…’

Mary goes to the tomb and finds the Christ but mistakes Him for the gardener. When she hears the word Rabbi, she is not reaching out to a resuscitated corpse because of curiosity or incredulity. She reaches out to touch him to affirm her love. According to Jewish law this was no casual gesture, women did not reach out to men. Christ responds with “do not hold on to me!” John 20:1-18. Mary Magdalene is told to go to the Apostles and tell them He has gone to His father and theirs.

In three separate biblical accounts Mary Magdalene and the other women by Christ’s side are the continual thread through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. They have not hidden themselves from the horror of death or wavered from Christ’s message. If we are to define the vocation of priest as those who stand in the place of Christ and speak of His continual active presence in our life, she is the first priest to proclaim the good news, ordained by the voice of Christ Himself.

After the Virgin Mary, Mary is named as the most purified woman mentioned in the bible. She was no doubt educated and perhaps quite wealthy. Presumably, as many think, she was the prostitute made “clean” when Christ healed her. Remember, the text which supports her ‘uncleanliness’ ( Icon:Casting Out the Demons page ??) does not specify what exactly she gets cleansed of.

At any rate, she is the prostitute made “clean” now kneeling before Christ possessing the corresponding virtues; Patience, Compassion, Humility, Ethics, Wisdom and Generosity. Imagine being completely restored and cleansed of old grudges, the fog of illusion, health issues and all selfish desires. Once healed, she would have been able to see the spiritual truth working in all things, as well as the barbarity of the human condition. Her heart and energetic centers were opened allowing her to communicate with Christ transfigured, resurrected (she is seeing His Spirit ) and administer His teachings in their fullness to anyone, in her time and ours.

When Christ says to her, “Mary” she responds with “Rabbini”. These two know each other by name through spirit. The idea of Mary having a discussion with the gardener is intriguing. The Bible tells only that she hears him say “don’t touch me” and “go and tell the disciples…” but here the Mary text offers us a more extensive conversation. She is speaking with her teacher. Either because of a vision or in a vision, her inquiry is not easy or simple and shows her vibrant questioning mind. A woman who thinks! After this encounter,(following icon next page) Mary will repeat to the disciples, “Where the mind is, there will be your treasure”. Mary tries to explain to Peter how the mind understands when it is filled with wisdom ‘He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind which [is] between the two…’

No one will deny what a glorious organ the mind is and its value for navigating through life. For me, mature faith must include permission to trust my mind and its capacity for understanding to see the truth. The doctrines and authority of the church are guidelines and support, but ones individual truth will only be known one mind at a time, revealed in wisdom and given to those who seek, knock and ask. It grieves me greatly that those common rights, to seek, knock and ask were in large part given only to men because of the power they have had over women. When Mary asks Christ how we see, through the soul or the spirit? Christ answers, we are asked to embrace someplace in between the soul and the spirit, in the mind. Why would He have said such a thing to a women if He did not want her to think?

It is God in me who thinks.

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Three Ways to Know God.

A theologian once said, “it is necessary to go back to Mary if we want to return to that “truth about Jesus Christ,” “truth about the Church” and “truth about humankind” This is an amazing statement and one worth thinking about. I guess as a practitioner of prayer and a journey woman in the spirit, I am not sure there are absolute truths which can be spoken, but rather, deep truth can only be known and experienced. The masters of doctrine and theology are to be praised for their commitment to language and outstanding efforts to articulate scripture for us, but I would still choose experience over words. One form of experience is the practice of  iconography .

Example of thought, mind and experience.

Statements like the following offer a lifetime of active reflection. Orthodox teaching; “From her we have harvested the grape of life”; “from her we have cultivated the seed of immortality.” “For our sake she became Mediatrix of all blessings”; “in her God became man, and man became God.”

Indeed these kinds of sound bites gives structure our experience of the divine. Dogma has great value, except when there is no more room for flexibility or creative new perspectives. When the words are enough to satisfy but do not  grow cultivate wisdom, the words remains empty. There are some who dedicate their love to interpreting what things mean, they give meaning and structure to what is “normal” or agreed upon.

Example; There are three ways to know God, like knowing a particular painting. You can see the painting, know the artist or read long passages about the paintings significance. Any one is fine, combinations of the three may seem better but the truth about the paining will ultimately remain illusive. Until it becomes personal. Anyone who has spent time in meditation and prayer will discover knowing what is Life is a Dilemma. We are here but who are we and whose are we and what is the who thinking? There is value of “living the question”, “living the mystery”,” live from the heart and seek not answers from this world or the mind”.

The wisest people in the world are silent.

I know why! None of us can give experience or awareness of the divine to anyone. Fabulous irony! How do we communicate without words, how do we share our lives with one another with no sound? The stories about Mary, Jesus, humanity and religion are mystery to be known and explored through the heart. It takes time. The text in the bible surely helps, along with ritual, doctrine, study, prayer, and the faith filled community. But, in the end after all the thoughts and words, we are each unique expressions of Gods life force, thinking and acting.

Painting icons is one form of prayer, contemplation, and action wrapped up in history and tradition but ultimately it is simply experiential.  Take a class with Mary Jane  Miller and you will see for yourself.

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