December 15, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint


She appears to a simple peasant and gives hope to a defeated people.

In the process she converts a Nation to Christianity.

She teaches the world that the Holy Spirit transcends race as The Mother of God manifests herself as a mestizo, a mixed race of European and Native American descent.

She is proclaimed by Pope Benedict XIV on May 25, 1754 as Our Lady of Guadalupe Patron of Central and North America.


A common depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe


My dear husband Gaetano Siragusa, aka Guy, has a spiritual connection with devotion to Mary: Mother of God. While a young man serving in Vietnam he made a promise to the Virgin Mary that if he survived the war he would create a shrine to the Blessed Mother.




Guy as solder age 21 in the Army taken at Graduation from Basic Training


When he returned from his tenure in Vietnam Guy kept his promise and set up a little shrine to the virgin Mary in his mother's backyard. And when she passed away we took the statue from this shrine  and it traveled from St Petersburg Florida to our home in Mimbres New Mexico.

The Statue Guy set up to honor the Blessed Virgin, in our yard  in Florida                                             after his mother passed away

Guy recently asked the Virgin of Guadalupe to help us out on a pressing matter and he also promised to erect a shrine in her honor.

When we were at the Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces NM a couple of weeks ago we found at Kestin Decorations  a beautiful statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe on an also beautifully carved pedestal, graced by angels and flowers. 

 We were sure this was the statue we should buy to honor Our Lady.  This is a porcelain statue which stands 6' tall including the pedestal. We were originally looking for a statue to put outside but this was so beautiful we decided to buy it and put it in our living room and we do have a great location for it.

Guy told his story of his promise as a young soldier and his promise to the blessed Virgin to the two people working in the store and I shed some tears because I love him so much and I love that he has such a strong faith. So we brought the statue home and put it in it's perfect place, as a centerpiece in the living room. The only thing was the features did not show up at any distance in the room. I thought the pure white statue would be beautiful yet subtle but I realized this statue would need to be painted in order to for us see it. 




Della Robbia Statue


So in keeping with my concept of having a 6' devotional statue which would be subtle but be able to be seen I decided it would just be painted with a blue background much like the Della Robbia Statues I have seen in many museums in the eastern part of the United States. Della Robbia statues are made of which porcelain, much like our statute and they usually just have a blue background or limited color, leaving the figures white.

While I started painting the statue over the next few days it evolved from something of my European understanding of the Virgin Mary to a traditional Mexican image.  As I read and studied more of the meaning of the statue I found that my connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe also grew.  As I worked on painting her image, my European roots and knowledge were transcribed by a new deeper appreciation of her Mexican heritage, for the scared apparition which is the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are a few good websites devoted to explaining the symbolic meaning of the image and how it came into being. 

I will recommend just a few of the websites I found most helpful in my search for a better understanding of this Virgin and her place in  her place in history, in our home and in our hearts. I will put these links at the end of this blog post.



Day one; while  starting to work on the statue my idea is a Della Robbia Style paint treatment. I am using Golden Acrylic paints, a combination of Golden Fluid Paints and Golden Open Acrylic. I particullary like the Open Acrylic Paint from Golden because of the extra time it gives me to work. I am used to doing most of my paintings in oil so adjusting to the quick drying time of acrylic paint is always an issue for me.


Day two; I worked on the gown and I used an Interference Light Gold Acrylic Paint from Golden . I am reading in a description that the gown is pink, but an earth toned pink. I used an Antique Gold and a Silver Rub and Buff wax paste on the light rays and for the crown and edge of the oval shell.



Day 3 must run out and buy burnt sienna for the faces



 I am now ready to repaint the gown towards a deeper reddish orange and color over the pink. I am happy with my decision to study her coloration from the image below and I also use a votive candle and other images as a reference.




photograph of the original image
I used photographs of the original miraclous image to paint the face and I also used a votive candle. In the photograph above this one you can see the photo of her face which I was using. 




 The paint tubes I am using for the flesh tones are dried out, the burnt sienna is usless and the burnt unber is also dried but may be workable, these are older tubes of Golden Acrylic Paints. A description of her olive skin says it has a greenish cast so I try working with the burnt umber with a touch of red, but this is not working well what I am getting is a flesh tone with an unhealthy cast. I look at my husband's face and analize the color of his face because he has a classic olive complexion.





Day 3; I need to get to Leyba & Ingalls Arts Supplies and Gallery, lucky for us artists in area, Diana Leyba Ingalls is an artist herself and she buys top grade artists paint for the store instead  of student grade. I am happy to see they have a good selection of Golden Open Acrylic Paint, so with a sigh of relief I purchase my Burnt Sienna.

I taper the cloak which give the figure and tunic a more gracefull look. I am using the votive candle you see in the above picture as a guide.




Day 4; I decided I was happy with the face now and the over all painting and although I still have more painting to do on the statue, she can be place on the pedistal once again. I will work on she again this spring and complete it but for now I am happy with it and we will enjoy her this way and I will get back to working on my  studio paintings. 



Guy of is Italian descent, namely Sicilian, with one grandmother who was Spanish. He has a light olive complexion. I was concerned that I had painted the face of Our Lady too dark so I had him stand beside her and angle his head in the position she was in, I am happy to say, it was spot on 




Here is Our Lady of Guadalupe in our living room, she has a wonderful presence in our home.


Here is the Silver City Museum Show which inspired me while I worked on the statue
The Silver City Museum has an absolutely beautiful and educational show devoted to Hispanic New Mexican Devotional Art. The art is from the collection of Barbe Awalt and Paul Rhetts, who have collected this spiritual genre for around 25. They published a book called, "Our Saints Among Us: 400 Years of New Mexican Devotional Art," this tells the story about their collection and it is availabe on sale at the Muesum book store where I also found a book on making your own Retablos or Spiritual Icons and several small icons which you may buy.



Paul Rhetts pointing out an icon in the colletion

Barbe Awalt, the couple collected these spiritual icons for nearly 25 years 


Silver City Museum

I learned while reading the information from the museum collection at the Silver City Museum that for the artist making the image it can be a spiritual devotion. I certainly had that experience while working on this statue and while painting it I was contemplating the information I had read about the specific imagery of the details of the statue and how she appeared to Juan Diego and the miracle of the image she left  behind and the flowers. 

Please go to my links at the bottom of the Blog post to find more information on this statue.  



This is the original Icon, a miracle left by the visitation of  The Virgin of Guadalupe



As we are approaching the Holidays, namely Christmas, I pray and I suggest we all pary for the new leader of the Roman Chatholic faith, the first pope from the America's. Pope Francis has requested that we pray for him. Let us pray that this mantel of office not lay heavy on his sholders but that with a joyous heart and a peacefull soul which comes from his humility which allows him to work through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, Amen





"See how they love one another"



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