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Life Arts    H2'ed 8/22/14

Janet McKenzie: Sacred Art and the Feminine Spirit

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Most of all I believe my art, which comes from the heart with no ulterior motives except to create the best work I can, is needed in this violent world we live in. My work honors the majesty of the human spirit and the longing for relevance.

Yes, my 6-month retreat in Albuquerque provided me with an opportunity to completely immerse myself in intense creativity in ways that hadn't been possible/available to me before. I painted 8 paintings, and by the time I was done, I understood more fully that I wanted my art to more deeply reflect my search for relevance and meaning.

Holy Family,  c. Janet McKenzie Collection of Loyola School, New York, NY
Holy Family, c. Janet McKenzie Collection of Loyola School, New York, NY
(Image by Photo credit Lightworks, (Winooski, VT), art c. Janet McKenzie.)
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MAB: I'm fascinated by the the yin-yang balance in your Holy Family, since the traditionally light skins are dark, and the traditionally yellow haloes are violet - which are opposite each other on the color wheel. This certainly offers food for thought about opposites, and how we create wholeness from combining them.

And this image also brought to mind a Christmas carol I remember singing as a child in the late 1950's, "Some Children See Him" by Wihla Hutson & Alfred S. Burt. The lyrics include: "Some children see Him lily white, the baby Jesus born this night ... Some children see Him bronzed and brown, The Lord of heav'n to earth come down ... Some children see Him almond-eyed, this Savior whom we kneel beside."

Album includes Some Children See HIm by Wihla Hutson & Alfred S. Burt 1951
Album includes Some Children See HIm by Wihla Hutson & Alfred S. Burt 1951
(Image by Wihla Hutson & Alfred S. Burt)
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Album: James Taylor At Christmas
Album: James Taylor At Christmas
(Image by James Taylor)
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James Taylor did a lovely rendition of this sweet song on his album, James Taylor at Christmas. There's a short snippet on Amazon and a much longer sample on iTunes (search iTunes for "Some Children See Him James Taylor.")


Pieta - The Beloved, c. Janet McKenzie
Pieta - The Beloved, c. Janet McKenzie
(Image by Photo credit Lightworks, (Winooski, VT), art c. Janet McKenzie)
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Your Pieta - The Beloved feels especially poignant in the wake of the recent deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin. These events share archetypal patterns with the crucifixion in that all four are emblematic of the abuses of governmental authority raging against seemingly gentle and nonthreatening individuals.

The loud refrain we are hearing now from our own populace, "Hands up, don't shoot!" seems to punctuate this, and brings to mind Goya's famous painting, The Third of May 1808, which also references these themes, particularly in the crucifixion-style pose of the main figure.


Even Pontius Pilate knew that what was going on with Jesus was a misuse of power, and he famously washed his hands of it. I am inclined to wonder if a painting like your pieta, which mirrors the misdeeds of the guilty, is one of the reasons why some people respond angrily to your art ... and why the compassionate ones find comfort.


JM: I have noticed what a person brings to viewing my art will be reflected back to them. If they bring hate and prejudice, they will hate, resent and detest the image even more--and many do - yet if they bring love and acceptance, they will profoundly and deeply adore it more so, and many do.


MAB: Janet, you have an upcoming event at Wellesley College with Sr. Joan Chittister on Nov. 15, 2014, which is associated with your new book together: The Way of the Cross-The Path to New Life. Can you tell us more about that?

(L) Cry Haiti, (R) Mary and Jesus with the Papel Picado, c. Janet McKenzie
(L) Cry Haiti, (R) Mary and Jesus with the Papel Picado, c. Janet McKenzie
(Image by Photo credit Lightworks, (Winooski, VT), art c. Janet McKenzie)
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JM: We will be presenting together for a morning event at the Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. Nov. 15, 2014 - The Way of the Cross: In and Out of our Lives. Sr. Joan will speak about the challenges of life, its crosses and the rising to new life and I will speak about my journey as an artist and will exhibit some of my work. We connected through the publication of our book in 2013, The Way of the Cross - The Path to New Life (Orbis Books), written by Sr. Joan and featuring my new paintings of the 14 Stations of the Cross and The Resurrection. I am so excited! More info at www.sacredthreadscenter.org or www.bethanyhousearlington.org (click on upcoming events.)

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)
 

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