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Even More Faces of Mary

June 9th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register

by Simcha Fisher

Be sure to read the entire article and even the comments. Very interesting, in my opinion.

I kind of like the new statue of Mary in the Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in L.A. (above).  From the pictures I’ve seen it looks like a competent and interesting work of art, and I find it much more appealing than a some of the other images that Steven Greydanus posted in The Many Faces of Mary.

This type (above)  in particular always gives me the willies, and, TO ME, doesn’t resemble the Mother of God I know any more than a ham sandwich does:  it’s a perfectly pleasant and appealing thing, in its way—but would you go to it for help?  Maybe for help with skin care. … However, the key phrase …

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21 Responses to “Even More Faces of Mary”

  1. avatar Jim says:

    Jim M. here: Bernie, I guess the old expression is true: beauty is in the eye of the beholder…I always loved the second picture of Our Lady…her look is so gentle and loving…I wish I had a statue of her like that. Well, someday we all hope to see here face to face, and then we’ll all know what she really looks like.

  2. avatar Bruce says:

    That first statue looks like some kind of mormon or scientology goddess instead of the Theotokos. That Cathedral in LA is terrible and needs to be replaced.

  3. avatar Bruce says:

    I’ll add that it actually looks like Michael Jackson or some sort of transgender person. Truly terrible.

  4. Bernie-I understand your point. It is important to see deep spirituality and genuine personality in art, such as statues, depicting Mary rather than a “run of the mill” statue depicting a beautiful face and flawless complexion.
    A favorite statue of mine depicting Mary is the one on the side altar at St. Andrew’s Church.It’s unique and beautiful. It’s a beautiful piece of art of Mary holding her son. They both have halos. Mary has stars in her halo. Jesus has a different halo and is holding the world. Jesus does not have a light complexion. Mary’s complexion is more realistic.There is an altar railing around the side altar.People have chose to special occasions there such as the exchange of wedding vows after mass with immediate family members.
    It is difficult to describe the statue of Mary holding her son; you would actually have to come and see it.

  5. avatar Nerina says:

    Bernie, will you share your thoughts about this post with us? I am quite repulsed by the statue in LA, but one of the commenters on the NCRegister blog said it best: I could probably live with the statue if it weren’t housed in one of the ugliest cathedrals in the U.S. and in a diocese full of dissent. Also, I see no indications that the statue actually represents the Mother of God. How is one to know?

  6. I actually think the second statue is not that bad. Actually it is quite pleasant. But I still like the statue of Mary and her son at St. Andrew Church. There is also a touching statue of Mary tending her son Jesus lovingly at St. Michael Church.

  7. avatar Raymond Rice says:

    Christian1954!!! Put in a bid for the statue at St Andrew’s since the place is being sold.

    Better you get it than some mosque buying the building and whacking its face off or the City getting it and haul it to a dump when the place becomes a cathedral dedicated to playing sports.

  8. avatar Bernie says:

    christian 1954: Actually, I was just linking to an interesting post published by Simcha Fisher. The thoughts are not mine. For more debate be sure to follow the link ( The Many Faces of Mary: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/the-many-faces-of-mary/ ) that she placed in her post.

    Nerina: In my opinion it is too realistic even with the fiddling going on with the supposed mix of ethnic facial features. The realism of the figure is emphasized in the arms and hands which seem too masculine, probably to stress a ‘strong woman’ type. The image is, obviously, not unambiguously feminine. I think the sleeves are just distracting. Perhaps they were shaped that way to reinforce the ‘strong woman’ type expression. I don’t think the closed eyes in this case communicate a Catholic understanding. With this pose the closed eyes seem to make Mary too withdrawn. She seems to almost convey a new age “find the goddess within” message. If the eyes were open, looking upward, then we would be invited to look upward, too. The Word, after all, deemed to “come down” to us. (Do you understand what I mean?)
    It has some things going for it. The image makes use of frontality which is associated with divinity and, in this case, sanctified beings. The formal regal pose appropriately intensifies that message. Frontality and formality are associated with special situations or special people, higher classes; relaxed informality, with lower classes and baser activities. Think of the soldier at attention and then “at ease.” The image has a noble expression for the same reasons. It is serious in expression. The figure depicts a saintly person in possession of spiritual understanding and eternal truth. The work is noble in material and construction.
    I think the sculpture would be more Catholic, and therefore more appropriate for liturgical use, if 1) the head, arms and face were rendered to appear more classically feminine; 2) the sleeves conformed to the contours of the shoulders and upper arms; 3) the eyes were open looking upward; 4) a veil covered the head; and 5) Mary were to appear in an early stage of pregnancy or be attended to by angels, or both.
    Those are some quick reactions. What do you think of my ideas?

  9. avatar Bernie says:

    christian 1954: Actually, I was just linking to an interesting post published by Simcha Fisher. The thoughts are not mine. For more debate be sure to follow the link ( The Many Faces of Mary: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/the-many-faces-of-mary/ ) that she placed in her post.

    Nerina: In my opinion it is too realistic even with the fiddling going on with the supposed mix of ethnic facial features. The realism of the figure is emphasized in the arms and hands which seem too masculine, probably to stress a ‘strong woman’ type. The figure does not appear to be obviously feminine. It almost appears to be deliberately not obvious. I think the sleeves are just distracting. I don’t think the closed eyes in this case communicate a Catholic understanding. With this pose, the closed eyes seem to make Mary too withdrawn. She seems to almost convey a new age “find the goddess within” message. If the eyes were open, looking upward, then we would be invited to look upward, too. The Word, after all, deemed to “come down” to us. (Do you understand what I mean?)

    It has some things going for it. The image makes use of frontality which is associated with divinity and, in this case, sanctified beings. The formal regal pose appropriately intensifies that message. Frontality and formality are associated with special situations or special people, higher classes; relaxed informality is associated with lower classes and baser activities. Think of the soldier at attention and then “at ease.” The image has a noble expression for the same reasons. It is serious in expression. The figure depicts a saintly person in possession of spiritual understanding and eternal truth. The work is noble in material and construction.

    I think the sculpture would be more Catholic, and therefore more appropriate for liturgical use, if 1) the head, arms and face were rendered to appear more classically feminine; 2) the sleeves conformed to the contours of the shoulders and upper arms; 3) the eyes were open, looking upward; 4) a veil covered the head; and 5) Mary were to appear in an early stage of pregnancy or be attended to by angels, or both.
    Those are some quick reactions. What do you think of my ideas?

  10. avatar Denita says:

    I thought the Register was a decent publication. Why did they allow this person to be so critical of classic – and artistic – interpretations of Our Lady in favor of one that ( to me ) doesn’t do her justice at all? Just wondering.

  11. avatar Mary-Kathleen says:

    TO ME, the L.A. statue is ugly and asexual.

    TO ME, the second statue resembles how Mary would appear in a vision to someone: beautiful and kind and caring.

  12. avatar Bruce says:

    Mary-Kathleen…throw the vast majority of the world in with your “ME”!

  13. avatar JLo says:

    The second statue is housed in the place Fr. Jozo was sent when he was barred from Medjugorje. It has been painted in that place by many artists (I have a painting we purchased at a Marian conference in Irvine many years ago), and is recognized as from Medjugorje and cherished by those who have visited her on a pilgrimage there. Far from giving me the “willies”, I am much comforted by this rendition of Our Blessed Mother, which is, after all, one of the Miraculous Medal Our Lady of Grace renditions of Our Lady. +JMJ

  14. avatar Nerina says:

    Bruce – heh.

    Regarding Simcha Fischer: I’ve read her blog in the past and I find it quite amusing. She is a mother of 8 children and definitely defies easy categorizing in terms of progressive v. traditional Catholic. I’ve never seen her defy Church teaching or promote anything against it. Obviously she has a different aesthetic view of art than many of us do on this blog, but since it is a non-essential and subjective matter I may disagree with her, but I don’t hold it against her. Bernie makes some good points to consider in evaluating the LA Mary statue. Again, I don’t like it (repulses me, actually) but it does make the Mary statue in our cathedral much more appealing :).

  15. avatar Nerina says:

    Bernie,

    I’ve noticed that a common argument among supporters of the sculpture in LA is that the Scripture doesn’t give us a description of Mary but only says she was young and obviously of Jewish descent. They conclude then, that any depiction of Mary is open to the artist’s perception (which I have no problem with. I also realize that images of Mary have been presented differently depending on time, place and culture). My question is this: is there more to be gleaned from Scripture, even indirectly, that she may very well have been “beautiful” (defined as possessing symmetrical and even features, free from deformity, heck, even “clear skinned”)? After all, Mary was the “ark of the new covenant,” was she not? And in the OT don’t we have a detailed description of how painstakingly the old “ark of the covenant” was constructed and cared for? Why would God not offer a new ark that is both physically and spiritually without blemish? Plus, we hold that Mary was spared the effects of Original Sin at her conception. Does this belief have something to say about her physical appearance? Finally, in all the Marian apparitions, do we have physical descriptions recorded? Off hand, I don’t remember any visionaries saying “she was quite androgynous looking” or “she had a wart on her nose” (forgive my flippancy, I’m just clumsily trying to make a point). I don’t think it unreasonable to believe that Mary was blessed with a universally recognized beauty. Of course, I am just thinking out loud here and would welcome your thoughts.

  16. Bernie-I clicked on the link and read the post you suggested. I would have to agree with one commentator, most people (without any clues) would associate that statue with a saint like Joan of Arc. I think it has to do with the traditional forms and images which have been used over the centuries that have been associated with different saints.
    At St. Andrew Church, there is another statue of Mary in the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes which depicts Mary pregnant. I like this statue very much because it exhibits a stage in Mary’s life when she was pregnant with Jesus. In the Hail Mary and biblical readings there is recognition of Mary carrying Jesus in her womb, but how many times, if ever, do you see a statue of Mary pregnant? I think it is a healthy thing. It is something that pregnant women can relate to and it elevates the dignity of women and motherhood. Additionally, I think it is a great testament to Right to Life.

  17. avatar Bernie says:

    I’ve enjoyed everyone’s comments, including the ones at the ends of the linked posts.

    I believe that what was missing in the linked posts, however, was a distinction that is important in such discussions.

    I draw a distinction between ‘liturgical’ art and ‘devotional’ art. Liturgical art is art made for use in the liturgy (in the nave and chancel of the church and on the exterior of the building, its doors and façade). Devotional art is for use in private prayer and piety, not public worship. Devotional art can be art in shrines (perhaps even in the church) or in the home or religious houses but not in the main body of the church. It is meant to facilitate personal prayer. Liturgical art, on the other hand, is sacred and an integral part of the liturgy as it makes present all of salvation history and all the saints and hosts of heaven, helping us to receive the graces of the sacraments. Liturgical art is a part of the public worship offered by the Church.

    Liturgical art, in my opinion, must follow certain guidelines and standards. Personal ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ do not enter into the picture when discussing sacred or liturgical art. It’s not that we don’t have preferences regarding art in the liturgy it’s just that they don’t matter when it comes to the liturgy. The criteria for liturgical art therefore are more objective; sacred art has to meet certain standards to be considered sacred. The criteria for judging devotional art is subjective, personal and therefore used or rejected by individuals based on likes and dislikes. Devotional art can be far more innovative and unusual –strange, even- and some will find it helpful; devotional art can invite liking or disliking without violating any universal liturgical requirement.

    The L.A. sculpture falls into the devotional category. It apparently has personal meaning for the artist and is ‘liked’ by some but it does not have the kind of universal (‘catholic’) meaning necessary for use on the façade of a Catholic church.

  18. avatar JLo says:

    Christian 1954: You see Our Lady depicted pregnant whenever you see Our Lady of Guadalupe… *”The sash at her waist was worn by pregnant women in Aztec culture, thus the child she carries is divine.” I would guess that this is why this particular rendition of Our Lady (the only actual “picture” of her that’s ever been provided by Heaven) is the patroness of the pro-life movement. +JMJ

    *Read the rest of her descripton here http://www.saintelizabeths.org/images/features/guadhandout.pdf

  19. Thanks JLo-I found that article very educational, interesting, and inspiring. I saved the pdf. I was not aware of the Aztec meaning of the sash. I think Our Lady of Guadalupe is a fitting patroness of the pro-life movement. I was always taken up with the story, (the basic elements I remembered) of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Divine Intervention was really needed in converting the West Indies after the Spanish soldiers arrived. “A Brief Account of the Destruction of the West Indies” written in 1552 by Brother Bartolomé de las Casas, a Franciscan Friar details the account of severe brutality, debauchery, and hellish depraved acts of torture and murder of the Spanish soldiers who came to colonize the islands for the crown of Spain and supposedly spread Christianity. The Spanish soldiers thwarted the efforts of missionary priests and brothers from evangelizing the natives. The Spanish soldiers had no respect for the missionaries and were responsible for bringing about deaths among them, especially the priests. Brother Bartolomé de las Casas , through his account, was appealing to the King and Prince Philip of Spain for intervention. —God Bless those priests and brothers for persevering through such opposition to demonstrate the love of God to those natives to bring them to salvation.

    I think the statue of Mary in the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is unusual in that it actually shows Mary’s abdomen protruding like a pregnant woman’s.

  20. Thanks JLo-I found that article very educational, interesting, and inspiring. I saved the pdf. I was not aware of the Aztec meaning of the sash. I think Our Lady of Guadalupe is a fitting patroness of the pro-life movement. I was always taken up with the story, (the basic elements I remembered) of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Divine Intervention was really needed in converting the West Indies after the Spanish soldiers arrived. “A Brief Account of the Destruction of the West Indies” written in 1552 by Brother Bartolomé de las Casas, a Franciscan Friar details the account of severe brutality, debauchery, and hellish depraved acts of torture and murder of the Spanish soldiers who came to colonize the islands for the crown of Spain and supposedly spread Christianity. The Spanish soldiers thwarted the efforts of missionary priests and brothers from evangelizing the natives. The Spanish soldiers had no respect for the missionaries and were responsible for bringing about deaths among them, especially the priests. Brother Bartolomé de las Casas , through his account, was appealing to the King and Prince Philip of Spain for intervention. —God Bless those priests and brothers for persevering through such opposition to demonstrate the love of God to those natives to bring them to salvation.

    I think the statue of Mary in the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, at St. Andrew Church, is unusual in that it actually shows Mary’s abdomen protruding like a pregnant woman’s.


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