Visit of the Angels (Acrylic on board, 1992), was one of my most elaborate paintings and when I printed it as a serigraph edition it became the most elaborate one that I have done. It presents Mary as a member of a community in which each cares for each other. Usually Mary is represented in paintings by herself and more isolated. I wanted to paint a picture showing her as part of a larger group, village, or community, as she would have been in real life. Her formation and her character would have been formed by the people around her and by the Jewish religion and stories. The African proverb: “It takes a whole village to raise a child” is a timeless one and I am sure that it would have been part of the way things were done in these Biblical times.
In thinking about the people at that time, very few would have had the chance to learn to read. Mary would not have been literate. The demands of everyday life and survival would not have allowed her enough time for that. But she and all the people in the village would have other knowledge, knowledge of oral traditions, knowledge of all the customs, and in great depth. The many stories that I have represented on the walls of the buildings would have been known and thought about by all the people in the village. This knowledge would have been a part of their connections with the ancestors and distant relatives. I have drawn 25 scenes of these Biblical stories to capture their complexity which can be compared to a woven fabric with many threads.
The people are all doing work that helps each other. They are interested in and caring for each other, to make sure of the survival of the village as a whole. All these works are called Mitzvah, the Hebrew word which means to do a good deed or to help others. Each of the groupings of people is doing some work that connects them to or helps the village. Part of the tradition of the Mitzvah is that the angels of God would somehow bless the people who do their work using their talents and doing the best they possibly can for their community.
In many spiritual traditions the philosophy is that the sacred comes through ordinary life. I have tried to show that in this painting. All the people are doing their everyday work that has no grandeur or representation of power over others. So even Mary as the young woman feeding the chickens and sweeping the roadway is the first to be blessed by the angels. They would then go to bless each of the other people in their everyday tasks. I also wanted to show the important scene of the angels announcing to Mary the news of God coming to earth and asking her to participate in this event. The angels continue to visit all of us in our everyday lives, to ask us to allow God to be in our lives and to honor God’s presence in the creation around us.
I had made many drawings considering this scene of the Annunciation. I wanted to connect it to the other paintings and serigraphs of the TRIPTYCH and so I chose the finished drawing to be the format of the elongated shape. The first attempt was a painting called THE ANNUNCIATION, 23” x 7” in 1992. It was more at dusk or early evening and the houses in the village had only elaborate decorations. After I completed this I decided to try to draw it again but have it as a day scene so that I could show more varieties of chores and work that people are doing. I also felt that instead of using the decorations I would like to put small miniatures that would show the oral traditions and stories of their ancestors. This new painting was started in that same year and completed in 1992. I painted it in a larger size (40” x 14”) so that I could work the very fine miniatures into the village scene without straining my eyes.
In 1995 I decided to rework the image into a serigraph called A VISIT. There were changes made in the drawing and colors were changed in the serigraph, differing from the painting. It took me eight months to complete this very complex printing and I drew a stencil for each of the 61 colors printed.