I didn't become interested in Mary Magdalene as a result of being spiritual or religious. I was not interested in these things at the time. I became captivated by Mary Magdalene when I saw her from a feminist perspective, at a time when I was growing as an artist.
I am an avid reader. Reading inspires me. My ideas often come from books I read, both fiction and non-fiction. I do not discriminate.
Like many other people, I too read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. My father read it and liked it, so he passed me his copy. And when I read it, I became curious about this character of Christian myth I had heard about, but didn't really know.
So I searched for more and found The Woman With the Alabaster Jar, by Margaret Starbird, who mentions many artworks in the book. A saint that you can get to know through art history, that's my kind of saint!
After that I read anything else I could about Mary Magdalene.
I began with the "serious" research and then went on to some fiction, and finally, I read some "transmissions" such as The O Manuscript by Lars Muhl. I couldn't have read that book first, but after 10 years or so, I could enjoy his account of his personal experiences with the great spirit of Mary Magdalene.
I have never been interested in believing anything in particular, or convincing anybody to believe anything. I am interested in how Mary Magdalene has been interpreted through the centuries according to the sensibilities of the times. I reach only one conclusion: She has been present all this time, in many forms, shining in the human mind and heart, adjusting to our needs and wishes. She doesn't really care what we believe, only that we receive her presence and open our hearts to her transforming essence.
I realize that is a spiritual statement. Little by little she transformed me until I cannot deny that she is present in me. But she is subtle, and accepting, and she does not require a certain set of beliefs, only that I don't try to believe in things I don't believe. And having grown with Socialist parents, and with a Catholic grandmother, I really don't know how to believe like other people do.
But I do I believe, above all, in the power of our imagination. It is a powerful force that allows us to create, to transform, to expand. And Mary Magdalene represents this force in my heart.
What were some things that inspired me to paint and create in her honor? I wrote a whole book about it, but here are some of the ideas that inspired me most.
1. Mary Magdalene may have been Jesus' wife. I saw her as a mother, and also as a balancing element of the Christian religion. She is the part that was missing in the story of a lonely powerful man-god.
2. Mary Magdalene may have been a scholar, a learned person. In The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow, she is a gifted human being who goes on a journey of learning. She is a seeker. This book is a novel, but the author used a lot of research about early Christianity and Mary Magdalene, and it was very informative to my explorations in painting.
3. Mary Magdalene may have initiated Jesus into Ancient Mysteries. She might have been his lover, a sacred woman who knew the ancient rites and opened his mind to the possibilities of the human soul. This is what Lars Muhl expresses in his book as well as other authors of "transmissions" or psychic contacts by Mary Magdalene. This idea is also part of certain contemporary gnostic beliefs.
4. Mary Magdalene may have received a cleansing of the chakras by Jesus. When the Bible mentions Jesus took out "7 demons" he might have been performing a healing that allowed Mary Magdalene to become enlightened. This is what inspired my painting Surrender. Also, as her light became visible after this transformation, i painted Mary Magdalene of the Light.
5. Mary Magdalene may have been a rich woman. In the Bible, she supports Jesus with her money. As a woman who managed her own finances without depending on a man, Mary Magdalene was in charge of her own wishes and her own evolution.
6. Mary Magdalene may have been the inheritor of the early Christian Church. The apostles may have not wanted to be led by a woman, but Jesus recognized her as someone with extraordinary spiritual capabilities according to the ancient manuscript, The Gospel of Mary.
7. Mary Magdalene may have been the equal of Jesus, two pieces of the same soul. According to Tau Malachi in Saint Mary Magdalene: The Gnostic Tradition of the Holy Bride, she grew into a similar evolution as Jesus, but had to walk a different path. When they found each other, they recognized in each other their equal and their partner.
8. Mary Magdalene may have gone to the South of France to live after Jesus ascended to Heaven. In France, there is a long tradition of love for the Magdalene, the Church of Love is one example, and many beautiful stories and shrines honoring her. She became the saint of flowers and perfume, a reference to the Woman with the Perfume Jar in the Bible. This idea inspired my paintings Mary Magdalene of the Roses and Mary Magdalene in the Garden.
9. Mary Magdalene may be the Ancient Goddess. Mary Magdalene was equated with Artemis by the early converts to Christianity. She represented the balancing principle to the god Apollo, the Sun God. Jesus is the Sun, Mary Magdalene the Moon. She is also related to the Black Virgin, a figure of European imagery recognized as the Virgin Mary in most instances, but also connected to shrines, springs and caves that belonged to the ancient religions of Europe. In The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra, he expresses through fiction certain beliefs that linked the Magdalene to the gnostics and to the images of Leonardo Da Vinci. Margaret Starbird connects Mary Magdalene to the goddess by using gematria, or the tradition of using numbers in sacred texts to express sacred concepts. Most transmissions received and published refer to Mary Magdalene as an incarnation or expression of the Great Goddess. This idea inspired Mary Magdalene of the Bees, and many others of my paintings of Mary Magdalene.
10. Mary Magdalene may have been just a normal woman who had children, was a widow, led a life of sacrifice, and/or had her reputation damaged by the unkindness of the world... and found redemption in the knowledge of a love beyond human limits. Warmth is the image that most expresses this idea in my mind.
Mary Magdalene may have been so many things. And that's why she is my muse. She opens a universe of possibilities, and to the artists's mind, that is a great, and wonderful, miracle.
P.S. I took these photos of images of Mary Magdalene during a recent trip in Spain and Italy. My phone died after that and I can no longer remember where... except for the first one, by Artemisia Gentileschi at El Greco Museum in Toledo, Spain.