An Exhibition of Marian Altarpieces
by Malaika Favorite
Altarpieces, also called altarscreens or reredos, as a ruled are
carved or painted images which top the altar and illustrate
scenes of Christ's life or that of saints, in particular that of
the patron saint after whom the church is named. Altarpieces may
consist of only one holy image or represent, especially in the
Gothic and Baroque periods, highly elaborate visualizations of
the whole Christian message. Among the better known ones we are
to mention such altarpieces as the diptych or the triptych. It
was not uncustomary to paint on the outside of a folding triptych
the Annunciation of our Lord to Mary (closed wings), and on the
inside (open wings, lateral panels) the major events of his
mission, culminating in his death on the cross or his
resurrection depicted on the central panel.
Due to recent changes in the liturgy, the altar is no longer
fixed to the wall of the church, but stands free in the center of
the sanctuary. Alas, as a consequence, altarpieces are no longer
in demand. Thus, the art exhibited not only reminds (sometimes
remotely) of this rich artistic tradition. It also explores new
ways to express the fundamental realities of life and death
typified in the person of Mary and through events of her
existence. Greater than life and deeply human at the same time,
Mary channels the boundless joy of life given, and the almost
unbearable torture of life taken, into artistic creations of
spiritual courage and bold commitment.
Madonna of Ethiopia, acrylic, 20"x 16"
Madonna and Child of North America, acrylic, 30"x 26"
The Pieta of South Africa, oil on canvas, 42"x 56"
The Christ of the Silent Scream, oil on canvas and wood, 22"x 23"x 15"
Ms. Girdler-Engler's Bachelor of Fine Arts was earned at Augusta
College, Augusta, Georgia. Her work has been exhibited in Georgia
Artists '90, DeKalb Council for the Arts, Atlanta, Georgia;
McIntosh Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia; and the Gertrude Herbert Art
Institute, Augusta, Georgia. Her work is in the collection of
Southern Bell, Atlanta, Georgia; and commissions include a bronze
sculpture fountain for the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater,
"My own pregnancy last year inspired this single panel
altarpiece. It pays homage to the Virgin Mary and all women who
have experienced pregnancy and birth. I have not pursued the
historical Mary but concentrated on the different aspects of the
Virgin following the Annunciation. the theme of the nursing
Virgin, Maria Lactans, is symbolized by the bronze breastplate of
Mary. Milk is a crucial metaphor of the gift of life, without it
a child had little chance of survival before the days of babyfood
and formula. I regard the pregnant Virgin as a sublime and
beautiful image representing motherhood in its fullness and
perfection. These ideas and forms seek the deeply spiritual
feeling which prompts religion and art. "
Hail Mary, fiberboard and cast bronze, 6'10"x 4'x18"
Janice E. Williams
Assistant Professor of Art since 1987, Janice Williams has been
affiliated with the Department of Fine Arts at Augusta College,
Augusta, Georgia, since 1981. She earned the Bachelor of Fine
Arts degree from the University of Georgia, Athens, Gerogia, and
the Master of Fine Arts degree from Indiana State University,
Terre Haute, Indiana. Ms. Williams has exhibited most recently at
the Istituto D'Arte "Dosso Dossi" in Ferrara, Italy; the Albany
Museum of Art, Albany, Georgia; and at Georgia Southern College
Gallery, Statesboro, Georgia.
"In 1990 I went to Italy where I experienced many beautiful
altarpieces; all were emotionally moving. The most moving for me
was one of Michelangelo's Pietas. His sculpture is a
representation of the Virgin Mary and St. John mourning the dead
Christ. The theme of the Pieta seems to be of two sorts: in the
Christian interpretation the foundation of the concept of life
eternal; in a secular interpretation, a universal feeling of
great loss. Both aspects of the theme led me to this Pieta [the
altarpiece in the Roesch Library lobby]."
Pieta, oil on canvas and wood, 10'9"x 9'x10"
Pieta, oil on canvas, 40"x 30"
Pieta, pastel on paper, 30"x 22"
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