April 11, 2015
MARY CRUSHES THE SERPENT
by Jerome du Bois
Most of the representations of Mary, the Mother of Christ, in paintings and sculptures, show her standing and facing the viewer. Often She is shown with a crown of stars, with her foot on a serpent's head, an interpretation of Genesis 3:15, where God curses the serpent who tempted Eve (Douay-Rheims Bible):
“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”
This prophecy is fulfilled in the Apocalypse (12:1-16):
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered. And there was seen another sign in heaven: and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems; and his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven; and cast them to the earth; and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with an iron rod; and her son was taken up to God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared by God, that there they should feed her a thousand two hundred sixty days.”
The image of the woman clothed with the sun, crowned with stars, is familiar. But in this new painting by Catherine King, Mary Crushes the Serpent, (acrylic on canvas, 16 3/4" w x 6 1/2" h) we see only one foot and part of Her gown. Yet there is no question or doubt of Her power, authority, and strength. His body writhing, his jaws agape, his deadly fangs useless, the serpent faces inevitable death.
Ms. King wanted to present Our Lady in the Valley of the Sun, in a site-specific way, to express our need for Her help amid the godless, decadent, and obscene culture which dominates here. But she wasn't sure how to do it. Then, drawing on her advertising background, she remembered her all-time favorite campaign, years ago from Nokona Boots. The ads masterfully depicted a most-macho cowboy-booted man dispatching a gila monster with a pair of pliers or going after a rattler with a Bowie knife. But Ms. King goes Nokona one better: Our little lady Mary crushes the serpent with one bare foot and no need for an earthly weapon; She brings Divine Justice.
Roman Catholic exorcist Father Gary Thomas once opened a speech by saying, “Let me be clear: Satan is defeated.” True, but not yet. Though his time will run out, Satan rules the world these days, free to seek whomever he may devour, ruining souls, taking lives, sowing discord and chaos. The buzz of his rattle seduces millions. He knows his certain fate, so in the meantime he strives to destroy as many people as he can, to take them finally to hell with him and his legions.
In a similar way, when we look from outside time, Mary has already crushed the serpent's head. She won the victory at the Annunciation (Luke 1:38), when she told the Angel Gabriel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” And with every breath and word and action after that, she repeated and confirmed that victory. Even through Gethsemane, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the Via Dolorosa, the Cross, and His death, she won the victory. That awful passage of our Lord was the victory.
But not yet. History must run its course through every dreadful martyrdom. Mary has to crush the serpent over and over again, encouraged by every prayer, every rosary, every righteous cry for justice.
The design is unusual, but more in keeping with Our Lady's history and character. The main action of the piece is off-center, on the extreme right. The serpent has been slithering around with his minion the scorpion, a smooth operator without a care in the world. He knows his long, sinuous form is beautiful and beguiling, its curving turns hypnotic, the diamondback pattern stunning. His body occupies the center of the painting. Mary appears suddenly, straight out of heaven. No announcement, no trumpets, no clouds of glory; this is work. She crushes him absolutely, silencing the seductive buzz of that rattle.
The twelve small white church steeples placed throughout the Valley stand their ground bravely, but they seem overwhelmed by the vast sweep of the godless land. But what else is in the center of the painting? Consider the little biplane crossing the desert, trailing the single word REPENT on a banner. Again Ms. King draws on her professional background. How do you reach so many scattered so far apart? Standing on a street corner spinning a sign won't do it. But a different buzzing in the air can bring a glance up from a cell phone screen to see a bright unusual sight in the sky. A single word, a crucial plea. The message couldn't be more clear. What other message is more important? That word is a sign on a door that leads to life everlasting.
The solo pilot in the lonely plane is Ms. King's St. John the Baptist, a voice crying out in the wilderness of the spiritual desolation created by a culture that fosters and encourages everything that is demonic. He is the only human presence in the painting. And there are no other airliners or helicopters in the sky. Has the prince of the power of the air done something? But we know other people must be living in that valley, otherwise the flying banner would be pointless. Then you realize that the landscape occupies the center of the painting because the people down there are the prize in the most important spiritual warfare, and that the serpent has slithered up to this bluff to behold his work--the desolation, the desperation, the despair-- and gloat.
This is his favorite domain; demons love the desert, as the Bible testifies. The demons tormenting the poor Gadarene (Luke 8:29) often drove him into the desert; and Jesus says in Luke 11:24 says that when a demon is driven out, it seeks the dry places for rest. So here is the serpent, supremely confident in his princely powers, surrounded by his invisible minions, getting ready to curl up and behold the breadth of his domain.
Then Our Lady strikes, sudden as lightning, and we are reminded once again: Satan is defeated.
April 03, 2015
THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH
The Hour of Our Death by Catherine King, 2013. Collage, 23 1/2" w x 36" h.
March 30, 2015
NIGHT BLOOMERS by Catherine King, 2015. Acrylic on Canvas. 6 3/4"w X 13 7/8"h.
March 12, 2015
". . . Ye Know That Summer Is Nigh . . ."
". . . Ye Know That Summer Is Nigh . . . "
Catherine King, 2015, Mixed Media on Paper, 13"w x 9" h.
Parable of the Fig Tree
(and Jesus said)
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. --Matthew 24:32
January 01, 2015
by Catherine King. 2014. Acrylic on Canvas, 12" x 16". Larger view here.