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My first experience of Newfoundland was via an artist’s residency in 2006. Artist’s residencies and retreats have always affected and guided my work. After discovering the cemeteries in the area where I was staying, my artwork took a new direction, and I ended up spending most of my residency photographing and painting in the cemeteries, which is where I found many inspiring Marys. I have returned to Newfoundland many times, and each time I am drawn to the hand-painted Marys in the graveyards.

img_0273Photos of the Newfoundland Marys on the Mary wall in my studio.

As I mentioned in The Mary Wall post, Newfoundland seems to have three or four unfinished plaster-cast versions of Mary that can be purchased and hand painted by family and/or friends of deceased loved ones and placed beside headstones in graveyards.

I have recently completed a series of ten small 8″X10″ portraits based on my photographs of these Newfoundland Marys. They will form part of my installation in the upcoming In/Hospitable group exhibit at the SkirtsAfire Festival in the Nina Haggerty Gallery.

The portraits are image transfers onto encaustic on cradled birch panels. The backgrounds are image transfers of vintage ocean-themed wallpaper.

Although most of the plaster-cast Marys are from similar molds, two of the molds differ from the rest:

1-wide-eyed-mary    2-disfigured-maryWide Eyed Mary by Marlena Wyman               Disfigured Mary by Marlena Wyman

Wide-Eyed Mary is from one of the Stations of the Cross at the Sacred Heart Grotto in Lance Cove on Bell Island, Newfoundland. Her piercing blue eyes are encircled by generous eyelashes.

Disfigured Mary is an interesting enigma. The plaster cast obviously did not release properly from the mold, leaving her nose and mouth disfigured, but that did not seem to bother whoever painted her and placed her beside a headstone at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

I have grouped the other Mary portraits in pairs:

3a-cross-eyed-mary3b-mydriasis-maryCross-Eyed Mary by Marlena Wyman           Mydriasis Mary by Marlena Wyman

Cross-Eyed Mary is one of my favourites. There is such an aura of sweetness to her. She was one of the first Marys that I found in 2006 at the Bellevue Roman Catholic Cemetery in Newfoundland. Her heart bursts forth in a bright startling red, perhaps resulting in her optical condition.

She is paired with a Mary who suffers from another eye condition: Mydriasis Mary’s eternally dilated pupils are a striking feature, as is her finely detailed sacred heart. She resides in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

4a-plain-mary4b-glamorous-maryValentine Mary by Marlena Wyman                     Glamorous Mary by Marlena Wyman

Valentine Mary is sweet in her simplicity, and she is the only Mary who I have seen with a valentine sacred heart. Her home is in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Colliers, Newfoundland.

She is paired with Glamorous Mary of St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland, who has been made up with bright red lipstick and a beautifully detailed sacred heart.

5a-suspicious-mary5b-concerned-marySuspicious Mary by Marlena Wyman           Concerned Mary by Marlena Wyman

Suspicious Mary is on the lookout for any potential wrongdoings at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

She is paired with Concerned Mary at the same cemetery. Do these two know something that the others are not aware of at St Anne’s?

6a-world-weary-mary6b-sleeping-maryWorld Weary Mary by Marlena Wyman         Sleeping Mary by Marlena Wyman

Poor World Weary Mary has had enough.  Not even the peaceful surroundings of St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Ship Cove, Newfoundland are enough to lift her tired countenance.

She is paired with Sleeping Mary of the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Colliers, Newfoundland, who has found the secret to everlasting contentment in slumber.

The commercially produced Virgin Mary that most of us encounter is one of consistent beauty. The hand-painted, heartfelt Marys of Newfoundland evoke both humour and pathos, but above all, represent a loving tribute that is touchingly and imperfectly human.

My next post will include some of the 3-dimensional artwork that I am including in my installation.

All artwork and photographs by Marlena Wyman