Artist Spotlight: Mother of God, Mother of All

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Photo by Jolie “Jojo” Chenet

In the Intermediate Painting I class, students are given a semester-long project that serves as their final for the course. The specific parameters of this project, such as the subject, the medium — as long as it can reasonably be considered paint — and the number of artworks created, are left to the discretion of each student. At the end of the semester, the works of all of the students are exhibited together on campus. 

While the open-ended format of this assignment may be daunting for some, for sophomore psychology major Jolie “Jojo” Chenet, this assignment was a perfect opportunity to realize an idea that had been developing in her mind for the past few years. 

Her project, tentatively titled “Theotokos Pantokos” — which roughly translates from Greek to “Mother of God, Mother of All” — is an exploration of the different titles associated with the Virgin Mary over both time and space. 

This project takes the form of eight oil portraits of various iterations of Mary, all of which are done almost entirely in shades of blue. Chenet chose this color due to both her personal preference for the hue and its long-standing association with the Virgin Mary. 

Conceptually, Chenet wanted to highlight how Mary has appeared to people from different cultural backgrounds at different times throughout history, and how Mary has visually appeared to these individuals in a way that they would be familiar with. 

From the image of Our Lady of Lourdes in France to the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Chenet pulled inspiration from across the globe. Chenet also chose to merge the images of Our Lady of Vailankanni and Our Lady of Korattymuthy, drawing inspiration from her own Indian heritage.

Additionally, Chenet sought to emphasize the femininity and maternity of Mary in these portraits, which are qualities that transcend beyond Chenet’s art and into her lifestyle. 

Chenet said that, for her, Mary is the model for being a woman, and as such, she seeks to devote herself to a life that emulates Mary. Consequently, Chenet plans to become an occupational therapist or child life specialist that incorporates art into the therapeutic process. In doing so, she will be able to provide support and care to children who need it the most. 

After the exhibition of her work has concluded, Chenet hopes that she will be able to secure a long-term place for her portraits in the Church of the Incarnation, specifically in the St. Thomas Aquinas Eucharistic Chapel.

Chenet said: “I feel [that] with the Marian theme of the church, with name and imagery, that it would be fitting. Especially in the small intimate prayer space. There are also already paintings [in the church] that are primarily blue.”

For those interested in viewing Chenet’s work, and the work of other Intermediate Painting I students, be sure to be on the lookout for the gallery opening and reception of their work on Dec. 8 at the Beatrice M. Haggerty Gallery.

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