Recently, the Wocester Museum of Art had on view the Rouault print series entitled, Miserere et Guerre. The etchings were composed as cathedral stain glass windows but instead of light infused colorful jewels, they were drawn in heavy black lines similiar to the metal structures that hold stain glass together. As I moved from print to print, each images was a visual homily about human nature and morality.
Unfortunately, my museum visit added to the general pathos I had retreated into, assisting in the recall of past painful events like the massacre of the innocents at Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, or the Taliban's attempted assassination shooting of Malala Yousufzai, age 14, in the head and other heart wrenching world headlines.
As I moved from gallery to gallery, I was especially drawn to Rouault's images of nurturing mothers cradling their children but their respective titles were very perplexing. Titles such as "It would be so Sweet to Love" or "Wars: Dread of all Mothers" gave me pause. Traditionally, the mother and child bond has been honored and revered for centuries in major religions and in artstic works. In the Catholic Church's iconology there is a great adoration for the Virigin Mary and the Christ Child. The American painter and printmaker, Mary Cassatt devoted much of her genius and time giving homage to motherhood through her artworks.
The love between mother and child is universally admired.
In the Rouault's images though the sweetness and tenderness of love were present, these feelings were tempered with the reflections on the unpleasant realities of what living in this world can hold: of love and fear, generousity and greed, health and illness, peace and war.
I found some respite when I returned home. I spent some time looking through family photos. I selected a few of my favorite photos of my daughter with her baby daughter and rendered them in chalk. Describing the shelter we make for our children cradling them in our strong arms and warm body, offering protection from all evil present and future. In drawing these mother/child images, I felt comforted and my pain from worldly knowledge was relieved.