by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Vis Companion
We all know this image. (Well any of us who have had the opportunity to spend any time with the sisters in their Northside monastery, visit this website, or read anything published by the nuns – will most likely recognize this image.) The painting by Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS has become a kind of “logo” for the Visitation Sisters of North Minneapolis. But how many of us have ever stopped to truly ponder this picture? Ask ourselves what strikes us about the work of art? Contemplate what possible meaning the artist might be working to convey?
The following questions provide us with a way into such contemplative musing and artistic meaning -making. They are known as the Critical Response Protocol:
1. What do you notice?
2. What does this remind you of?
3. What emotion does it trigger?
4. What questions does this work raise for you?
5. What do you speculate is the artist’s intention?
As a form of prayerful meditation this day, I invite you to take five to seven minutes, and respond to these questions. Let the art speak to you; let any memories or emotions surface and be acknowledged. Pose as many questions as you are able. There are no wrong answers. You will find my own personal response entered in the comment section below. I invite you to do the same!
Melissa · June 28, 2010 at 1:52 pm
The following is my response to the above CRP questions and the “Windsock Visitation” painting:
1. I notice two women with brown skin embracing one another; their arms are extended and hands are on one another’s shoulders. I see the colors red and brown and green and yellow and notice patterns in the cloth adorning each woman. Around each female figure’s head there is a circular shape. The woman on the right has parted lips and closed eyes. Underneath their elbows, near their lower abdomens or bellies are swirling figures or spirals. I see the words, “rest,” “delight” and “Jane De Chantal.” I see this is titled, “Windsock Visitation.”
2. This image reminds me of the last time I traveled to East London, South Africa to visit my friend, retired nurse, and Literacy Worker, Maureen Dabula, aka, “Auntie Mo.” I recall landing in the Eastern Cape in a rainstorm, and Mo coming to the small airport to collect me.
“Ah, we were having a drought and then you came and brought the rain!” she exclaimed at my arrival. I was wearing a denim jacket and khaki linen cropped pants; my hair was up, and everything about me was drenched — soaking wet. I recall Auntie Mo’s hug, and her grand-daughter Lili squeezing my thigh as we paused in the terminal. It had been a year and a half since we last met, stateside.
3. I am happy looking at this picture. I feel joy as well as longing for my South African family as I reflect on this image and memory.
4. I wonder who the artist saw in his mind’s eye as he painted this? Did Brother McGrath have models for these women? What inspired him to paint black females? I wonder if Jane de Chantal knew many women of African descent in Annecy or other regions of France? (Who might she think of as a “delight”? Where did she find rest?) I wonder if Auntie Mo knows any women named after Jane de Chantal in East London, SA? (Does Brother Mickey recall meeting Auntie Mo when she visited North Minneapolis from South Africa in 2007?) How many women in North Minneapolis, where the Visitation Sisters reside, are African American? What skin tone did Mary and Elizabeth have? Does this data matter? I wonder what these women in the bible were wearing when they greeted one another? What fabrics and styles were donned back then? What does it take for any woman to see herself in this painting? I wonder if men can insert themselves into this visual Visitation story? What swirls in a belly? Are there spiral baby dreams that live in each of us? What makes any of our “wombs” leap? What does it mean when we embrace another? Where does anyone of us find rest and delight? Why is it “Windsock Visitation”?
5. I speculate that Brother McGrath wanted to paint a Visitation story that reflects some of the African culture and heritage present in North Minneapolis where the Visitation Sisters live; I imagine he wanted to extend an Elizabeth and Mary narrative that inspires both men and women to reflect and consider the places and relationships where they are embraced and met with support.
I’d love to hear from you!
Love and Gratitude for Mickey for this painting!
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