In looking at images of Mary Magdalene through the centuries, what becomes clear is that she is everywoman: young, old, voluptuous, haggard, luminous or ravaged with grief, dressed in royal robes of velvet and pearls or garbed in a penitential hairshirt. I have collected more than five hundred images of paintings, stained glass works and sculptures of her. The diversity of her depictions is truly astonishing, unmatched by any other saint or archetypal figure I know of.
I was thrilled to recently discover the work of contemporary American Janet McKenzie. She is bringing forth images of Mary Magdalene as an African-American of great dignity and inner power. In doing so, the artist is reclaiming the role Magdalene originally held in early Christian communities: the Apostle to the Apostle, a spiritual teacher of profound wisdom, courage and strength.
In the painting above, Magdalene holds the red egg. In her legends in both the East and the West, Magdalene met with Emperor Tiberius after the crucifixion. As she was describing the events of the Resurrection during a banquet, the Caesar remarked, " That could no more happen than the egg you hold in your hand could turn red". The transformation of that egg is the basis of the Eastern Orthodox tradition of giving red eggs for Easter. In the image below, Magdalene comes to tell the disciples Peter and John about her experiences of the Risen Christ. Tradition tells us that John was open to receiving her message, while Peter was scoffing and dismissive, unable to believe that a woman would be the chosen vehicle of revelation. How do you think McKenzie has captured these tensions? What words would you use for her visions of Magdalene? Most importantly, what arises for you as you contemplate them?
You can find these and other inspiring images on Janet's website at http://www.janetmckenzie.com/prints.html