Mary as the New Eve
I’ve always been fascinated by the comparison between Mary and Eve, particularly imagery related to the door to heaven. Just as Jesus is called the “New Adam” in 1 Corinthians 15, Mary is considered by the Early Church Fathers as the the “New Eve”. Mary, through her obedience to God’s will, brought salvation into the world by bearing the Messiah in her womb. Mary’s “May it be to me as you have said” at the Annunciation opened her womb to the Holy Spirit. She participated in the redemption brought by the second Adam (Christ), just as Eve participated in Fall of the first Adam. Through Mary’s faith, the the door to Salvation opened again.
Eve Closed the Door to Heaven
The door to heaven, to Paradise, had been closed ever since Adam and Eve had partaken in the forbidden fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve’s doubt led to the closing of the door to Paradise. God forced them to flee the garden afterwards. They left the Garden of Eden and the harmony of life there and humankind has suffered from sin ever since.
This drawing shows Eve at the closed door. She’s not in the agony of grief, as in Masaccio’s fresco from Florence. In my drawing she shows resigned acceptance and sadness at this door that closed behind her. The door which SHE closed behind her, by her choice, succumbing to temptation and eating the ripe forbidden fruit of the tree in the Garden in the Eden.
Eve/Mary: Artist and Model Collaborate
This summer I worked again with my friend Olivia Bratton Mayoros. She modelled for this and several other drawings as I begin to sort out where my next paintings will go. I wrote about our collaboration from last summer in a former blog post. This summer we exchanged painting lessons in color theory for modeling time. I don’t always have the opportunity to direct a model (usually I work with a model in a group setting with other artists), so this was a special opportunity for me.
Because we share our faith and a knowledge of art history, I was able to say simply “I’ve always wanted to do a painting about Eve and the closed door to heaven” and she immediately understood the emotional timbre I was looking for. She was also always very encouraging to my work in process. When I finished the drawing and said “But it doesn’t look like you,” she graciously responded, “It’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to look like Eve.”
The fact that I used one woman as the model for both Eve and Mary reinforces the theological message behind the work. We all can make a choice for life or for death, obedience or disobedience, darkness or light.
Mary Gate of Heaven
Liv also modeled for this drawing of Mary, opening the door to paradise through her obedience. My studio is in my basement, but together Liv and I figured out how to use the bulkhead entrance to the backyard to create this dramatic contrast of light and dark. The woman, Mary, re-opens the door to salvation for humankind through her acceptance of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation. Salvation is light and joy beyond our imagining, but this isn’t magic. It’s grace.