“Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations” by © Father William Hart McNichols St Andrei Rublev Icons www.standreirublevicons.comMary holds the earth as she would the baby Jesus in “Mary Most Holy Mother of All Nations” by Father William Hart McNichols. The Madonna is elevated to being not only the mother of Christ, but the mother of all humanity, indeed the whole earth itself. Against a starry backdrop, she truly is the “most holy” Mary, a regal Mother Nature who births and sustains the earth itself. This universal Mary embodies the divine feminine. The title “Mother of All Nations” came in a vision to Ida Peerdeman, an Amsterdam office worker, in the mid-20th century, and was authorized by the Roman Catholic Church for public devotion in 1996. McNichols has been criticized for depicting “saints” not authorized by the church, including such gay martyrs as Matthew Shepard and an anonymous gay priest killed in a Nazi death camp. Whatever hardships he faces, McNichols continues to get energy from dialogue with the icons he creates. “We need to gaze at truly conversational, truly loving images… images that will return our love,” he said. McNichols has created many icons in his own gracefully elegant style. Based in New Mexico, he is a Catholic priest who studied with world-renowned iconographer Brother Robert Lentz. Trained as an artist, he felt that icons were stiff and distant when he first began making them. “The icon appears as a rather shy, respectful friend who takes a long time to get to know,” he says. Icons differ from other art forms because they are meant for contemplation in order to make a mystical connection. According to tradition, artists don’t “create” or “paint” the icons, but “write” them because they are visual revelations of theology transcribed by the artist. Please come back tomorrow for AltXmasArt 9: “Pacha Mama Healing the Earth” by David Hewson. _______________ Other icons by William Hart McNichols appear in “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More” by Kittredge Cherry. The book is filled with color images by 11 contemporary artists. Five artists from AltXmasArt are featured in the book. The artists tell the stories behind their images and a lively introduction puts them into political and historical context, exploring issues of blasphemy and artistic freedom.