Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AltXmasArt 4: Black Madonna - Mitochondrial Eve

“Black Madonna - Mitochondrial Eve” by David Hewson., 2004. Oil and 22K gold on panel, 20 x 29 inches.
The Madonna and Eve become one powerful, dark-skinned matriarch in “Black Madonna - Mitochondrial Eve” by David Hewson. The Madonna appears without the Christ child. Instead she holds a collection of colorful eggs representing the races of the world. The gesture embodies themes of both Christmas and Easter, because Mary Magdalene is traditionally shown holding a red egg as a symbol of resurrection. Black Madonnas were fairly common in Europe during the Middle Ages. Hewson traces the motif back even further. “Another metaphor of the Black Madonna has its connection with the earth,” he explains. “Today the definition of black has a negative connotation. However, prior to 2,000 years ago when worship of the feminine was a common practice, black soil was a source of nourishment, of life itself.” The small marble bust of Venus next to her pales in comparison to Hewson’s hefty Black Madonna. The painting also grows out of Hewson’s personal experience. “I had an African American nanny who raised me, and she had a huge impact in my life,” he said. The model for his Black Madonna was a friend who grew up with him. The Bible goes over Jesus’ genealogy, tracing his family line back along the male line from Joseph to Abraham (Matthew 1:1-17). Hewson takes the opposite approach, portraying the Madonna as the “mitochondrial Eve” who is traced along the female line by scientists. Mitochondrial Eve is the most recent common ancestor of all people alive today. Scientists believe that she was a real woman who lived at least 140,000 years ago in Africa. Geneticists came up with the theory of mitochondrial Eve because the DNA in the mitochondria of each cell passes unchanged from mother to child This Black Madonna holds a set of colorful eggs in a gesture traditionally ascribed to Mary Magdalene, the disciple of Jesus who was first to see him after his resurrection. According to one tradition, she held a plain egg in her hand and told Tiberius Caesar, “Christ is risen!” Caesar laughed, saying that was as impossible as the egg in her hand turning red. Before he finished speaking, the egg turned bright red. Hewson’s artwork has addressed themes of social injustice and planetary evolution in recent years. Born and raised in North Carolina, he received classical training in art, including several years in Italy studying traditional oil and water gilding. He moved to Iquitos, Peru in 2006. Hewson’s art is technically and intellectually brilliant with a classical style. By taking time to digest the intricate symbolism in his gilded paintings, the viewer can discover genuine gold. A traveling exhibit of Hewson’s work will tour North America from January to June 2009 with stops in Southern Pines and Greensboro, North Carolina; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Please come back tomorrow for AltXmasArt 5: “The Holy Family” by Janet McKenzie


Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying this series of art postings--but I was particularly moved by Hewson's work! Stunning.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Yes, I’m glad you agree that Hewson’s art truly is spectacular. It’s even more amazing to see it in person, with the gold leaf shining as only gold can do.

Thanks for leaving a comment. We haven’t done a series like this before, and we’re eager to hear what people think of it.