The 1st of November is All Saints’ Day, a day marked by the catholic church to honour all saints and in particular, those who do not have their own calendar day. I must admit the whole thing had gone right past me until I received an email from Erin Currier in which she sent the following series of her unique collage painted portraits.
From the first time I interviewed Erin on Aloud., her work hasn’t ceased to amaze me. I love the contrast created by depicting contemporary figures in a classical and in this case, almost sacred portraiture style. I love the complexity of the artworks without ever overshadowing the portraits themselves. I love knowing that each artwork is full of symbols and stories. Those of the subjects as well as the artist’s. I don’t even mind that most of these intricacies are lost on me. I know they are there, giving depth and meaning well past what the eye can see.
Anyway, maybe Erin read my mind because I was itching for something to break Aloud.’s silence with and I couldn’t think of anything better.
Thank you for sharing Erin.
In the artist’s words:
The art-making concern that continues to engage me is the search for recent examples of individuals who embody timeless spiritual qualities such as compassion, courage, and wisdom, whom I then pay homage to through painted collage portraits.
More specifically, by using “post-consumer waste” gathered from the world’s streets, I transform profane materials into works of beauty that portray the sacred. My quest to highlight the extraordinary within the ordinary individual life, has led me to portray Bodhisattvas, civil rights workers, various others involved in emancipatory efforts, and, ultimately, female Catholic saints.
I have found that many female saints, the saints I’ve portrayed in particular, were autonomous thinkers—i.e., they were non-conformists, free-thinkers, who bypassed or, in some cases, outright defied, authorities and institutions, (the “status quo”, if you will), of their eras. Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave who refused to return to bondage, and instead took her case for self liberation to the highest courts in Italy, is the most obvious example; as is Saint Teresita Urrea, a healer who encouraged peasants to stop paying corrupt priests to perform their rituals and prayers for them.
The spiritual quality associated with these saints is one of “immanence versus transcendence”: the idea of finding God or the sacred “within” oneself as manifested in the creation of household altars, the personal affinities established toward Our Lady of Guadalupe, for example, or Saint Therese; as opposed to the “without” as manifested by the institutional religious authority imposed by the Church– whereby God and the sacred are available only through mediary agents such as bishops and priests.
In the same way that I attempt to transform humble materials into aesthetic works of art; these women often led humble and quietly compassionate lives that were, nonetheless, admirable enough for their peers to pressure the church on behalf of their transformation into sainthood. In this sense, these female saints were “beatified from below”—i.e., it was through the mandate of the people that these women were declared saints by the Vatican, not the other way around.