In popular culture, Mary Magdalene is often portrayed as a former prostitute – a fallen woman who only found redemption when she became a close disciple of Jesus Christ.
This naturally piqued the interest of Vancouver artist Lilian Broca, who has spent the past 30 years exploring the lives of courageous female biblical characters.
In 2000 she made images for a book project with Joy Kogawa, titled A song of Lilith† Broca went on to create large-scale mosaic art projects around two other women in the Old Testament, Esther and Judith.
Now her third comprehensive mosaic project on an important biblical figure, Mary Magdalene, is on display at the Italian Cultural Center.
“Unlike my former heroines, but equally brave, loyal, and determined, Mary Magdalene survived not only fierce enemies who wished her harm when Jesus died on the cross, but also the ensuing 2,000 years of slander, slander, and slander,” he stated. Broca in a statement. statement.
Mary Magdalene was one of two women named Mary who were very close to Jesus, the other being his mother.
While the mother of Jesus is often seen as the pure and unadulterated Virgin Mary, the other Mary has been treated much more heartlessly over the centuries.
During her research, Broca sifted through the legends in manuscripts in different countries before resurrecting Mary Magdalene in a new, more positive light—a true powerhouse who was Jesus’ greatest companion.
Each of the six-foot-tall mosaics of Mary Magdalene in the Italian Cultural Center contains handwritten and illustrated manuscripts from the scriptures that use seven ancient languages spoken during her lifetime in ancient times. These mosaics are made of luminescent Venetian smalto glass, which is opaque.
“By manipulating that light in my narrative series, I am able to create works that have both intellectual content and a dynamic, living quality,” said Broca.
It is a painstaking process to put the colored pieces of glass together to create each piece of art.
She described Il Museo at the Italian Cultural Center as a great venue, noting that the director and curator, Angela Clarke, presented her Judith series of mosaics there in 2015.
“Angela has been excellent at designing environments that enhance the art on the walls or on baseboards; and not just my art, each individual body of work is carefully examined and pays the best attention to aesthetic needs,” noted Broca. “For example, with my Mary Magdalene works: the walls are black and my mosaics contain a significant amount of gold. Combined with the right lighting focused only on the mosaics, the atmosphere gives visitors the impression of a church or monastery. “
Born in Romania and raised in Montreal, Broca was a painter for many years. She saw her first mosaic – a piece of art on the floor in an archaeological dig – at the age of 12. She was mesmerized at the time, but she didn’t start creating mosaic art until 2002 with her Esther series.
“I have found that over the past two millennia, mosaics have been the preferred medium for celebrating male achievements in politics, in the military and in commerce,” she said. “Mostly these mosaics were made in monumental formats and we can still see examples today, such as the mosaic of the military campaign of Alexander the Great found in Pompeii.
“Conversely, when it came to women, this was not the case, because the female iconography is that of gods and mythological female figures,” she continued. “It is for this reason that I have chosen the mosaic medium and monumental formats to represent my heroines, my protagonists.”
She hopes that by portraying great female figures, such as Mary Magdalene, in this ancient and monumental art form, they will receive the same level of dignity and respect as their male counterparts.
“Throughout history, the way old wives’ tales have been recorded and conveyed has had a profound impact on how women were perceived and valued in later generations’ cultural and social climates,” explains Broca.
“My intention was and still is, to restore through my art the high social status and feminine power she possessed during her life with Jesus by her side,” she added. “I hope this series offers new ways to rethink the hugely influential relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene and what happened to that relationship, as written by the male founders of Christianity.
“I also hope that my mosaics and drawings will provide strong reasons to motivate viewers to revisit this pivotal episode in human history.”