The many faces of Mary

First slide

"Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother Idea," an exhibition of Marian art from the Renaissance and Baroque periods at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, opens Dec. 5. But you can expect more than an assortment of world-class oil paintings there. Exhibition organizers hope that "Picturing Mary" will not only appeal to fine art lovers but also stir and educate visitors of various faiths.

"I don't care who you are," said Kathryn Wat, chief curator of the NMWA, "you cannot go through this exhibit without being moved."

Catholic University has collaborated with the NMWA to produce original programming to supplement the exhibition, which will feature works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and other European masters.

One such effort is the online exhibition, "A Global Icon: Mary in Context." The online exhibition opens the same day as the physical exhibition. It will showcase global representations of Mary, from Mexico's Virgin of Guadalupe to Black Madonnas from throughout the world. The URL, which is still being tested at this time, will be made available through once the exhibition goes live.

Another online resource is already available on the NMWA website and has a more literal geographic slant. Visitors can take a virtual tour of the physical exhibition and navigate a virtual map of artworks' origins.

Amy Mannarino, NMWA director of communications and marketing, wrote in an email, "NMWA has partnered with MapHook, a location-based journal and social networking application, on an interactive program that enables a global audience to trace the route of exhibition works as they arrived from major international museums and to learn about them."

Visitors also can attend events related to "Picturing Mary" in Washington, from talks to workshops.

The exhibition's guest curator, Msgr. Timothy Verdon, director of Museo dell'Opera del Duomo and canon of the Florence Cathedral, will give his opening talk Dec. 5 at noon. Additional scholar talks with professors from Catholic U. and one from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, will take place select Fridays in January through March, also from 12 to 1 p.m. Scholars will range from Stefanos Alexopoulos, assistant professor of liturgical studies and sacramental theology, to Amy G. Remensynder, professor of history.

For the more time-pressed, lunchtime gallery talks on Wednesdays, Dec. 10-17 and Jan. 7-April 8, 2015, will take place from 12 to 12:30 p.m. Staff members will lead discussions on thematic Marian topics, including a special Valentine's Day talk.

Workshops on Renaissance and Baroque techniques and materials will round out the programming with hands-on activity. Depending on the workshop, participants age 13 and up can learn and practice the crafts of wood engraving, gilding and egg tempera.

NMWA's monthly Community Day, which takes place the first Sunday of every month year-round, offers free admission to the museum, including "Picturing Mary." Sundays within the exhibition dates include Dec. 7, Jan. 4, Feb. 1, March 1 and April 5.

"Merry Making," Jan. 30, 2015, a "divine happy hour event," will celebrate the exhibition with themed tours and activities. Reservations can be made online.

Catholic U., which has designed special courses to coincide with "Picturing Mary," will host a Marian graduate academic conference March 20 and 21, 2015. Panels will stretch across art, classics, literature, music, theology, theater, early Christian studies and other disciplines. The keynote speaker will be Miri Rubin, professor of medieval and early modern history at Queen Mary University of London. Rubin wrote the essays published in the exhibition catalogue.

Spanish-language resources also will be available to visitors throughout the exhibition.

"We want people around the world to experience the exhibition," said Wat, "even the ones who cannot make it to Washington."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014