Artwork has been an outlet for ideas and opinions for hundreds of years. Artwork, especially religious artworks evokes emotions in the viewers that may not be present when listening to a speaker or reading a work of literature. This makes art a very powerful tool when trying to convey an idea or feeling.
On the topic of women contributing to religion, one of the ways women can easily do so is to convey their beliefs through some type of work of art, whether that be through a statue, painting, or carving. Women tend to feel more comfortable creating an image of one of their own, which is why the Virgin Mary from the Christian traditions, one of the most important religious feminine role models, is a common theme for women religious artists. Jaroslav Pelikan, author of Mary through the Centuries claims that Mary is more feminine than Jesus is masculine and that she is “more of an inspiration to more people than any other woman who ever lived” (1-2). It is no wonder then why Mary is so popular in religious women’s works of art. She is a true role model.
This popularity for the portrayal of Mary has also been fueled by the recent Mary sightings throughout the world in places like Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mexico, and Portugal (Pelikan, 3). These places then become shrines to the Blessed Mother with women and men from all cultures and all religions including Islam and Buddhism visiting to view the artwork and spirit of the place (Jansen, 295-311). In this respect, the artwork of the Virgin Mary is extremely important in shedding light on how followers view her. Traditionally, Mary is seen in European cultures as a young woman with a halo praying, wearing white and blue to symbolize purity, and often holding her child, Jesus. While this is the most well-known portrayal of her, many other cultures from around the world display Mary images in other ways, favoring aspects of their own cultures and beliefs.