Cyanotype collage of widow and child titled Indigo Madonna

The Myth of Madonna

I am revisiting themes from work made long ago … exploring women’s fertility, agency, and concepts of self-realization. Recent anti-abortion legislation and anti-choice rhetoric have pushed the essential question of female bodily autonomy back to the forefront. The fact that a half dozen men who lack the biological capacity to bear children are responsible for the life-altering decisions impacting all women (and many men) is astonishing to me. The myth of Madonna—a fable that equates a woman’s bodily autonomy not as her own, but as a vessel for the divinity of patriarchy—is now reified in modern jurisprudence.

How do I respond to this mythology that seeks to control women?

With rage? Yes.

With fear? Yes.

With disgust? Yes.

With humanity? Yes.

These works are all made using cyanotype solar process with various combinations of materials and collage. The traditional blue cyanotype prints were tinted with green tea or peroxide. The original “Madonna and child” image is a photo from a Turkish newspaper clipping I saved from my first trip to Turkey in 1990. The story relates to a miner’s widow and her child. The tomb of the Virgin Mary image is from an historic postcard of that site in Jerusalem.

Images left to right: Indigo Madonna (2022) 10×15 inches, Tomb of the Virgin (2022) 20×15 inches, Mirror Madonna (2022) 18×12.5 inches. All tinted cyanotype and collage on rag paper with mixed media. (Click image to view larger.)

I am a librarian and artist living in Eugene, Oregon — where it is often damp and always green.