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Marcus Wood

Miracle Painting


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I work within a tradition of Votive Paintings that began in Spain and Portugal in the late Middle Ages and then made its way over to the Iberian colonies of Latin America.  In both the Brazilian and Mexican traditions atavistic Catholicism fused with indigenous mythologies and in Brazil those of the African slaves. The Mexican tradition is the richest.  The  Mexican pictures go by several epithets ‘ex voto’ ‘retablo’ and “lámina” are the most common.  They were most often painted on cheap tin roof tiles and so most are small.  They are both prayers, messages of thanks and acts of deep celebration and faith.  The paintings are always inspired by some act of supernatural intervention by a Guardian saint.  They show the petitioner experiencing the miracle and the special Saint who saved or protected the individual.  There are professional miracle painters but the Miracles are also painted by the individual who had the experience.  The miracles usually involve sudden cures from illness or deformity, escapes from disasters and accidents, and survivals from attack by people or animals.  The tradition moves down through cultures and is in no way straight-jacketed by Catholic Dogma, the painters and their works have an intimate life of their own.

I first started painting miracle paintings when I was told I was going blind with glaucoma.  I then went through a whole series of elaborate tests and the experts found my eyes were healthy.  I saw this as a miraculous healing.  After that I periodically worked in the form whenever I survived an accident, such as falling in the shower, or the evil eye, or not eating a poisonous mushroom by mistake, or not being bitten by a Cobra in India or a Taipan in Australia.

I couldn't find tin roof tiles, but I did find a Victorian box of beautiful terracotta painting panels in a junk shop.  Painting on terracotta is a forgotten medium.  I later made my own panels.  I bought a sack of terracotta powder in India and mixed this with rabbit skin glue.  It makes a wonderful matt highly absorbent ground that you can paint onto any solid backing.

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