The Red Thread Trilogy
Emraced By Divine Love
Scrolls in honor of the life of the Blessed Mother Mary
Created by Shiloh Sophia McCloud
Completed March 13, 2009
See the evolution of the paintings, their installation location and the art at the home of my Art Collectors.
Hand sewn canvas and gold leafing of Haloes and Bible pages laid out and applied by Artist’s husband Isaiah McCloud. Golden Acrylic Paint, Sealed with Varnish – paintings should be wiped down with dry cloth every six months.
These paintings show a series sacred events in Mary’s life – from the time the Angel Gabriel appears to announce her glorious destiny, to the moment when she greets her cousin, Elizabeth also with holy child, to the moment when she becomes the mercy seat – literally the throne of God, a mother’s lap.
The age of Mary is not relevant in terms of the paintings themselves, but in terms of spiritual marturity. In each painting, although it is less than a year in her life – she appears to be growing up! This was not a specific intention at the onset of painting – but it did indeed become obvious as the painting progressed that it was about her spiritual transformation INTO the Queen of Heaven as a young woman.
The red thread runs throughout each painting. Legend tells us that Mary was selected to weave the red thread for none other than the veil which separates the temple! One can arrive at all manner of mystery regarding that – and further when the Annunciating Angel comes, Mary is busy at her work, with her hand held spindle.
Then when she goes to see Elizabeth, she too is holding her red thread. The painting shows the red thread as a connective tissue weaving the stories of salvation together. There are stories of red thread throughout the entire world – and one in particular is the one where the harlot Rahab protects the Israelites – and then her own family, when they entered the land of milk and honey – by hanging a scarlet thread out her window. Another rests with the famous twins, a red thread tied to his ankle – to show who was first since he disappeared back into the womb. Kabbalists, Buddhists and many other traditions hold the thread sacred as a sacred mystery. Native American women sew with red thread to show solidarity among women. The Chinese legend says that those who were supposed to meet are invisibly connected since before birth by a red thread.
As the artist, I too have many a red thread story. But most of all, to think of Our Lady working on the temple veil, which protects the Holy of Holies, where the tabernacle dwells and where millions of Christians have their Communion transformed into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the moment of the Annunciation is as symbolic thrill of epic proportions in my soul!
The name of the series, also includes the phrase, Embraced By Divine Love. In each painting there is an embrace occurring. I wanted the paintings to be somewhat iconic and classic, while bringing in my own voice and so I chose the divine embrace, or rather it chose me. I brought the Angel and Mary closer together for that divine moment of overshadowing – his protective wing behind her, his lily, much like a Queen’s wand is upon her heart –and this is the moment when she, in wonder, receives and conceivers her child from the Most High.
Her face shows her astonishment, as well as the grace – Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Mary said YES to God’s plans for her life and in her very beingness calls each of us to also, say YES to God.
In the second painting, The Visitation, the famous embrace of cousin and cousin lives in our hearts as the moment when two women celebrated the life within them, John literally jumping for joy. This is also the time when Mary proclaims herself blessed, and in a prophetic hymn of thanksgiving shares what God has done for her and will do for all creation through the child she bears in her womb. A tree of life – symbolic of the garden of Eden is there to show a restoral of God’s plan for creation through the children of these women of Israel. Both of the line of David, for it is said that the scepter shall not depart from Judah until “Shiloh” comes. The name Shiloh is associated with one of the first prophesies regarding the coming of Christ in Genesis 49:10.
In the final painting, our crowning glory, we behold the Madonna and Child. Mary is in her ecstatic and confident and knowing position, holding her child of Love in a gentle embrace with one hand, while also holding a pomegranite – a fruit of life in other other hand. Aaron’s robe and the robe of the other priests was said to have pomegranites on the hem. I have associated the pomegranite then with healing, as it takes us to the “hem” of Christ’s garment later – when He heal the woman who had been bleeding for many years. His blood – heals our blood, our lives. This painting is ultimately about an ICON of HEALING through showing the love of a mother and child. Woman in her gorgeous position as Mother – and mother of God, no less. Her expression tells us of her future position where she will move from nursing God – to sitting at his right hand, embodying Wisdom. Mary is the one who most became like Christ commanded – she is the icon which represents for us what is also possible for our lives. She ended up seeming kind of well, magnificent and huge – more so than intended. The paintings “had their way” and I listened and wrote their stories in paint. Of course, the bright and morning star shines out at us – reminding us to stay on the path towars our Lord, no matter how dark the night. His light will guide us home and we pray to his Mother, Oh Holy Lady, save us!
One of the oldest written prayers to Mary, from 250 AD on a scrap of papyrus tells us how people sought refuge in her. It is my hope that these paintings, painted from my heart and soul and mind and body – will be a blessing for all who view them. I am most blessed by the opportunity to spend this time in prayerful painting in honor of Our Lady and Her Blessed God Child, the precious Lord of All Creation, Jesus Christ.
The paintings, a combination of Catholic, Orthodox and Shiloheque visionary symbols – are intended to be an offering of a devotion for God.
Thank you, dear family for the gift of this experience.
Shiloh Sophia McCloud, Lent 2009 Healdsburg, California
we take refuge,
Theotokos: do not
overlook our prayers
in the midst of tribulation,
but deliver us
O only pure
only blessed one.