Raised Episcopalian, we had plenty of ceremony, sit-kneel-stands and real wine at communion. We went to church, crossing ourselves with holy water and attempting to quietly chew stale wafers. Highlights for our bookish, arty personality definitely came by way of finally memorizing the Nicene Creed and, of course, the stained glass and religious art.
It wasn't until we went to a Catholic church with our Poppy that we realized what the world of religious icons had to offer in the purest of them all, the Virgin Mary. The patron saint of Mexico in a special incarnation known as La Virgen de Guadalupe, this woman was a dream come true to our 8-year-old eyes. She was bright and bold, but serene and protective. She was beautiful.
Artist Jose Vargas is a man after our own heart, although with 11 years under his belt as he curates his 12th La Virgen de Guadalupe exhibition, we suspect he made his discovery awhile before we did. Vargas has organized a multimedia art exhibit this year that honors the first "first lady" with the works of more than 40 artists from Texas and Mexico. Participating as well are students from Lida Hooe Elementary and The Art Club at Rosemont Elementary.
We may have strayed from weekly kneels in the confines of church walls, but gazing into the angelic and saintly face of the Virgin never lost its magic. We collect votives emblazoned with her image, Virgin trinkets and night-lights. We're even saving for that fiber-optic Virgin clock in faux-gilded frame. Kitschy or classic, it's our own personal revelation in the face of Mary, no matter which religious persuasions we've dabbled in over the years.
So it's exciting to us that Vargas has also planned an opening-night artists reception that could be deemed a spiritual revelation in itself besides a cultural throw-down. Music by Cantares and a ceremonial performance by Aztec dance group Cuicani in Xochitl kick off the season of virgins with a true artistic (and literal) opportunity to "get religion."