Mary at the river’s edge

Stephen Quinlan

I was honoured to have had my latest Mary-themed paintings included in Arteast’s annual Mosaic exhibition at the Shenkman Centre’s Trinity Gallery this past winter. As with all my art, the paintings are inspired by the northward bend in of the Rideau as it flows through Dutchie’s Hole and Strathcona Park before joining its waters with the Ottawa. At sunrise and moonrise moments, when an illuminated pathway is cast over its moving waters, our Rideau takes on a cosmic dimension that makes both a metaphor of existence and apprehension of transcendence. It is these crepuscular moments that connect all rivers throughout time and space that my paintings seek to express. Here, the Rideau takes into itself the Jordan of ancient times.

Entitled An Annunciation and An Assumption, the paintings celebrate the first and final Marian feasts of the Catholic liturgical calendar. They relate to the occasions of Mary’s participation in the cosmic event of the Incarnation and, in the second, to her bodily assumption into Heaven. The first painting expresses the moment, traditionally determined to be at the vernal equinox, when she is chosen to take on the role of Theotekos, or Mother of God. The second painting imagines her heavenly ascent, the completion of which sees her reign as Queen of the World.

An Annunciation (pictured at left)

We see a young woman holding a basket containing a three stemmed lily; on the edge of the basket a white dove has alighted. A gust of wind blows, causing tree blossoms to shower on her. Behind the tree, the river bends and on the opposite bank a beehive cavern stands.


















An Assumption (pictured at right)

Her earthly mission completed, she returns to the river where an Egyptian barque is moored on the opposite shore from the cavern. In her hand is a palm leaf signalling her victory as she points with a welcoming gesture to the celestial display occurring behind her. A lunisolar conjunction sits over the horizon. It emits a luminous flow that connects with the river and is to be the pathway for her triumphal, heavenly ascent.


A longtime resident of Sandy Hill, Stephen Quinlan exhibits at Art in the Park returning to Strathcona Park in August.