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Local Artist creates Our Lady of Guadalupe triptych


It was a tremendous honor to have been chosen by Monsignor Gregory A. Gier for this most precious commission, honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe. My devotion to Our Blessed Mother is one that has only grown throughout the years. I have throughout my artistic career promoted Our Lady in my art and through my faith. I have brought attention to this most significant apparition in the New World.

After many meetings and discussions, I suggested a three panel folding wood screen called a triptych. I wanted to create a piece of art that would further complement our beautifully painted Gothic cathedral. I wanted the triptych to appear as if it has always been there. I studied the color palette in the stained glass windows and newly painted Stations of the Cross.

OLOG triptychI have always enjoyed a challenge and thus I went to the extreme of using early Renaissance techniques and materials. I used poplar wood, one widely used by artist at the time. The wood has to be prepared by many coats of gesso/plaster. I opted to use the marble dust and gypsum from Carrera, Italy, the same mine where Michelangelo got his marble. As a binder I used Italian rabbit skin glue. The mixture is prepared and painted onto the wood allowing each coat to dry and then sanded before applying yet another coat. I did over thirty coats on the poplar wood, to give it an almost mirror finish for the actual painting.

I have always enjoyed painting with natural pigments, both organic and inorganic. Crushing the substance to a fine powder then using an oil base to make my own paints. A fellow artist friend gave me a lead to a new substance called Mayan Blue. It is a blue dye that has been used by indigenous people in central Mexico for over two thousand years. The blue dye is precipitated into soil, the same soil from the Tepeyac countryside, and the place of Our Lady’s apparition. I did panic when the blue would not dry – days and days after application. But its results turned out to be magnificent. Our Lady’s manta (veil) shows the satin like quality of her radiance.

The Aztecs were polytheistic and used human sacrifices for their many gods. In one year, it was common to sacrifice 20,000 men, women, and children. In fact one of every five children would end up being sacrificed. It was in 1487 that the most horrific of rituals ended up with over 80,000 men sacrificed over a four day, four night event as they constantly beat giant drums covered in snakeskin. They were sacrificed to their snake god with blood streaming down like a river from atop one of their pyramids.

The Virgin Mary crushed the serpent as written in the Bible in the Book of Genesis, “a woman shall crush your head.” Twenty years after her apparition over 20 million Aztecs were converted to Catholicism.

Saint Juan Diego

OLOG Saint Juan Diego smallThe panel on the left depicts Juan Diego, a humble owner of a small plot of land where he grew the cactus that was beaten into fibers and used to weave cloth to be used by the lower class. Cotton garments and sandals were used only by society’s elite. Walking barefooted through the hills, he would leave at early dawn, walking over ten miles in time for Mass, where afterwards he would remain for religious classes to improve his faith. He converted and was baptized at age 50. Juan Diego was his Christian name. His wife Maria Lucia passed away shortly after her conversion and baptism. Seven years later was the first miracle apparition.

I tried to capture the surprise, the astonishment, the gratitude of seeing such a beautiful apparition. He documented his thoughts, thinking he had died and had crossed into Heaven. The surroundings were gleaming in radiant colors, the cactus sparkling. She called him by name and made her request.



Our Lady

The middle panel depicts our glorious Lady on the hillside. Her benevolent radiance creates an unending aurora of love. She wears a gown depicting some of the Aztec symbols of motherhood along with the black maternity belt used at the time. The Aztec priests would also sacrifice pregnant women. Her satin manta/veil shows the exact placement of the stars in our constellation at the time of her appearance.

OLOG Bishop ZamarragaBishop Zamarraga

The third panel shows the bewilderment of the skeptic Bishop Zamarraga when presented with the celestial sign he requested. Having heard Juan Diego’s narrative, the bishop had dismissed him twice, and finally asking for a sign to substantiate his story. To his surprise, in the dead of winter he brought him his tilma/cloak filled with the radiant, fragrant roses of his native Castile, Spain. His proof was  acknowledged. I was able to research 16th Century Advent vestments and monstrance to further accurately document the scenario.

He gave his uncle his meager belongings and moved into a small room at the Bishop’s palace to document his sightings and her words for all of us to believe. It was over 450 years after her appearance that Pope John Paul ll canonized Juan Diego on July 31, 2002.

l delivered the triptych to Holy Family Cathedral on December 22, 2014 with her most admired declaration in my heart, “am I not here, who am your Mother?” And thus l have created this triptych with my God given talent for the faithful and devoted in prayer to Our Lady, Virgin Holy Queen, Holy Mary, mother of our Lord, Our Mother and protectress of all unborn children, patroness of the Americas! Our Lady of Guadalupe.

With the humility of Juan Diego, with the sorrowful grateful tears of Bishop Zamarraga, and with nurtured faith by my grandparents, Nabor & Maria Chavez, I humbly present to you this work of art for the glory and honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Holy Mother, ever Virgin Mary.

Viva! Our Lady of Guadalupe! Viva!

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One Response to "Local Artist creates Our Lady of Guadalupe triptych"

  1. Bill Baldwin says:

    Sorry, I must point out that the maya/aztec blue of the mantle should be a tint. This blue is way too dark. Otherwise, I appreciate your work here.

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