Mary Golden-Musick: Labor of Love
Mary Golden-Musick is a portrait artist working in charcoal, graphite and acrylic. While her commissioned work sometimes features adult subjects, her main focus is children. Kids are notoriously tough subjects. A cursory study of representations of the infant Jesus throughout the medieval and renaissance periods will reveal that many a great artist has struggled with the logistics of representing young infants.
Giotto’s Nativity Christ is pretty good (albeit way too adult intense in the eyes, but I imagine that was deliberate), Phillip Lippi’s Jesus is a BIG baby with HUGE feet, Hugo Van Der Goes’ baby Jesus looks down right sickly, while Massacio’s looks like an adult dwarf straddling Mary’s lap.
My point is that painting kids is hard. The younger the child, the bigger the challenge. It has to do with proportions and facial expressions and an even more sublime level of patience than the kind you need to successfully get two year olds to eat what you put in front of them (I write from a place of intimate experience).
While teaching children art is all well and good, I can’t imagine dedicating myself to the frustrating enterprise of painting them, so I tip my hat to Mary’s skill and perseverance in this. Only a saint would not see this as a form of punishment.
But while Mary’s commission portfolio is varied and fun, what I really want to write about today is a very special group of paintings she calls the “Yoked“ series
Before I tell you about these paintings, it is necessary for me to backtrack and tell you an amazing story about how Mary’s daughter Atlas Elizabeth came into the world:
Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was a big yellow farm house surrounded by crop fields in a tiny little Texan town called Atlas. And in that big yellow farm house lived a young woman named Mary.
She lived in that quaint farm house with her husband – a really nice guy named Kenneth. Mary and Kenneth were the kind of people you wish you heard about more these days: Kind, God loving folks that smile in the face of adversity.
Mary and Kenneth loved each other very much and yearned deeply to express the fullness of that love by having a child, but there was a big hitch: Mary was very sick. She had a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and this, she was told, prevented her from having any children.
To condense a long story (you can read the full narrative on Mary’s website), after a lot of soul searching and prayer, Mary and Kenneth decided to have a child. It would be a difficult journey fraught with risk, but in due time, Mary gave birth to a tiny 2.12 pound baby girl that she and Kenneth decided to name Atlas after their home town.
You could say that Atlas Elizabeth was a miracle baby: the child that Mary thought she would never be able to have, but did.
Mary, being an artist and an art teacher created the “Yoked” series to celebrate the love she has for that child. The energy and love that radiates from these paintings is palpable.
So…what is the “Yoked” series about and what is involved technically? The premise is simple and innovative. It involves a symbiotic creative effort between mother and daughter. Atlas paints a colourful background with the exuberance that characterizes art made by children. Mary then paints the principle subject: Atlas in a moment that reflects something of the vitality and freshness of Atlas’ background.
She describes the series thusly:
The definition of yoked means bonded together, which describes my relationship with Atlas perfectly… the paintings in this series reflect our love for each other through each moment of life, the fun times, the quite times, and even the meltdowns. Each moment is a blessing and I treasure each one. It amazes me how she paints each one different. In each painting, her colors, lines and movements express her mood of the moment. I then choose a photograph that represents the painting she completed. Lastly, I paint the photograph of her in a high contrast black and white color acrylic palette. As a parent these moments we have together are priceless and I will treasure these paintings forever. Most of all, they remind me daily of God’s grace and mercy.”
I’m telling you: as an artist and a parent, this series has me totally hooked. Looking at these paintings makes me want to go fling paint at a canvas with my two boys and hold them tight at the same time. You can tell that Mary has put everything she has into these paintings. Technically they are excellent, and there’s a sensibility to them… a deep and intimate knowledge of the subject that is rooted in her bond with that lively little girl.
I’m usually not a sentimentalist, but what can I say? These paintings really touch my heart and – unless you’re an evil mountain troll with a heart of stone – I think they’ll touch yours too.
You can read the back story and view the whole series here: www.mgmcustomart.com/yoked-series