Early in 2022 I was able to take my final vows as a lay Dominican. In celebration of this occasion and to commemorate the 800th anniversary (celebrated in 2018) of the formation of the order, I decided to create a Dominican inspired work of embroidery.
I am currently in a Master of Sacred Art programme through Pontifex University. I wanted to apply some of the knowledge I have acquired about sacred images to my piece to the best of my abilities and learning. I wouldn’t necessarily classify the piece as being sacred in a rigorous way, but rather, it is a piece which contains elements that are present in sacred art. A fellow student and dear friend, Kathryn Laffery, encouraged me to enter the piece in the annual sacred art contest sponsored by the Catholic Art Institute.
I started off with a plain linen fabric and the wonderful dream of Joan of Aza, St. Dominic’s mother. She dreamt her son was born as a little dog carrying a great torch to illuminate a darkened world. I am a great lover of dreams and of dogs, so it was only natural for me to be drawn to such imagery. I wanted this piece to convey a dream like quality to it, as well as the energy and strength of a large protective dog. Movement is also something that I really wanted to emphasise in both the dog and the flame. I found tremendous inspiration from the images in the Hortus Deliciarum. The leap of Jonah as he dances on the lip of a great smiling fish was irresistible. If you turn my Dominican dog on his side, perhaps you can see a hint of that fantastic fish.
The active nature of the piece is supposed to prompt the viewer to contemplate our pilgrim journey through life. We are moving towards a greater reality and the Flames of Truth light our way.
It was my hope that people would see it as a contemplative piece. It certainly was a contemplative experience to make it. There were times when I was so frustrated and tired of dealing with the flames and smoke! It seemed to take forever. Each flame is unique. At first, I was really annoyed with myself for wanting every flame to be different, but now I think it makes sense: Many individual flames coming together to create one giant flame to light up the darkness is an important aspect of the Dominican life.
The Dominican dog is a combination of my two dogs (a golden retriever and a boxer) and an image from an old plate I found from Poland. The fat nose and big eyes are my golden retriever’s, and the body is definitely the boxer’s. It’s been a very encouraging experience for me. I am overwhelmed with the support given by my fellow lay Dominicans, as well as my family and artist friends. I almost didn’t enter it the contest and I was hesitant to share the piece with anyone. I’m glad I did in the end. I didn’t place in the contest (I wasn’t expecting to), but I made the finals, which was a very encouraging surprise. I pray when you look at this piece of art you will see some of the joy, strength and encouragement that is part of the lay Dominican family.