Experimental Artists Pay Homage to Mary Magdelene with Puerto Rican Flair

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Catholic saint and mythical figure Mary Magdalene, misunderstood in the eyes of some, is being honored in a new way, through the efforts of visionary artists Tanya Torres and Raquel Z. Rivera, who have spent several years exploring the transcendence of this personage through writing, the visual arts, and music.

On July 21st, the eve of this saint's official feast day, the artists invited “believers, atheists, near-believers, semi-believers, and all or none of the above,” to Saint Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery, famed sanctuary for experimental art in New York City, to take part in a beautiful promise celebration dedicated to the saint.

In her blog, Cascabel de cobre [es], Rivera explains that in Latin America “the promise celebration is dedicated to the honor of the saints and other ‘divine’ entities,” and its Puerto Rican incarnation is “a cheerful gathering that combines plenty of food with music performed by the community”. And that's exactly what it was.

A mass was held first, interspersed with songs from Rivera's CD “Los 7 Salves de la Magdalena”. Afterward, celebrants removed to another space to play, sing, and dance bombas [a traditional Puerto Rican dance of African roots], and salves and palos [a traditional Dominican dance]. There they were received by Torres, who was eager to talk about her most recent works of art inspired by Mary Magdalene, whom some believe was a companion of Jesus.

In Hoy, artista, a blog written by painter Tanya Torres, you will find more about promise celebration events. Here we share some photos taken by two of the guests.


Raquel Z. Rivera singing to Mary Magdalene. Photo by Norka Pérez


Statue of Mary Magdalene created by Marta I. Rodríguez Olmeda and Barbara Díaz López. Photo by Norka Pérez

Tanya Torres junto a sus obras. Foto por Norka Pérez

Tanya Torres with her artistic creations. Photo by Norka Pérez

Danza silenciosa de Corazón Tierra.  Foto por Josué Guarionex

Silent dance by Corazón Tierra. Photo by Josué Guarionex

Alexandra Vasallo, bailadora de bomba. Foto por Josué Guarionex

Bomba dancer Alexandra Vasallo. Photo by Josué Guarionex

Músicos de izquierda a derecha: Manuela Arciniegas, George Vázquez, Raquel Z. Rivera, María Terrero, Arelis Figueroa y Bryan Vargas.

Musicians, left to right: Manuela Arciniegas, George Vázquez, Raquel Z. Rivera, María Terrero, Arelis Figueroa and Bryan Vargas.

Foto por Norka Pérez

Left to right: “Mary Magdalene and the Miracle of the Egg” and “Mary Magdalene, Our Lady of Sunflowers.” Photo by Norka Pérez

We also include a video posted by vipblessings [es] so that you can experience the music of Raquel Z. Rivera & Ojos de Sofía,  aptly described as “daring” by Felix Jiménez [es] in his recent article for 80 Grados. It was in 2010 at Saint Mark's Church-in-the Bowery that the release party for this CD was held, and the music was presented  there for the first time by Tanya Torres in her visual project [es].
 In a way, however, this celebration of the Magdalene has not quite ended. On August 9th, Tanya Torres will exhibit a “series of paintings that offers a pantheistic perspective of the natural world; throughout this journey of process, Torres discovers connections with traditional sacred symbols.” The series, titled Heaven and Earth, will be presented at the Bright Rain Gallery, Albuquerque, New Mexico, home of her collaborator, Raquel Rivera. All those in attendance will be able to appreciate beauty through color and voice.


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