Landscape paintings combined with religious narratives in the form of mythical creatures, saints, and mortals by Chicago artist Mary Porterfield. In these works, saint-like figures draw on their faith and courage to resist overwhelming forces while animals such as lions, hawks, and eagles dominate the skies and appear to threaten. These narratives comes from the artist’s Roman Catholic upbringing as well as drawing from her experience as an occupational therapist in dealing with patients whose odds of recovery are prohibitive.
My work questions what makes an act heroic in the midst of circumstances beyond our control. These circumstances are symbolized through acts of nature, in the form of geysers, storm clouds and volcanoes. When viewed up-close, hundreds of multifigured narratives are seen comprising the larger landscape. Some of the figures include religious paradigms and saints, who completed seemingly heroic acts by giving unconditionally. Other figures reflect the struggle to balance these ideals with the need to nurture oneself. I juxtapose layered allegories in an attempt to ask and resolve: Does it take more courage to be selfless or self-seeking? Is it better to deny futility or accept what cannot be changed? If need is warranted, but not wanted, should it be abandoned? Through the dichotomous nature of the work, my intention is to create a philosophical discussion regarding the struggle to live a compassionate life.+