"Pieta" by Martin Stensaas


Acrylic on Canvas

37″ x 44″


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This painting developed as a surprise… It began as many others do: open-ended freestyle underpainting with soft color areas. There was no definite structure or plan to it.

Oddly enough, I awoke one morning (the day the Pope resigned) having noticed that much of the composition was very much like Michelangelo’s famous Pieta sculpture. I looked it up and found that the composition was quite close, so I decided to go with that theme. I was surprised to be doing a Mary/Jesus theme… but it was also a continuation of the mystical themes of other recent paintings I have done.

In this painting, the classical theme’s gravity and pathos is giving way to a hypercharged atmosphere in which the figures become both more archetypally mask-like, and more angelic. The theme I explored has more to do with the constancy of death, sacrifice, and resurrection in the natural world. The lush jungle ravine is receiving the cleaned body of Christ. His feet dangle and dissolve in the cool water while the life force dissipates from the translucent supernatural corpse. Mary here embodies the supportive primal ground, the nature field which hosts this endless cycle… displaying both tenderness and resignation. She is depicted here as Our Lady of the Forest, cloaked in floral red, offering up the fruit of life for its continuation.