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January 2018 in the Matz Gallery: Linda Bourke

Linda Bourke is a book illustrator and designer. She is Professor Emeritus from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, recently retired from her position as Chair of the Illustration Department. She is fascinated by religious imagery and has an amazing collection of embroidered Sacred Hearts.

“My childhood was saturated with Catholicism. As a good Catholic kid, I read about the lives of the Saints. But the books we were given were all carefully sanitized, portraying all the saints as pious, kind and Caucasian. The real lives of the saints were so much grittier and diverse.

After Mass, when we visited my grandparents, I begged to look through my grandmother’s Sunday Missel, which was stuffed with holy pictures. Most of them showed people with glowing heads and light streaming from their fingertips, which I thought was very cool. But hidden under the back flap were a few cards that I wasn’t supposed to see, but that made a lasting impression. Among them was Saint Lucy, holding her eyes in a saucer, Saint Dennis, carrying his severed head, and Saint Joan, staring towards heaven as she burned at the stake.

There were no explanations for these images, and just as early worshipers invented stories to explain the frescoes and statues they encountered in cathedrals, I did too. For many years I thought Joan of Arc was married to Noah (Mr. and Mrs. Ark.) I made dioramas using cardboard cut-outs to show Saint Joan surrounded by paper flames, while pairs of animals on their way to the Ark watched the spectacle of her martyrdom…

The work in this show is inspired by this childhood mismatching. The Saints are paired, disregarding true timelines, What if Saint Francis and Saint Theresa, both stigmatists, had been together on Good Friday? What sort of music would Saint Cecelia inspire if she and Saint Gertrude, patron saint of cats, were BFF?”