Erin Currier

Preparatory Shipibo Madonna (After Tiepolo)

Mixed media on paper, Image: 17"h x 9"w, framed: 23"h x 13.5"w, Item No. 16704,

“Shipibo Madonna Immaculada (after Tiepolo)” draws its inspiration from Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s “The Immaculate Conception”. Belief in the Immaculate Conception holds that God created the Madonna before Time and sine macula—without the stain of original sin—a belief that has been debated for centuries within the Church.  I was compelled by the iconic strength and the victorious majesty with which Tiepolo embued upon his subject.  I chose to portray a young Shipibo woman as a symbolic epitome of unapologetic and celestial feminine grace, sensuality, and  strength: a Defender of the Sacred—positing a dignified and viable future rooted in the Indigenous and in the Feminine.

Last year, I journeyed into the Upper Amazonian jungle, where I stayed in an Indigenous Shipibo village.  The Shipibo have been practicing their advanced spiritual and cultural traditions for thousands of years: a rich cosmology expressed in ceremony, ritual, and music, as well as in textiles, beadwork, painting, and pottery; and rooted in Ayahuasca Shamanism. Ayahuasca is an entheogenic medicinal brew made from several plants, including the banistereopsis caapi vine, that contains dimethyltryptamine: one of the most powerful hallucinogens on earth.  The medicine induces visions that are then transcribed into songs embroidered on clothing, painted onto huts and wares, and sung.  These songs tell origin stories of ancestors and of the past, are journalistic reports of the present, and prophecies of the future, and can be both autobiographical as well as about the larger community.  In “Shipibo Madonna Immaculada (after Tiepolo)” , the Christian snake with an apple in its mouth: symbolic of sin-- has been replaced by the Anaconda serpent: symbolic of knowledge; the rose with the sacred, medicinal caapi flower; the traditional robe and gown with the long dark tresses and embroidered garments of the Shipibo; and the ethereal cupids, angels, and doves with the vibrant birds of an Amazonian jungle teeming with life.

 -Erin Currier