Mysterious Madonna

Mysteerious Madonna blog size

Written January 28, 2013

Maya Angelou’s poem, Phenomenal Woman, has always been powerful for me. I first heard it at a retreat 20 years ago when a friend read it aloud. I went to the bookstore immediately upon my return home. I wanted my own copy so I could study it and feel the words over and over. Those words have sustained me through the years particularly during times of intense self-discovery. I find that the authentic self is often tough to fully articulate and it was even more difficult for me during those early shifts. When I couldn’t find my own words for my newfound feelings of empowerment, I gratefully allowed those of Phenomenal Woman to speak for me.

During this same time period, I learned that a deep personal shift is often magnified when accompanied by a piece of visual art, thus Mysterious Madonna came to be. I had been painting and exploring other Madonna concepts with my Babushka and Modern Madonna pieces, so began this one in the same way with oil paints. At some point I realized I needed more depth than the paints could provide, so I spent an afternoon with my friend, Diane, marbling the material that eventually became the purple dress, red background, and gold curtain of the piece. And then the beads and jewelry worked their way in – my husband’s grandmother’s brooch at the top, my favorite dragonfly pin separated and hiding amidst the curtain folds, my earrings and necklaces broken apart and redone into a halo and bracelet.

I created my phenomenal-woman self, looking and feeling elegant with jewels and silk and confidence.  I am standing in a doorway and pushing back a curtain to peer inside.  It’s one of many doorways I’ve stood on the threshold of and eventually stepped through. Thus Mysterious Madonna captures those moments in time when I’ve chosen to move into a new space of womanhood and embody the sacred mystery of who I am. And with each step through, I have been surrounded and supported by the words of Phenomenal Woman.

Another notable bit about this work is that I created it knowing that I would hang it in the foyer of my home. This is the first piece that I dared to hang outside of my art room for others to see. At the time, this felt like a bold move on my part and no coincidence that others would see me passing through a doorway every time they did the same. I thought about all of this the entire time I was creating it, envisioning it hung, wondering how would it feel to show a manifestation of me to those entering my home and take in their reaction. It was another moment of stepping over the threshold to prominently declare:

You are entering the home of someone who believes herself to be sacred, mysterious, and PHENOMENAL.

Enter and behold!

Eight years later, Mysterious Madonna hangs in our dining room over the fireplace and is the most seen and talked about piece of artwork in our home.

Mixed-media on canvas with oil paint, marbled silk, rope, beads and upcycled jewelry. Completed 2006. Original not for sale, but images may be purchased on Fine Art America or RedBubble.

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.

Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing

It ought to make you proud.


It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

The palm of my hand,

The need of my care,

‘Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


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