Holy Mary, mother of invention: these re-created statuettes turn the Blessed Virgin into an imagination of what women can be, feel, and represent.
"In 2005, my father gave me a statuette he found in a secondhand shop," Soasig Chamaillard, the loving guardian and creator of these multifdimensional Marys, tells Creators. "Part of her foot and her pedestal were broken. I liked this object very much but I didn't want to display it in my house. I found it was too difficult to face her every day. I feared she was reminding me that I would never be a perfect woman."
Chamaillard put the Mary statuette in her studio and says "we observed each other for a year." Eventually, the fear subsided and she decided to reconstruct poor Mary's foot and pedestal. In doing so, something magical happened: "I gave something of myself to her." The artist realized she and Mary could work together, and she immediately reclothed her in something more interesting.
"I understood quickly that this work could last a long time, to achieve its full form and not fall into cliche," Chamaillard says. While you and I might see these Mary transformations as something cute, even kitschy, for the artist it's an examination of womanhood, of spirituality, of customs and habits (pun intended).
The reaction is mostly positive, but now and then she encounters enraged Catholics. Once, a show was canceled under pressure from religious groups. Then, on the other hand, a convent once sold her a lot of statuettes with the full knowledge of what they were for. "It's not a problem of beliefs, but of openness of spirit," Chamaillard says.
Now her studio is full of statuettes, patiently awaiting their transformations. She often sculpts in plaster, or models with resin directly onto individual Marys. "I admit that sometimes I traumatize toys, using them to make molds so I can recreate them in plaster or resin," she says.
To this day, Chamaillard collaborates creatively with her subjects, allowing divine inspiration to flow through her. Kissing, for example, was created in a moment of serendipitous grace.
"In two different secondhand shops, the same day, I found two identical busts of the Virgin Mary. It was unbelievable to find these two perfectly identical models. I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but I bought them. I asked myself, 'Why not?' Maybe I could work on their twinliness?" she says. "I placed them on my desk. I observed them. I played with them, and then moved them aside. And suddenly, they were kissing! The slight inclination of the head made them kiss each other perfectly. I found that incredible! I told myself that this was absolutely the kind of message of love and tolerance that I wanted to share with my work."
"I admire the artists who dedicate their lives to developing an idea. They are often considered to be a little nutty," Chamaillard says. "I love those nut jobs. They often leave behind an oeuvre unbelievably rich in meaning, because this work took a lifetime of reflection."