Janet McKenzie’s work has surfaced in a number of places, leading me to share some links to her work.
A Storm Stirring in Two Women's Hearts
Janet McKenzie’s The Visitation haunted me for days. There was simply lurking in it behind the obvious, more, I thought, than the common awareness of the binding female power of pregnancy.
The fact that women share a common life-giving experience in the very chemistry of their bodies—whether they themselves ever experience pregnancy or not — is commonplace. The very word “woman” rings of “wombness” for many. But the haunting look on the faces of The Visitation says more. Much more.
The faces of Mary and Elizabeth, dark and somber, thoughtful and aware, in McKenzie’s Visitation say something far beyond either the exultation of pregnancy or the creative power of it. This is not a picture about the delirium of motherhood. There is a storm stirring in the hearts of these women — deep and different than most at such a moment as this, something epochal and eruptive. The facts of this pregnancy are clearly different than the simple, natural dimensions of it.
This pregnancy, The Visitation implies, says that these two particular pregnancies are changing life in ways no pregnancy before them ever implied. These women, the picture is clear, are bound together in ways far beyond the physical. This pregnancy says that both the older woman — for whom pregnancy means a need for more vigorous energy than her years would commonly allow — and the younger woman — for whom a first pregnancy means new stature in the human community — are bound by something far more impacting than gestation.
The picture captures a moment in time — full of awareness, heavy with universal meaning. These two women know that what they are about to go through is not really two separate moments of life at all. The very act of pregnancy binds them together, yes, but it binds them to all of life differently, as well. It has not only changed them but it is about to change the history of the world. It is of them, of course, and it is far outside and beyond them at the same time.
This is life beyond their own small lives that they are facing now. This is life layers above the physical, oceans below the conscious.
–from The Art of Janet McKenzie: Empowering Holiness, “The Visitation” by Joan Chittister (Orbis 2009). Click here to order.