Madonna of the Wood
44" X 52"
(c) 1981 David Lang
All Rights Reserved
This painting came to me several years before I had taught myself to paint the human figure. So I put it in my growing list of paintings I hoped to do someday.
Several years later I heard a ballad called the Cherry Tree Carol. The lyrics are about Joseph and Mary traveling through a cherry tree orchard. Mary is hungry and asks Joseph for some cherries. He, apparently, is quite upset that she is pregnant with someone else's kid and he says to her (in paraphrase, since I do not have the lyrics handy) -- to ask the one who made her pregnant to pick her some cherries --(sort of sounds like he was doubting her "God made me pregnant" explanation, doesn't it.)
At this point in the song the unborn baby Jesus speaks up and tells the cherry trees to bow down to his mother and give her some fruit. This they do. (No word from Joseph at this point!)
Mary then asks her son what she can expect from him and his life. He says, in the song, that he "shall be as dead as the stones in the wall."
For some reason I misheard the lyrics to say "I shall be as dead as any wood". (This is why, in the painting, the tree matures and is cut down in its prime.)
One day as I was listening to this song I suddenly realized that this painting was related to the Cherry Tree Carol -- even though I had not heard the song until years after my original vision. And I still couldn't paint the human figure so back to the "paint someday" list it went, but higher up this time.
A year or so later I am drifting to sleep next to my first wife. As I am lying there, eyes closed, I see two luminous beings of light descend and approach me. They ask me if I will take care of their son. I think about this because, while this conversation is being a mind blowing experience, we were not planning on having children.
I tell them that it is OK with me as long as it is OK with my then wife AND I tell them that I am fine with a God's son, I just do not want a Christ -- i.e. I do not want the sacrificial child.
They assure me that this will be so. Right then my son's mother to be, who is completely asleep, blurts out, "Uh uh, no, no no!". I jump at her sudden and out loud vocalization. I am still in conversation with the luminous beings and say, "Well there you have it. You have to convince her first and then it is OK with me."
And I did not tell her about this experience until months later when:
One day in July of 1979 I was suddenly possessed with the NEED to paint this painting. I stopped all my other paintings (which I never did) and started this painting. Finally, I had the skills to paint the human form.
We had to borrow a baby from a stranger to pose for photos since we didn't have a baby, weren't planning on having one and didn't have any friends who had one.
Two months later we find out that we were pregnant. I figured that this was a good time to tell her about the luminous beings.
My son was born on March 25, 1980. Which curiously enough would be the date of the Annunciation -- the date that the Angel told Mary that God had made her pregnant -- assuming December 25 was Christ's birthday, which it is not. However, we are working with symbolic language here.
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My paintings usually take 6 - 12 months to complete.
Artifacts of a Conversation