By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published October 14, 2021
ATLANTA—With October set aside for believers as the month of the Holy Rosary, a young artist poured her faith and devotion to St. Mary into her work.
An oversized rosary is the centerpiece of Elisa Jiménez’s extended project, dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Her work featured a dozen canvases with Marian influences in her life and tied to her Cuban heritage.
“I want people to see how many places the Mother of God can be there for us in our lives as much as God,” said Jiménez. “She was always there for Jesus, so she also is going to be there for us.”
The glistening rosary is all ceramic, molded and painted by Jiménez. Made of stoneware clay, the seven-inch beads are covered in white slip with a blue underglaze and topped with a clear glaze for the polish.
It is part of a Hispanic Heritage Month display at the Archdiocese of Atlanta Chancery, surrounded by panels examining Marian devotions in Central and South America. In addition, several parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta have exhibited the rosary.
The rosary is a popular tradition hundreds of years old, with believers reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary prayers. According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, “The repetition in the rosary is meant to lead one into restful and contemplative prayer related to each mystery. The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells.”
The 22-year-old artist is the daughter of a software engineer father and a mother who stayed home to raise four children. Growing up in Roswell, the family worshipped at St. Peter Chanel Church. Jimenez attended Catholic school until graduating in 2017 from Blessed Trinity High School. Her expansive project was part of her senior year at Berry College, Rome, where she earned a double major in education and art. She moved to Miami in August to teach at a Catholic school.
The artist’s family influence
Painting with her great aunt is Jiménez’s earliest memory of art. She was around first grade age and dabbling with oil paints. On reflection, Jiménez credited her aunt for teaching her to look with the eyes of an artist. One of her early paintings is a rose in a glass vase. To the youngster, her aunt’s words at the time seemed mysterious. The advice was not to struggle to replicate the clear vase but paint the colors of the vase.
“She taught me to see. Now I see the colors when I paint,” said Jiménez.
In high school, she dabbled in cartoons. A daily breakfast routine was sharing the newspaper’s cartoons with her dad. When she sketched a character, her father dubbed it the curly girl Rhoda. Jiménez started a daily comic of her own known as “Rhoda the Random Girl.”
“I liked Rhoda as a character. My mother used to say she was me. Someday I would model her on what was going on in my life, but at the same time I would try to give her her own personality,” said Jiménez. “I find her at times to be a really endearing character.”
At Berry College, she nourished her faith by participating in the Catholic Student Association, serving as an altar server at Mass. On campus, a professor impressed on her that senior capstone work was the chance an artist gets to share their vision with the world. Her first venture felt flat, not reaching that high bar.
Over Christmas break, she had a breakthrough. She had a habit of praying the rosary when the Marian theme came to her.
“It was definitely not my idea. It was definitely God’s and Mary’s plan,” she said.
Halfway through her last year, she felt a time crunch to pull it together.
Jiménez projected silkscreen images of the Blessed Mother on painted canvas. On top of the images, she painted moments of her life. One called Guardian Angel, with the image of Mary and the painted words of the traditional prayer to the Guardian Angel in the background. There’s an image of her sleeping. For her, it recalls the custom to say the prayer at night with her grandparents.
Another piece depicts Mary, with her arms open in welcome as Our Lady of Grace, amid a green field of bright flowers and ladybugs. It’s a nod both to Jiménez’s childhood nickname “ladybug” and the Middle Ages legend of the bug’s name—in which plant-destroying pests were eradicated by the bugs after villagers prayed to Our Lady. The crops were saved, and the bugs became known as ladybugs.
Acknowledging her father’s Cuban heritage, Jiménez incorporated the image of “The Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre” in some canvases. Also known as Our Lady of Charity, she is the patron of the island.
Jiménez said her senior project with the rosary comes from her heart, and she draws from her life’s experience. At moments of her life God seems hidden, but with the passage of time, Jiménez realized God’s hand guided her, from childhood and the sacraments to the present.
At the same time, she’s come to look at Our Lady as “somebody that can be in our lives. She’s not just an amorphous person.”
To learn more about “Growth and Faith,” Elisa Jiménez paintings that depict the influence of the Virgin Mary in her life, go to elisa-studio.square.site/gallery.