I never heard of an ex-voto before until a trip we took to Lago Maggiore, Italy back in 2011. Our guide pointed out a wall mural depicting an artist painting, while standing on scaffolding, a portrait of the Madonna. Apparently, at an earlier time, the artist, while painting the portrait, stumbled, and was about to fall from the scaffolding to his death, when suddenly the painting of the Madonna came to life and stretching out her hand caught him before falling. He later produced the mural of this miraculous event, as a sign of his devotion and gratitude for the Grace received – the ex-voto. I thought it was a lovely story and the beautiful mural art stayed in my memory.
Then at the end of 2013, I was diagnosed with stage four cancer. After a year of treatments, I got enough strength back to begin writing and painting again. I wrote the novel The Cross We Bear (finally published on Amazon this year where proceeds will go to cancer research); and I decided to paint my own ex-voto for the Grace I received (through the Grace of Heaven, the cancer never returned and the doctors declared I beat the odds).
My portrait of the Madonna was a vision in my mind’s eye, and those who have seen it ask why She appears so sad. I believe while on earth She was sad. My own feelings at that time were hyper sensitive to the sufferings of others around me. On one occasion I had to go to the hospital emergency department, and while waiting in my wheelchair, a woman with two police officers came in. She was yelling and swearing at everyone around her. I noticed some people making fun of her in low voices and even one of the officers had a smirk on his face. I felt really bad for her and began to quietly cry. The officer who had the smirk noticed my concern, and came over to tell me she was really alright. I responded by saying how could she be alright if she was here, in a hospital emergency department with police escort, and how could other people laugh at this sad situation? Anyway, sadness was my mood at the time and it transferred on to my ex-voto. Caring sometimes causes sadness.