If you were asked to guess who lived in my apartment, based solely on the knick-knacks and baubles arranged on my shelves, you’d be forgiven if your answer was an elderly Polish woman of peasant origins.
I’m not sure how or why it started, but I seem to collect Virgin Mary icons the way some people collect ceramic roosters or wine corks or creepy dolls. This was not intentional. I didn’t sit up one morning, say, “Virgin Mary – that’s totally my thing,” and make haste to the flea market. I would not even call myself religious. (Neither would my parents. Kind of a sore subject.)
I guess there’s a comfort in it, a familiarity. Because when you grow up in a Polish family, there are three things certain to be hanging on the walls of your home: 1) a photo of Pope John Paul II 2) a wall calendar from a local Polish meat market and 3) an image of the Virgin Mary. I don’t make up the rules, I just follow ‘em.
Over the years, one Virgin Mary from Mexico led to another from my dad’s village in Poland. Others followed, I can’t even recall from where. I pluck them up now like it’s my job. Emotional resonance is no longer a factor, exotic location not a prerequisite. Case in point: My latest acquisitions, a pair of decoupaged Mary’s, came from a sidewalk vendor in SoHo. Next to us, a guy peddled knock-off Prada bags, a dirty sheet at the ready to conceal his wares from passing cops. So, it’s fair to say I was moved to procure them more by retail impulse than God.
I’m fully aware I’m on the road to becoming the Candy Spelling of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Readers, I give you a peek at my budding collection: