Mary Doesn’t Just Wear Blue took place at the YorkExplore Library (York, United Kingdom) from 12 July to 26 September 2019.

This exhibition is part of my PhD, an Arts-Based Research project, in which I study new meanings of femininity in contemporary secular images of Mary. In order to do so, I am looking at images from three different points: their creation, the images themselves, and their reception (how they are viewed).

The 11 artists of this exhibition have collaborated with the project by creating artwork reflecting their interpretation of femininity and the Virgin Mary from a non-devotional perspective.

A key part of my research is to hear the viewers' opinions, so I interviewed audience members in a focus group to hear people's views on the artwork on display, on the Virgin Mary, and femininity.

But the exhibition was not only about interviewing for my PhD, it was also about taking academic research out of campus and into the city, to make it tangible and relevant to the people of York. This exhibition gave the public a glimpse into an arts-based research project; it shared part of the actual research process (not the results); it opened a window to an ongoing interdisciplinary research project, and for those who were interested, it offered the opportunity to take part in it by participating in a focus group or by leaving comments and ideas in the exhibition book.

What is the research about?

My PhD project is called Contemporary Secular Images of the Virgin Mary and Understandings of Femininity. I examine how secular images of the Virgin Mary contribute to the construction and understanding of femininity within contemporary Christian societies. I do this in three ways: first, I study how artists create secular images of the Virgin Mary. Secondly, I examine secular images of Mary. Thirdly, I look at how an audience responds to those images. Some questions addressed in the research are:

  • What form can the Virgin Mary take in secular images?
  • How does the Virgin Mary mean today?
  • Can there be a secular Mary?
  • How does Mary relate to femininity nowadays?
  • Can Mary be political?

Who am I?

My name is Aurèlia Puigdomènech, I studied History of Art at the Universitat de Barcelona, and later an MA in Women’s Studies at the Centre for Women’s Studies at the University of York, where I am currently based as a PhD researcher. I am committed to sharing knowledge and collaborative learning, which has informed my PhD methodology, and my teaching pedagogy. I am currently a guest lecture at the Universitat de Barcelona teaching History of the Performing Arts. In fact, theatre history is another of my main research interests, and I have participated in several theatrical events in York, such as the York Mystery Plays and the Feminist Fletcher Festival.