Sacred Threads Reflection: “Madonna”

By Susan Randolph

As a quilter myself, I was particularly attracted to the Madonna quilt by Karen Ponischil, a full-time fiber artist and quilter in Charlotte, NC. Karen, according to her oral comments, wanted to display a humble Mary and used rich vibrant colors (versus the typical soft muted colors), showing that Mary is still relevant today as she was over 2,000 years ago. As you look at the quilt, notice the rich deep colors of blue and red, with the mosaic of gold, orange, yellow, and red tones in the background.

According to Merriam-Webster, Madonna is defined as an artistic depiction of the Virgin Mary. Madonna, Italian for ma donna meaning ‘my lady,’ is also an icon for both Catholic and Orthodox churches. She is believed to be the greatest of all Christian saints and is known as Mary, the Mother of God; Holy Mother of God; Mary, the Immaculate Conception; Queen of Peace; St Mary the Virgin; and Saint Mary, to name a few. However, the Madonna is also considered our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person.


In art, Mary is traditionally portrayed in blue. Here you see the rich blue mantle covering her head. Blue is a sacred color, one that reminds us of Mary’s faithfulness and role in salvation. Notice that her eyes are closed or downcast. Look at her face. What do you see? Her face tends to be oval and long with rosy cheeks (from faint pink tinge in the fabric). Her lips are reddish. Her demure facial expression has a hint of a smile even though she isn’t really smiling. She looks joyful but not sad, and gives us hope for salvation. The gold, orange, and yellow colors around her head in the background reflect a crown of golden stars. When you look at Mary, you really don’t see the quilting. But if you look closely at the stitching, Karen used a meandering design that covers the fabric randomly without a precise pattern. You can see the series of ‘S’ curves that weave around each other without touching or crossing. The meandering stitch allows the ‘Madonna’ to shine through, and not be overwhelmed with an intricate design, such as used on other quilts on display. White thread is used on her face and clothing; a different color thread, red perhaps, is used in the background for more detail.

When I view the Madonna, it invokes feelings of calm, peace, and comfort in me, a sense of gentleness and grace that I can’t explain. It’s almost as though she is all knowing and understands my needs…our needs, as well as our fears and our hopes. It may also explain why the song Ave Maria, Latin for Hail Mary, means a lot to me as it instills the same feelings of calm, peace, comfort, and protection.


“Hail Mary full of grace.

The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.


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