Lilian Broca’s Powerful Narration of Mary Magdalene’s Life in the New Art Exhibition at Vancouver’s Italian Centre

by Anna Foschi Ciampolini

Born in Bucharest, artist and art educator Lilian Broca came to Canada in 1962 as a child. Her family settled in Montreal, and she started painting and drawing at an early age. She moved to Vancouver in the early 1970 and taught at Douglas College (now called Kwantleen Polytechnic University,) and is a guest lecturer at U.B.C. and other universities. Broca soon became an influential presence in the Canadian arts scene. His work was the subject of an award-winning documentary film. The Vancouver Art Gallery and other prominent galleries purchased and displayed her works. Broca has been featured in the Italian Cultural Centre’s Museum exhibitions, the most recent is her series dedicated to Mary Magdalene Resurrected, which runs at the Centre from March 31 to August 15, 2022, and is part of Il Centro’s Save Venice Project.

The seven large panels depict the significance and power of Mary Magdalene’s presence in the life of Christ, in open contrast with the traditional, male-centred narrative that relegated Mary to a secondary and controversial role. Dr. Angela Clarke, the Centre’s Art Gallery and Museum Curator writes: “Whereas the Virgin Mary is depicted as a pristine figure who brought forth her son through the so-called Immaculate Conception, Mary Magdalene is suspiciously positioned as her dramatic foil. While she may bear the same name, her story is characterised by the archetypal trope of the fallen woman in need of redemption with only Jesus acting as the catalyst for her repentance, absolution, and abandonment of a wayward life. The newest mosaic series created by master artist Lilian Broca explores the figure of Mary Magdalene and the murky stories which have painted her as a woman in desperate need of salvation. Broca created this mosaic series as an exploration into this soiled Mary in order to unearth the real woman obscured by unfounded false assessments and dogma.”

Broca’s more recent works explore complex social issues and women’s issues. Mary Magdalene Resurrected is a courageous reading of the New Testament character. Broca’s representation of the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene is powerful and unconventional. Her characters radiate with the splendour of youth, and the connection between them is palpable and tender. There is an aura of sacred sensuality in the way they interact, close to each other yet focused on a transcendental vision.

. The 6 to 7 feet high panels where Mary’s story unfolds, constructed in Venetian glass, show episodes in the life of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ by the titles: The Sacred Union, The Washing of the Feet, Mary Magdalene Witnesses the Cross, Noli Me Tangere, and Defiled and Defamed. Awaiting Emmanuel shows Mary Magdalene on a celestial throne. Each panel bears an inscription in an ancient language, such as Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic. Broca uses a variety of materials, including Venetian smalti, gold smalti millefiori on aluminum honeycomb panels. Fabrication was shared with Adeline Benhammouda. Seven smaller replicas in graphite-coloured pencil, gold marker, and watercolour are displayed on the Centre’s walls. A Mary Magdalene costume by Monica Serbanescu complements the exhibition.



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