When I saw Courtney’s “Sarah” I knew should could do a stunning Heavenly Mother— the power of the universe and expanse of the starry sky just seemed so fitting. So, I called her and pitched the idea of our book A Girls Guide to Heavenly Mother, which is now available for pre-order through D-Street Press. If you would like to hear more about Courtney and her process, read below. Enjoy! ~ McArthur Krishna
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a wife and the mother of two little girls, ages one and three. When I was growing up I always wanted to be a mom and an artist so I feel like I’m living my dream but it took me a little while to get here. I’ve always had a knack for art and got a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of Utah in 2005 but never had plans to pursue art seriously. I moved to Northern Virginia and got an office job but after five years I realized I needed to re-evaluate my life and make sure I was spending my time on the things that mattered most to me. Art was one of those things so I moved back to Utah to study classical realism with Jeff Hein and after five more years I graduated from his academy and got married. It took me a couple years to begin finding my artistic voice and by that time I had a baby so my painting time was (is) very limited. Such is life. I only paint a few hours a week (on a good week) but it feels like a good balance for me right now.
I liked your art because of the power and expansiveness of the Universe… I saw it first in your Sarah painting… but how did you come to this?
Many years ago I heard of someone who was experimenting with oil paint and water on a painting and I thought it sounded interesting (because they repel each other) so I tried it myself. I laid the canvas flat and dripped some green oil paint that was diluted with mineral spirits. Then I sprayed water into the colorful puddles and watched the water bead up and glide around on the canvas, pulling pigments of paint behind it. It was so interesting to watch this process. At one point I put my eyes level with the canvas on the table and watched up close as the tiny molecules of paint slid around and merged or repelled the puddles around them.
I left the painting to dry and when I came back I saw that the colors and water had continued to move and form puddles and make marks independently of me. After it all dried I was left with some really beautiful and interesting marks that I never could have intentionally created.
The final painting reminded me of cells dividing or planets being formed, which gave me the idea to create a series of paintings about the creation. Since then I’ve continued to experiment with this technique and I’ve found that it’s conducive to starry skies so I’ve found ways to include them in my work. I also really enjoy using intentional brush strokes to paint the likeness of a person and love playing with the contrast between a representational portrait and a more abstracted night sky.
What inspired you to create artwork about Heavenly Mother?
I hadn’t considered painting Heavenly Mother until you asked me if I would contribute a painting to The Girls Guide to Heavenly Mother. When we spoke on the phone, I felt an excitement and a prompting to paint Her.
What is the significance and story behind this piece for the The Girls Guide to Heavenly Mother book?
I was excited to paint Heavenly Mother but knew it would be difficult finishing it in time for the book deadline. When you invited me to do the painting I had about four months to complete it and after a month I still hadn’t made any progress on preparations, partly because I had to finish another painting first, but I also needed to find a model and no one had the look I wanted. I was scouring Facebook and thinking of everyone I knew but no one felt right. I didn’t want the stress of a deadline on my little family so my husband and I were talking about the painting and I decided I wasn’t going to do it. You called me again around that time and after I shared my decision you asked me about my concerns and we discussed some options and ideas about how I could make the painting work. As we spoke I felt a growing excitement again and a burning desire to do this painting! In hindsight I know that was the Spirit prompting me to make it happen. I hung up with new motivation and was able to find a model shortly after that time.
As I worked on preparations and began to paint, my husband, Ben, and I both had some spiritual experiences that really brought the Spirit into our home and increased our testimonies of Heavenly Mother. We plan to share a more detailed account of those experiences but to be brief, we have felt the powerful influence of Heavenly Parents guiding us in the creation of this painting. I say “us” because Ben has been on this journey right along with me. He was my biggest advocate and took on a lot of my usual responsibilities as I painted this piece in nine weeks and over 130 hours. That may not sound like a lot to some, but for our little family it was a sacrifice as well as a huge blessing.
How has the process of creating artwork about Heavenly Mother brought you closer to Her? What has it taught you about Her? About yourself?
Before I began this painting I had never considered what Heavenly Mother looked like or how She felt about me. I believed in Her but didn’t really think about Her. Now I do. I have begun to see Her in the scriptures and the temple endowment. I see Her in the trees and the water. I see her in many symbols that I never connected to Her before. She has always been there and I’m sad that I didn’t notice Her sooner but I hope that my painting, your book, and the other representations of Her will help to influence many others to begin noticing Her too.
You can find more of Courtney’s work at courtneyvvmatz.com or on Instagram: @courtney.v.v.matz.
For more about the creation of this painting, check out 6 Spiritual Experiences We Had While Creating This Painting of Heavenly Mother and The Process Behind the Painting “Mother Divine”.
While this imagery is lovely, for me personally, it does not adequately contemplate the prismatic color concept I have of Heavenly Mother. Perhaps, it’s the inherent and deeply, multigenerational power embued by the African American Women in my Brooklyn, NY ward. Or, my own subjective anthropological references to Mother African Origins. Or my deep and humble reverence for a wider historical concept of Eastern, and perhaps more globally universal, Feminine Deity. Maybe it’s the preference for a more literal application of the color spectrum when visualizing children of Heavenly Parents, the entire human family. Or maybe, it’s that frankly, I’m just so utterly disappointed in the skewed, hugely imbalanced, myopic, range of interpretations, physical representations of participants in this beautiful Gospel, where the concepts of “perfect model” and “perfect example” are so paramount, and yet, the concept of Representation, so poorly understood. Recognizing that an all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient, omnipresent Mother in Heaven, transcends gender, race, age, ability into universality, and while I genetically may be of Indo-European heritage, I have never visualized Heavenly Mother as being anything, racially, other than, as beautifully Black.