The work responds to the history of St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough, and the founder Miss Mary Craven (1814 – 1889), a respected and substantial citizen of the South Cliff, who generously provided most of the money to build the church.
Using a 19th century printing process called cyanotype, I have made use of three-dimensional objects and digital negatives to produce a textile based sculpture inspired by the era. The hand-printed dress is layered with a design that is connected to the medievalism of Pre-Raphaelite art and an unexpected story about Mary. The blue of the dress is specific to the photographic chemicals related to the cyanotype process. The colour blue is symbolic of heaven, and is traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary.
I have been particularly drawn to the interpretation of white lilies revealed in the stained glass windows. They represent new life and are symbolic of both the sacrifice of Christ and of the purity of the Virgin Mary. In Dante Gabriel Rossetti ‘The Annunciation’ on the pulpit, the artist illustrates the Angel Gabriel presenting lilies to the Virgin Mary, as if they are a romantic gift. Miss Craven was clearly devoted to her religion and passionate about St Martin’s as a new place of worship – a romance (of sorts) with the church itself, perhaps!
I am very fond of an interesting tale about Mary that came to light in my research.
“When Miss Craven, a respected and substantial citizen of the South Cliff, who had provided most of the money to build St Martin’s Church, was caught ‘purloining flowers from the grounds’ she was threatened with proceedings if there was any repetition”. (The Book of Scarborough Spaw, by Meredith Whittaker)
Inspired by William Morris, the lower pattern of the dress refers to this story of 1870 – a cliff top walk through oak saplings, ground-creeping ivy, long grasses and wild flowers. The bodice is decorated with a Pre-Raphaelite pun. A solitary house martin digitally captured and silhouetted from a design by Rossetti alludes to St Martin of Tours, Mary’s chosen name-saint for the church after her late father, Robert Martin Craven. The bodice also includes a detail from a painting by Rossetti, ‘Sancta Lilias (Sacred Lily)’.
A few years ago, I discovered that I actually live in the former residence of Mary Craven. I often wonder if the Pre-Raphaelites such as William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, or Dante Gabriel Rossetti visited Mary for afternoon tea. A nice thought!
I decided to construct the artwork at my home instead of the art studio. For me, developing the project in her former abode was central to the project.
The spirit and generosity of Mary Craven is still is clearly evident the moment you set foot in the church, from her name adorning many windows to a particular church pew – marked with the inscription ‘Miss Mary Craven’s Seat’.
Saturday 14th February 10am – 4pm
St Martins Church, Albion Rd, Scarborough YO11 2QJ Map
Finally, I would like to thank two wonderful photographers who have produced all marketing images, David Chalmers and Tony Bartholomew. Also, Mike Bortoft with research assistance at St Martin’s Church.