My Secular Mary series began as a meditation on the disconnection I’ve felt throughout my life with depictions of women deemed to be “holy” or revered by organized religions—specifically in the many varied forms of Christianity. I spent an early nine years submerged and confused in the teachings of Catholicism and never once felt connection, aspiration, or even shared sense of humanity with the women portrayed in religious art— and this very much was true of the imagery and archetypes of adult womanhood that was provided for young girls in my small Midwestern town as a whole throughout my childhood. I’ve grown up to be a woman that is constantly caught in wonder of the beauty, strength, and magnetism of other women. I am awed by the diversity of expressions there are for being a woman in this world. I wanted to shift the gaze of what is to be revered as holy to a reverence and meditation of what it is to be a woman as seen by other women. A veneration of what it is within women that sparks notions of magic, of the divine. My hope is to document this holy spirit and produce these works as a new canon, to sanctify the notion of womanhood as one that broadens our notion of the feminine.
I was trained in Apparel and Fashion Design and worked as a Footwear and Accessories Designer at Madewell in NYC before moving west for the beginning of cannabis legalization in WA. I am a founder at the Creative Director of Raven, an organic Cannabis company in Olympia, WA and one of the authors of “Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis” (Tin House Books, Portland, OR). I currently work as a freelance illustrator, muralist, and spend most all of my free time finding more ways to stay covered in paint. —Nichole Graf