Palimpsest: The Parable of Mary Ann
Thomas Brodhead – American, born 1968 – Palimpsest: The Parable of Mary Ann –2013 – acrylic on canvas – 30" x 48" x 0.75" (76.2cm x 121.92cm x 1.91cm)
Using the age-proven method of palimpsest, the artist here applies a new, primary painting on top of a previous, secondary painting. The underlying painting depicts a third-world man with elephantiasis of the scrotum administering chemotherapy to a cancerous dachshund, its first-world owner observing the plight of her pet with pain, empathy, and perhaps even horror in her eyes; therein lies a commentary on the disparity in medical care between our interconnected societies in the 21st century. The overlying painting depicts the parable of Mary Ann, to wit:
Mary Ann was a sweet girl who did everything her parents asked her to do and was obedient in every way. She sublimated all of her actual desires to fulfill the desires of her parents, and this created tremendous internal pressures within her. One day she reached a breaking point, and so she decided to vent her frustrations by committing an act of theft. Not a huge theft, but a tiny little theft, one on the order of magnitude of a white lie: She decided to steal a penny from her mother’s coin purse.
“A penny is essentially valueless,” thought Mary Ann, “there’s no way my mother could possibly miss it, and it really should have no significant impact on our home economics.”
So, Mary Ann sneaked into her mother’s room, located her mother’s coin purse, and purloined a single penny from it. It wasn’t even a shiny penny, just a dirty penny that easily could be missed on a sidewalk on any street in the world. Mary Ann felt good that in the midst of all of the pressure from her parents to conform to their conception of who she should be, she had performed an act of self-volition that was in harmony only with herself and her own ideas; she smiled gratefully that the universe had afforded her the opportunity.
But the universe is cruel and treacherous, and Mary Ann would have to learn this aspect of it the hard way.
As Mary Ann lay down in bed to fall asleep that night, a horrific demon suddenly appeared in the air above her body and promptly sat on her torso, pinning her in place. Mary barely had time to scream for help when the demon reached into her chest and ripped all of her internal organs out of her body, much as a magician pulls an unending stream of multicolored handkerchiefs out of a coat pocket. The demon then arranged her viscera in the form of an enormous lotus flower (bloody and dripping and red) on the ceiling above her bed and then promptly vanished.
As life passed out of Mary Ann’s body and her soul began to descend into hell, her last conscious thought was, “Oh no! I’ll never live to grace the cover of a celebrity magazine.”