Feeding the Faries

Painter Elizabeth Wrightman with one of her white stags. In Celtic mythology, they are messengers from another world who would appear when one is trangressing a taboo.

Elizabeth Wrightman is a Carmel artist, a Christian minister and a cultural explorer fascinated by the Celtic past of her ancestors. Her acrylic paintings explore the tension between the domain of Christianity and the world of pre-Christian beliefs. And she will be talking about it all on St. Patrick’s Day at the Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula, showing her work from the last decade.

St. Patrick was an English boy who was kidnapped by Irish people, and his religiosity was a way of coping with slavery, Wrightman says. She is an expert in paradoxes, and an excellent guide into Irish culture and its pre-Christian past if you care to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a bit more than a green drink.

“Ireland is the last completely Celtic nation,” explains Wrightman, herself a Scottish Celt. She shares her longtime inspiration: centuries’ worth of Irish poetry, and the oeuvre of the modernist genius James Joyce.

“W.B. Yeats believed that fairies, elves and trolls were the ancient race of people that the Celts displaced, kind of like this country did to native people,” Wrightman says. “He believed some still live among us. They can look like people or be invisible. When I portray them, they are always invisible.”

One of the things she loves about Joyce and Ulysses’ main character, Leopold Bloom, is their immense compassion – not only for humans but also for animals. Wrightman “rarely does a painting without an animal,” she says. (She is accompanied by a dog during an interview.) “There’s another world close to this world that sometimes shows up, and you can see it in their furry face.”

She works in acrylic, fast, with very thick textures and big colors. She paints once a month for two weeks, four hours per day, sticking to this routine.

On Friday, March 17 she will discuss 15 paintings, displayed on PowerPoint slides, since “they don’t live with me anymore,” she says. Another 15 paintings will be viewable in the church where the event takes place. The first of the paintings she will show was inspired by a story of a woman who would always leave milk from her cows for fairies. Then she converted to the Christian tradition and the priest insisted she stop her superstitious practice. As a result, the fairies came and took some of her cows.

HAUNTED IRELAND THROUGH ART WITH ARTIST ELIZABETH WRIGHTMAN 7pm Friday, March 17. Community Church of the Monterey Peninsula, 4590 Carmel Valley Road, Carmel. Free. pray-with.us.

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