The Divine Journey: A Painter's Mission

Vermont Artist Janet McKenzie is challenging the traditional iconography of sacred art in her paintings depicting images of Jesus, Mary and other Christian figures. By using the forms of women and people of color she is expanding the diversity of culture, race and gender into the iconography of religious art historically dominated by images of males and light skin.

In 2016, McKenzie was commissioned by Harvard Memorial Church to create a painting for the renovated student and common space on the ground level of the historic church. The painting, “The Divine Journey – The Companions of Love and Hope” is the result of more than six months of work in her small studio in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

The documentary, shot over the course of three months, focuses on McKenzie’s monastic life in rural Vermont and her creative mission to expand the palette of diversity in sacred art. The film also looks at some of the struggles and controversy she has encountered in her artistic pursuit as well as the creation of her latest work dedicated in April.

Vermont Artist Janet McKenzie with her new painting "The Divine Journey – Companions of Love and Hope"

Vermont Artist Janet McKenzie with her painting "The Divine Journey – Companions of Love and Hope" Photo by Jeffrey Blackwell/Memorial Church Communications.

“I am incredibility honored to have this painting at Harvard,” said McKenzie. “It is very meaningful on many levels to have the support, the appreciation and recognition of this work, but also my work in particular. It not only touches my heart but it really inspires me on for the future. I couldn’t really ask for a more beautiful placement.”