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Growing up in the 1950s in New York City was tough for Elaine Soto. Being Puerto Rican, she encountered racism and prejudice.
She didn’t see a whole lot of positive things being associated with her culture. Art, however, showed her a far different picture.
She was introduced to the Black Madonna when she selected her confirmation name, Monserrate, which came from the Virgin of Montserrat, statue of the Virgin Mary and a miracle working Black Madonna from Puerto Rico.
“I was looking for something positive,” Soto explained. “It was a positive role model for me as a little girl.”
In Puerto Rico, she said, the Black Madonna is believed to answer prayers and perform miracles.
As Soto began studying the Black Madonna, she discovered they not only appear in Puerto Rico but throughout the world including Italy, France, Spain and Mexico.
In addition to studying the Black Madonna, Soto also painted her.
Her work will be exhibited at Mesa Public Library starting Dec. 1 and concluding Dec. 31. There will be a reception at 5 p.m. Dec. 16. Soto will attend and will offer a free screening of the documentary, “Marion Woodman Dancing in the Flames,” which features some of her paintings.
Through this exhibit, Soto said she is hoping to accomplish two things.
“I’m hoping to give you two things. A view of the divine feminine who is black and (I want to) try to give you an understanding of how she is connected to our unconscious and the things we do not allow ourselves to experience.”
In addition to being an artist, Soto is a clinical psychologist at the University of New Mexico.
It was through psychology that she began to do art. Soto explained, “I found it a way to express my own dream images.”
Beginning between 1984 and 1986, she would paint her meditation and dream images, which allowed her to see and understand these images better.
Her work has appeared throughout the world including Sweden and then during the 1995 Women Conference in China.
She also had shows locally at the Harwood Art Center as well as outside the state at the College of New Rochelle, NY, and Pikes Peak Art Center in Colorado. Soto also participated in the artist-in-residence program at the Puerto Rico Workshop in New York. She said she is looking forward to showing her work at the library.
“I am looking forward to letting people know about the Black Madonna and getting people in touch with the divine feminine in themselves and get an understanding that there is divinity in all races and sexes.”
Soto encourages people to come and see the show. “I think it will be enlightening for them,” she said.