I can’t remember a time when I didn’t draw. Growing up I was surrounded by creative visual expression. My father, Al Eggart, an electrical engineer by profession, was also gifted in drawing and design. My mother, Mary Lee Moreland Eggart, was the director of an extensive arts program at the Baton Rouge Catholic Youth Organization. My maternal uncle, the painter William L. Moreland, led the art department at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette). He visited frequently, always encouraging my love of drawing and helping me learn to see the forms, colors, and patterns of nature.
My interest in nature began early. My grandfather, Fred Moreland, a retired Louisiana State University botany professor, taught me to look at nature in a scientific way: in addition to the beauty of the flower’s appearance is the beauty of how it functions and fits into its ecosystem. One of his retirement hobbies was feeding the birds in his backyard. He built all his own feeders, and together we would observe and study the birds from the big windows in the rear of his house.
Images of those birds began to appear in my work. My interest in them expanded from the scientific to the aesthetic and beyond, to their metaphoric potential. The study of art history offered a means to meld my interest in nature with the precepts of a strong Catholic faith, which I inherited from my mother and my grandmother, Hilda Martinez Moreland. As I grew this symbolic visual language, I developed an affinity with the late-medieval artists whose accurate, carefully observed portrayals of animals and plants also expressed a spiritual message.
The drawings of the Spiritus Sanctus series are a personal, visual meditation on the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Spirit of Love, which binds us together with God and with each other. At our baptism we receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11:2–3). When, through faithful practice, we allow these gifts to become established habits, we will see the Nine Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) budding forth in our lives. Using traditional Christian iconography as a starting point, I chose birds, animals, and plants to symbolically describe and explain the gifts and fruits that the Spirit bestows on us. [End Page 252]
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Mary Lee Eggart works in colored pencil and watercolor, creating designs based on birds and other natural forms. She exhibits at the Baton Rouge Gallery and LeMieux Galleries in New Orleans. Her work has been included in regional and national competitions and is in the collections of the Claiborne Building, Baton Rouge; the New Orleans Hilton Hotel; and the Douglas Manship Collection, Baton Rouge. She is a native and resident of Baton Rouge. She was educated at Louisiana State University, where she received her bachelor and master of fine arts degrees in printmaking. She retired from LSU in 2011, after more than thirty years as a research associate and instructor in...