Synopsis > Long Synopsis

A new documentary about artist and teacher, Meinrad Craighead: Praying with Images tells the story of Craighead’s artistic and spiritual pilgrimage which began in her native Arkansas, where her greatest influences were the Catholic Church, the natural environment, and her grandmother who encouraged her to draw and paint. Craighead found herself in Albuquerque in 1960 upon taking a teaching position at the College of St. Joseph straight out of college. Soon she was offered a position teaching in Italy, and then relocated to Montserrat in Spain when she received a Fulbright Scholarship to study Catalan art and architecture. She remained in Europe, living fourteen years as a nun in a monastery in England. When she left the monastery, she knew that she wanted to come back to Albuquerque. Once she returned in 1983 she knew that she would never leave again. She bought a small house near the Rio Grande where she has lived and painted for the last 25 years, with a succession of dogs as her companions.

The documentary includes nearly 100 of Craighead’s paintings, shown in beautiful detail. Viewers will see images that have flowed from her dreams and visions of the Divine Feminine over the last 50 years, experience her moving images and stories of the devastating 2003 bosque fire, and travel with her on a recent pilgrimage to visit her beloved Black Madonna of Montserrat in Spain.

“If I didn’t paint,” Craighead says, “I wouldn’t know where I am in the world.” Her truly original art spans time and distance and tradition to combine imagery from Catholicism, Native American shamanism, and ancient mythology. Add to the mix her own dreams and mystic visions and the result is a unique synthesis of energy, color, and connectedness.

For example, when the bosque fire threaten her home and devastated the woods where she walked every day, she felt a deep spiritual connection with the animals who were injured and dying in the fire. For the next three years, she was compelled to paint what she had experienced. In 2007, her art work was exhibited at the Harwood Art Center. Albuquerque residents who saw the images had an opportunity to revisit that painful time and, possibly, find some healing in the ashes depicted in her charcoal images.

At her home near the Rio Grande, Craighead leads workshops and retreats, introducing women from around the globe to history and ancient images of the Divine Feminine in Africa and Europe. She has also traveled all over the U.S. and to Europe to lecture on the topic. Through this new documentary, more people will be able to meet this extraordinary artist who paints from her own inner landscape and encourages a unique way of seeing one’s self and one’s place in the world.

The documentary was produced by Amy Kellum in conjunction with Minnow Media and the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South.

Meinrad Craighead