Emblems of a Sacred Bird

Guillermo  Aldana E. photograph in National Geographic, altered and painted by Mary MacGowan

Guillermo Aldana E. photographer, National Geographic, altered and painted by Mary MacGowan


This is one of my favorite Nat’l Geo paintings so far. Water, Citrsolv, grapeseed oil, Lysol spray, painting, swishing, waiting, reinventing. This end result feels magical to me.

“A painted prayer blooms on the cheeks of a Huichol woman who uses lipstick to form a background for flower petals, symbols of fertility. Emblems of a sacred bird march across her headdress.”

To Bring String and Sing

Two Birds, 1960 National Geographic photograph altered and painted by Mary MacGowan

A Warm Nest For Lovers, 1960 National Geographic photograph altered and painted by Mary MacGowan

I’m a sky blue sweater, damp, laid out flat on a wooden table. My arms stretch open to rest on chairs, air-drying, curling up at the wrist. Tomorrow I will wear myself, hands cupped: a warm nest for lovers and sparrows to bring string and sing.

Running the Wing

Woman Running With Plane, National Geographic photo altered and painted by Mary MacGowan

Running the Wing, National Geographic photo altered and painted by Mary MacGowan

“Running the wing,” Marina Beebe steadies the sailplane of her husband Bruce as he is towed aloft. She then chased him with a car and retrieving trailer 400 miles from Reno across the Nevada desert and into Idaho.