Tupelo-raised artist donates shrine to St. James

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO –St. James Catholic church will hold a ceremony at its 10:30 a.m. mass Sunday to bless and dedicate its latest addition, a shrine built and donated by artist Tracey Savery Davis.
The shrine depicts “Dolorosa,” Latin for “Our Lady of Sorrows.” It shows one of the many forms of the Virgin Mary, in the same vein as the recognizable Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Fatima. Each form represents a different sentimental element of Jesus’s mother. Commonly, Mary is depicted in mourning attire, or with a visible heart pierced by seven swords, representing the seven sorrows of Mary.
“Dolorosa represents the anguish Mary felt watching her son die,” Davis said.
Davis felt a Dolorosa would be appropriate because she is the official patroness of Mississippi. She remembers being surprised at learning this, because this formDennis Seid 9/20/12 not sure what this means is so heavily Catholic as opposed to other forms that may be more accessible to other denominations.
In her piece, Mary is dressed to represent the historical Irish background of Catholicism as well as Tupelo’s Catholic setting, which is becoming increasingly Hispanic.
“I had a very set vision for this piece, and I collected materials for it for over two years,” she said.
Davis has constructed shrines that have found homes in museums and collections both corporate and private, but her Dolorosa will be her first piece installed as a functional shrine.
“There is no greater honor than that,” she said.
The project began two years ago when Davis scored a solo exhibit at the Gum Tree Art Museum. St. James’ priest, Rev. Tom Lalor, blessed the exhibit, and Davis brought up the idea of giving something to St. James.
Though Davis lives in Florida, where she commissions pieces for Disney World, she has never forgotten her roots in Tupelo. As a girl, she was very close to the McGrath family, and when she converted to Catholicism, ‘Mac’ McGrath was there to sponsor her.
“I grew up in a house full of boys,” Davis said, “so when I visited their house, they treated me like one of the girls.”
Davis says she is still close friends with the McGraths, and it is in McGrath’s honor that she donateed the shrine.
Despite the shrine’s Catholic implications, Davis hopes everyone will be able to relate to it.
“There is a saint for almost everything. St. Locke, for instance, is the patron saint of dogs because God sent dogs to save him,” Davis said.
“An animal lover would identify with it even if they aren’t Catholic,” she said.
Because the Dolorosa represents suffering, Davis said it may strike a more personal chord with people than other saints.
“It means that in hard times we must endure,” Davis said, “There is a certain grace in just being able to endure.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com