Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Simcoe, Duncan - VM - Sandra Bowden

Duncan Simcoe: What if Kate was Mary?

What if?

by Sandra Bowden

Duncan Simcoe has posed a most intriguing question for us to ponder. What if Kate was Mary?

At first glance this pastel drawing appears to be the Annunciation? And so it is, but from an intriguing perspective. A dark shaft reaches down from the top of the picture frame directing the viewer to a woman gently holding a cat. In the column a glowing white lily is suspended almost like a light bulb as it casts forth light onto the forehead of the woman seated below. Her head is aglow with a purple radiance from the light above. Her eyes are closed as she meditates on all that is happening around her. Who is she? She is Kate, the wife of the artist, but she is also Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Duncan has cast his wife as Mary, contemplating how he might have responded had God chosen Kate to bring the Savior into the world. He has reflected on Joseph’s amazing act of obedience to God when asked to take Mary as his wife, even though she was ‘found to be with child.’ He wonders if he would have been as willing a participant in God’s plan of salvation if Kate, his wife, had been chosen by God to bring Jesus into the world.

Let’s pause a moment to consider Joseph’s predicament. According to Luke, overwhelmed with the tidings of the Annunciation, Mary leaves in a rush to visit Elizabeth, maybe without even telling Joseph to whom she was espoused that she was going. She returns a few months later obviously pregnant, which causes him distress (Matthew 1:18-20). Because he is a just man of gentleness, his indignation is tempered with mercy, and he considers putting her away quietly. However, an angel intervenes telling him not to worry, that Mary has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and that she will bear a son, who will save humankind from their sins. Joseph accepts the message of the angel, even in the face of the possible slander and gossip that might ensue. This is a man of great character who trusts the Lord in extremely difficult circumstances. 

Advent is a time of preparation, a time of expectant waiting for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. It is also a time of remembering God’s promises to Israel that he would provide them with a Messiah. May we remember the role the Joseph played in the coming of Christ into our world, recalling his amazing trust in very bewildering circumstances.  


Duncan Simcoe: What if Kate was Mary?, 2005, pastel on paper, 30 x 22 cm.

Duncan Simcoe is a professor of art at Southern California Baptist University (Riverside, CA, USA), where he teaches painting and drawing. He received an M.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from Cal State University at Long Beach, CA in 1987. The mixed medium Black Drawings have been his dominant medium for the past 12 years. He currently lives in Riverside, CA.

Sandra Bowden is a painter and printmaker with over 100 solo exhibitions. She is a passionate collector of religious art and curates traveling exhibitions. She studied at Massachusetts College of Art (Boston, MA, USA) and received her BA from the State University of New York (Albany, NY,USA). For more information on Sandra Bowden go to and

ArtWay Visual Meditation December 11, 2016