Gronk, 1991

St. Rose of Lima
acrylic on canvas
289.6 x 330.2 cm
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Gift of Nestle USA, Inc.
© 1991 Gronk

Gronk's subjects are derived from a combination of Catholicism, Latino folklore, existential literature, and Hollywood movies. The female figure in a long gown whom he calls La Tormenta appears in many of his paintings. According to the artist, her significance changes with the context, although Ingrid Bergman in the film Notorious was the original inspiration for the image. In the painting here, La Tormenta assumes a specific religious identity: St. Rose of Lima.

Considered the first Latin American saint, St. Rose was a beautiful and devout woman of European and Native American heritage. Sources say she lived an ascetic existence, supporting herself modestly as a milliner. In order not to be distracted by the attention of admirers, she scarred her face with rose thorns and never voluntarily showed her face in public again. Beyond Gronk's fascination with the legend itself, St. Rose serves him in a metaphorical way. As a symbol of devotion to a calling and resistance to temptation, she offers the artist an inspiring example on which to pattern his own existence.