Processing the 20th anniversary of September 11th this weekend has led me to reflect that living abroad at that moment was in fact formative to my politics, my worldview, and my faith. I’m sharing my journal from the moments after September 11th in Orvieto in the hopes that it may be an encouragement to someone in the midst of divisive times.
The complex architectural space of St. Matthew’s Cathedral was particularly challenging. For instance, a variety of materials (mosaics, marble, plaster, gilding, wood) cover Historic St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC. How do I paint each element in a way that contributes to the whole painting? How do I communicate the shimmering array of textures and colors within this beautiful cathedral?
The arch in this painting is called the “Porta Postierla”, which leads out of the clifftop town of Orvieto, Italy and down towards the train station. The road criss-crosses the path of the funicular which is the way most tourists arrive in Orvieto. But when I lived there I loved to use the slower, medieval path.
Since I recently began painting figures on metal leaf , I thought the “Red, White and Blue” exhibit would be a good moment to continue the challenge. In the drawings I leave the backgrond completely blank, allowing the lines to carry all of the expressive power of the figure. In a similar way, in the gold silhouettes I am using the gold for the negative space.
My newest series of Gold Silhouette paintings are meant to be contemporary icons, modern interpretations of traditional icons. Whether architecture or figure, even landscape, my work has always centered on a theme of convergence between heaven and earth. Similarly, these new mixed media pieces juxtapose the expressive minimalist quality of my figure drawings with the other-worldly materials of metal leaf and paint inspired by iconography.
The figure in the mirror is attentive, ready, waiting, poised in the act of creating. Her world is not limited to the objects before her – the mirror, the window, the branch. Within them, through them, she sees more: she sees deeper into a physical world than would be considered possible at first glance
The medieval city of Civita di Bagnoregio is a place of mysterious layers, buildings destroyed by earthquakes and time, where you can see the evolution of the centuries of construction and destruction. In the process of layering new paintings on top of old I found metaphors for both the place itself and memories of it.
These new paintings have become my own reflection on the work of rebuilding tradition. One commemorates the Basilica as it looked before the earthquake. The second depicts it in its currently ruined state. One painting was commissioned by a Catholic, the other by a Protestant, and so together they are a witness to the influence of the great Saint Benedict on Christian life.
This is the second post of my “sketchbook” from my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
French painter Jean-Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) has always been recommended to me as a colorist, but in this painting “Vuillard’s Room at the Château des Clayes”, I really saw it for the first time. The warmth of the shadows, juxtaposed with the harsh cold gray of the raking sunlight.