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Sunday, April 04, 2021

Celebrating Easter with three makers--

To celebrate Easter, here are a few images from contemporary makers I have explored and admire, masters of religious art... None of these celebrated Easter earlier today, as they are all Eastern Orthodox congregants. While I am not Orthodox, I would say that I have leanings in that direction (particularly toward the beauty, the densely visual and narrative quality of their churches, and the love of early writers), and I was for a time on the board of an Orthodox contemplative center. I'll have to write about that some time...

The first is a mosaic by Aidan Hart, a wonderful all-around maker of church furniture and decoration, and a writer whose book Beauty Spirit Matter: Icons in the Modern World is a splendid, ravishing thing. You may think it strange, but I have found his writing about church decoration to be generative for my writing--and that's a rare quality. I recently wrote a poem beginning with a line quoted from Aidan Hart, and another structured by his advice to iconographers. Writers, of course, are magpies, and pluck up glittering bits of inspiration where they will, sometimes in surprising places.

                                                                             * * *
                                                One of two new Aidan Hart mosaics for
St George’s Orthodox Church, Houston, Texas
Read about how they were designed and made

            Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
            Pleasant and long:
            Or since all music is but three parts vied
            And multiplied;
            O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
            And make up our defects with his sweet art.

                   from George Herbert (1593-1633), "Easter"

Here's another image I like--a chandelier by the wonderful Orthodox architect, Andrew Gould, installed in his home church in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Long ago, I used to spend a good deal of time in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston, and some day I'd like to do a Gould-tour of the area, jaunting about to see his clever churches and houses and the wonderfully imaginative wine store... 

I love the way he nestles new homes into historic communities by creating a sort of narrative around them, establishing a place and time and story for each. In fact, I love the way narrative interpenetrates the work of all three makers here. It rises up naturally as a response to bedrock narratives and also to traditional ways of incorporating narrative into church buildings.

Read about the image here: 
New World Byzantine Studios, installed 
at Holy Ascension Orthodox Church"

        Looke downe, thou spiest out Crosses in small things;
        Looke up, thou seest birds rais’d on crossed wings;
        All the Globes frame, and spheares, is nothing else
        But the Meridians crossing Parallels.
        Materiall Crosses then, good physicke bee,
        But yet spirituall have chiefe dignity.

              from John Donne (1572-1631), "The Crosse"

And here is an Old Testament prefiguration of the resurrection, the "sign of Jonah," as the now-a-tad-wiser ship's passenger returns to light and air from the belly of the fish. It's by the only North American practitioner of icon carving, Jonathan Pageau, who works in wood and stone but is also well known for his talks on how to read as symbolic events and scripture and the works of the church fathers. As that fits rather nicely into my own way of looking at the world, I find him interesting in several ways.

* * *
Take a visual ramble
around Jonathan Pageau's gallery HERE

For good company to go with the image of Jonah in those complicated waves, here's a crumb of Father Mapple's sermon from Herman Melville's Moby Dick, published in 1851 : “Shipmates, this book, containing only four chapters--four yarns--is one of the smallest strands in the mighty cable of the Scriptures. Yet what depths of the soul Jonah’s deep sea-line sound! what a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish’s belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods surging over us, we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us! But what is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches? Shipmates, it is a two-stranded lesson; a lesson to us all as sinful men, and a lesson to me as a pilot of the living God. As sinful men, it is a lesson to us all, because it is a story of the sin, hard-heartedness, suddenly awakened fears, the swift punishment, repentance, prayers, and finally the deliverance and joy of Jonah."

All three of these makers have articles at Orthodox Art Journal, as well as online homes well worth exploring. (I have pilfered the images from OAJ and Pageau Carvings and have put some trust in kindly forbearance.)

Aidan Hart articles at Orthodox Arts Journal
Aidan Hart's online home, Aidan Hart Icons

Andrew Gould articles at Orthodox Arts Journal
Andrew Gould's online home, New World Byzantine

Jonathan Pageau articles at Orthodox Arts Journal

Happy Easter--

1 comment:

  1. If you want to read comments on this one, I'm afraid you'll have to go to my facebook page...unless some suddenly appear here. For whatever reason, this post seems to elicit interesting private emails and some facebook comments.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.