I have never been a particularly religious person, yet I have always been intrigued by the human preoccupation with spiritual matters.
Religion, to me, is a paradox. Throughout history it has inspired love, peace and beauty. It has compelled artists, crafts persons, writers, musicians, etc. to create the most amazing works.
But it has also inspired hate, war and ugliness. It has compelled tyrants, bigots and pedophiles to perpetrate some of the most horrific crimes against humanity.
The paradox has always been a perplexity to me, and it has led me to be more of an observer than participant in religious activity.
When I was studying Art History as a part of my art program at Marshall University in the 1980’s, I was very intrigued by the illustrated manuscripts of the Gospels created by monks in the 9th century. Each page in a manuscript was intricately decorated as an individual work of art, with numerous pages bound together between lavish metalwork covers.
The cover of the Lindau Gospels was particularly intriguing to me, for its artistic structure and elaborate gems and precious metalwork. The artist(s) who created it must have had a higher power guiding them.
I confess, my historical study of the Lindau Gospels did not go very deep. The image and concept, however, were burned into my psyche.
I do not recall when exactly it was, but probably about 8-10 years ago, I created the mixed media painting above, drawing upon my recollections of the Lindau Gospels image that was stuck in my mind. Although you can see some very clear similarities, there are also some significant divergences from the original manuscript cover.
My painting began from a painting I had painted back in college. The initial painting was of a cross, and it had been patterned using a technique of creating sharp pointed dots by squeezing paint directly out of the tube. I no longer liked the painting, so I painted the dove over top of it with a stone textured paint; glued some cheap baubles on it; drew some star bursts with glitter glue; and then covered the whole thing with gold leaf – with my fingers.
My DNA is literally in this painting, as those sharp pointed dots were really sharp.
I don’t think I realized it at the time, but the techniques and textures ultimately reflected the paradox that has always perplexed me:
- The dove, symbolizing peace and the essence of spirit, takes the place of the human representation of the crucifix from the original manuscript cover. The upward movement suggests the fleeting quality of our understanding of spirit, yet painting it in a stone texture reflects its permanence in our souls.
- The baubles suggest our desire to gift our religious icons with the most ornate of human possessions, yet these are not actual precious gems. They are cheap craft store glass pieces.
- The patterns of dots represent the qualities of humanity to fall into patterns of spiritual practice, yet they are sharp and painful to touch, representing the way that human patterns can often become destructive in the pursuit of spirit.
- The original manuscript cover was designed to be the size to fit in one’s hands to be used in religious rituals. Spirit and religion have never been that manageable for me, however. My piece is large and not at all something easy to grasp in one’s hands.
The painting is currently on display at Second April Galerie where my studio is located. I welcome you to come visit it and my studio. I look forward to your visit!
The 3′ x 4′ painting is for sale. Because of its size, shipping costs may be high. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing it.