Praying the Art of Sean Scully: The Match of Prose and Visual Art

Black and white photo of Sean Scully from chest up. He is wearing a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and is gesturing with his hand. He has dark glasses on, is bald, and has a calm expression on his face. When I finished reading Paul Anel’s article on the chapel art of Sean Scully, in the current Image (#91), I was moved to close my eyes in prayer. It wasn’t verbal prayer. It was a sitting within a sense of the sacred.

Both Scully’s art and Anel’s graced account of it had drawn me into this sacred space. Anel focuses on Scully’s transformation of an ancient, crumbling building—the Chapel of Santa Cecilia on the grounds of Montserrat Abbey in Spain—into a glistening, vibrant work of art: indeed the article is titled “Gathering the Light.”

There’s no point in my repeating Anel’s account here; you can read it in Image online. What I want to ponder instead is, first, what drew me into prayer on finishing the article. Partly, I think, it was the humility of both Scully and Anel. Neither calls attention to himself in his work, whether visual art or prose.

We don’t learn that Anel is a priest until the penultimate paragraph, when he recounts celebrating the first Mass in the newly reborn chapel. And Anel has discussed Scully’s “humility and objectivity” in keeping himself out of his art. Not totally, because any art has to come out of the artist’s soul and life experience.

For instance, a tragedy in Scully’s life (the death of his nineteen-year-old son in a car crash) appears in one of the chapel’s abstract paintings: blocks of black, grey, and white oils painted onto aluminum. “The placement of this painting in the chapel,” Anel writes, “transforms the tragedy into an offering, the failure into a prayer.” [Read more…]

From the Engine Room, Part I: The Problem with Efficiency

By Mary Kenagy Mitchell

manuscript

About a year ago we at Image dragged ourselves into the twentieth century and started accepting unsolicited submissions online. We had held off partly because we were worried that the numbers would balloon—and the amount of work we receive did immediately triple. (We’ve added another reader to help us keep up, but if you feel like you’ve been waiting a while to hear from us, now you know why.)

Though we’ve had to budget more reading time, all in all, the change has been a good thing. Having more submissions lets us be even choosier, of course, and there’s more international work now. (We still accept paper submissions but they’ve slowed to a trickle.)

Since I’ve been spending more time reading submissions lately, I’ve been reflecting on the nature of that work. When I was a young writer sending work around, the selection process at literary magazines was mysterious, and though there is already plenty of wonderful advice for writers out there, I thought I’d share a little here about what reading Image submissions is like for me personally. [Read more…]

David Foster Wallace Kills My Darlings

“You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”

–C.S. Lewis

To be an artist is to be constantly dissatisfied. Many acclaimed artists have said this, and though not acclaimed, I identify. I have habit of sitting on projects for too long, afraid to let go until they’re absolutely perfect, a habit that usually doesn’t lead to perfection but preciousness, an inability to let go.

In an attempt to be more at ease with doing as Faulkner commanded and “kill my darlings,” I’m doing a similar thing when I read, looking out for the precious progeny of the author.

David Foster Wallace, whose many detractors feel he should have killed a few hundred more darlings in his loose, baggy fiction, speaks to this double vision in his 1988 essay “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young,” collected for the first time in his posthumous book of essays Both Flesh and Not. [Read more…]