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…]

Souvenirs from the Waste Land: An Interview with Alastair John Gordon, Part 1

photo of Alastair John Gordon standing in front of a gallery wall with orange paintings set up in a grid (5x5) on the wall, slightly blurred out. He is smiling, wearing a plaid black and red button up with thin black lines. He has a slight beard and is smiling.By Nicole Miller.

Historically, modern art has prized originality and authenticity. But alongside this tradition runs another set of practices: replication and tactics of illusion. The Romans made copies of Greek sculptures; Northern Europeans in the seventeenth century practiced an illusionistic approach to still life painting called quodlibet, or “what you will”; American pop art reproduced images of mass-produced, consumer goods.

Alastair John Gordon’s work is indebted to these traditions and to mass media print culture. The London-based artist’s new body of work draws on the postcard collection of Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, philanthropists and art collectors in L.A. Their collection includes mementos from their travels, scenes of architectural interest, and reproductions of works of art—over 18,500 postcards in all.

His trompe l’oeil renderings of postcards, sketches, and residual papers raise questions about authenticity and representation. The artist sees the work as a form of hyperreality, a term coined by Umberto Eco in 1975. This is the realm of the “authentic copy,” where the illusion is total and the skill of the hoax is part of its charm.

At a time when the American public is spooked by fake news and alternative facts, this body of work invites the viewer to consider the roots and repercussions of fakery.

I spoke with Gordon by phone and over email to discuss his interest in both the gallery and the gift shop. [Read more…]

Transcendence: A Tribute to William Christenberry (1936-2016)

house window light 800“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” Elizabeth Bishop said, with irony. Still, it’s true that we mislay so many things over a lifetime that we become quite adept at bearing our deprivations. By the end, it’s a wonder that we have so much left to convey; the reading of wills should be bankrupt affairs, little more than legacies of good wishes and snatches of fair poetry.

But it’s not just carelessness that empties our pockets. Some things—many things—we simply let fall away. There is intent behind the release, and if not intent, recklessness. As in Bishop’s poem, among the things most commonly lost in this fashion are people. They have a habit of slipping out of our lives all too easily and much too regularly. [Read more…]

A Love Supreme: The Surprising Art of Sedrick Huckaby

This essay is a web exclusive accompanying Image journal’s current issue, #90.

 By Bruce Herman

web_filthy-rags-of-splendor-for-herman-web-exclusiveHomely, decorative, domestic—that’s how most of us think of quilting: something a sweet grandmother does while humming an old tune and waiting for a pie to cool on the rack. It’s a comfy-seeming practice we associate with homemaking and mothering—vocations mostly overlooked and never accorded the worldly esteem we give to the artist, composer, intellectual, or CEO.

But of course we all know that it is mothers and grandmothers who carve out large spaces in their lives to nourish and raise us and set us free to write, paint, dance, read, play our music, or rule a great nation. Without mothers, we perish, yet they are routinely sidelined. We roll our eyes at their sentimentality and protective nagging. [Read more…]

Art, Icons, and Ant Ovaries

orthodox-icon-of-st-stephen-the-archdeacon-375x544“A world created out of silence gives itself over to prayer.” I’m listening to local painter Debra Korluka discuss her work: the icons she’s painted since she was a child studying in the Ukrainian Orthodox church. I’m interested in the symbolism of an icon’s composition and in the paints—their colors, chemistry, poisons, and history. All the hidden things that, like the completed icon, promise travel from invisibility to visibility; what is seen depends on where the journeying paths of the viewer and the art meet.

What I’m drawn to most is Korluka’s devotion, her belief not only that she’s found meaningful work, but that she’s decided to give herself to it completely. She doesn’t say this, but it comes through entirely. I’m entranced by this way of finding vocation, of not considering too deeply what makes one happy or fulfilled, but building meaning and purpose through devotion. [Read more…]