Monday, March 12, 2012

A Christmas Commission - or, why my daily paintings have been on hold!

Back in September, I was given a wonderful commission - To create sixteen banners illustrating the story of Christmas to hang in the sanctuary of one of the most beautiful churches in uptown New Orleans, St. Charles Presbyterian Church. I began sketching and photographing inspirational elements of this beautiful building and finally began painting in earnest by the end of September. The paintings shown below are two-sided 8 foot banners - the painting faces the congregation and the illumination side (featuring the title of an appropriately titled Carol) toward the pulpit. The banners were hung in the sanctuary by Thanksgiving weekend! I've included captions to share the meaning and inspiration behind each banner.
The Prophecy of Isaiah is represented by the Tree of Jesse and the wolf lying down wth the lamb. Many images from the sanctuary inspired the illumination, including the stained glass window from the narthex, the quatrefoil found beneath the baptismal font in front of the altar and the carved acorn branch arched above the side entrance of the church.

 The Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary was inspired by the colors of the sanctuary: deep blues, russets and golds, along with the luminous stained glass windows teaming with understated elegance and beauty.....

The stained-glass window in the sanctuary’s narthex is found in this illumination. The window is lined with acanthus leaves, found frequently in the borders of ornamented initial letters of Medieval illuminated manuscripts. The sacred geometry of the window’s patterns speak to the eternal cycle of life. The inspiration for this scene was taken from a Raphael drawing of an angel I saw in the New York's Morgan Library.
The color and shapes of the leaded glass window at the State Street side entrance of the church became a perfect frame for the journey of Mary and Joseph. The textures provided contrasts: for the earth tones & the isolation of their journey.

Another State Street side entrance window is the background for this illumination. The patterns and symmetry of the shapes represent the Holy Trinity and eternal life.
The background texture of this illumination is inspired by the shimmering limestone of the sanctuary. The vesicas piscis of the painting’s frame symbolizes the sacred life that is being born in Bethlehem.
The inspiration for this illumination was taken from the shapes found in the front of the pulpit. A third truncated quatrefoil was added to represent the three Wise Men. The coloring in the background is inspired by the beautiful tile flooring of the sanctuary.
Using the tenants of sacred geometry, Silent Night features as its border the vesica piscis, a shape that is the intersection of two circles, intersecting in such a way that it is the circumference of the other.  This shape is one of the most profound religious and geometric symbols and is found throughout the history of art, architecture and this sanctuary.

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