Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Angelic Artwork

In which our Heroine speaks visually.

          Tonight I did a little presentation for a Relief Society meeting (an LDS women’s meeting that is meant to enrich the lives of those who attend).  The subject was on the Life of Christ.  The number one thing I learned tonight: use fewer images because it was way too long, and never underestimate the diversity of comments you may get (therefore, again, use fewer images).  Here is one that we discussed that I really like:
The Annunciation, Fra Angelico, 1438-45, tempura painting on wood
          This is The Annunciation, by Fra Angelico, and yes, he truly painted like an angel.  I love the feelings of calm and balance that suffuse this painting.  He is actually using mathematic proportions here to create that feeling.  One woman tonight used the word “submissive” to describe Mary.  Yes, here in this otherworldly moment, a time when any normal woman would be perhaps afraid or confused, Mary sits with arms reverently folded and accepts the Lord’s will for her to be the vessel of God by immaculate conception.  In case you haven’t noticed yet, this is not my reaction to anything in life.  I prefer the dramatic hands-raised-in-the-air-reaction (as I’m not the fainting kind, which is equally dramatic but really puts you out of enjoying the drama of the moment because you’re out cold). 
          Another thing I like is the sense of a holy space here.  You see the tall fence in the background, shutting out the noise of the world and hallowing this private garden into a place where an angel could come and give defined personal revelation.  The room is clean, sparse even, but it doesn’t diminish from the tranquility here.  Mary is clearly a very holy person—and it is wonderful to know that this is the kind of environment that Christ would be born into.  Fra Angelico must have been a good, deep-thinking man, as his name suggests.  How angelic to understand this truth (and also how angelic a painter).  The canonical scriptures don’t exactly flesh out the visual or emotional parts very well.  And although this is only one artist’s view, I like it.  It reminds me of good, Christmasy things—like the feeling you get on Christmas Eve when only the tree lights are on and Christmas hymns are sung.  He was a monk (Fra = brother) and painted this as a reminder of constant veneration and reverence to those at his monastery.  A good reminder indeed. 

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