Iter Animae

Rhapso
Rhapso, oil on linen, 86cm x 92cm

Loyola University’s Medical School will host a show of my work in Stritch Center of Medicine this July.  The title of the show is Iter Animae (The Soul’s Journey).  It will have about 20 of my works, oil paintings, sculptures and drawings.

Through a variety of genres ( portraiture, the sacred, landscape) I strive to make the intangible presence of our inner existence visible. Timeless landscapes, evocative portraits and Catholic saints express the ‘iter animae’ or the soul’s journey.  The transcendent power of art expresses truths of the human experience that the confusion of our daily life obscures.

I will post more info soon.

Inheritance.JPG
Inheritance, oil on linen, 86cm x 92cm

 

Jesus Carrying the Cross Redux

Jesus Carrying the Cross, oil on linen, life-size figures

This is a repost from a while back but today makes it again relevant.  My picture is also being reproduced in a book about the Sorrowful Mysteries published by PB Grace Publications.  Check it out here. I finished this painting a while ago.  Completed within a year, the scale is a bit over life size.  The image was worked up using a variety of models and a lot of imagination.  The picture is now sitting in storage.  Hopefully it will find a home someday. This is a very personal picture that is an expression of my spiritual journey.  More specifically it is an investigation into my relationship with faith and Christ.  The formal characteristics are important to the meaning.  I placed myself in the painting with a self portrait as a roman centurion holding the rope.

Detail of Centurion

The composition is an circular with the movement guided by a play of gesture and hands. The two protagonists of the picture(the roman soldier and Christ) both embrace the cross in completely opposite ways.  They relate to each other through the cross but have no direct contact.  The soldier is engaged the ambiguous activity of either raising or lowering the cross.  The ambiguity is important as it reflects my personal state. Christ embraces the cross.  He bears the weight without strain.  His portrait is the visual hub of the composition with the cross acting as the spokes of the wheel.

Detail of Jesus

The other two figures, St. John and the Madonna flank the scene.  St. John whispers into the soldiers ear, a precursory act to the spreading of the good news that he is destined to diseminate later.  The Holy Mother is visually isolated from the scene by the cross and quietly grieves.  Her emotive presence bridges the void between the works of Christ(symbolized by his hands, one active and the other passive) and the work of man(symbolized by the hand pulling the rope).  Mary is consoled by a divine light that falls from the break in the clouds.

Detail

Creating the painting

As it sometimes happens, after a couple years of reflection the composition came to me quite spontaneously.  I produced a thumbnail sketch after a nap under a cypress tree outside of the gate of San Niccolo in Florence.  The drawing has gone missing in the meantime. After preparing the canvas I sketched the main elements of the composition in directly from my imagination.  As you can see, in the original concept Jesus was seated with a different arm position.  The gesture emphasized a tired Jesus and the rear figure was more actively raising the cross.

Charcoal sketch on canvas

The model for Jesus was the same architecture student(Alfredo Pace, now architect) that posed for my painting of Jesus in the Garden of Olives.

Jesus in the Garden of Olives, oil on linen, 70cm x 90cm(life size)

He posed holding a l cross that I constructed and was set up along side of the canvas as you can see in the photo below.  Another model posed for the arms of the soldier and I painted in my self portrait from a study.  The Holy Mother in the picture below was developed from my imagination.  Later I brought in a model to develop her in oil.  St John was originally supposed to be another soldier holding a lance rising up from the center rear.

Initial stages in oil

At this point I had changed the torso angle of the soldier to reduce the thrust to the left and therefore transformed the meaning of the picture.  With the new torso angle, the lowered arm of the Jesus mimicked excessively the right (our left) arm of the soldier.  The facture of any painting involves a series of decisions that combine the formal, thematic and ultimately emotive aspects of the work.  Subject, form and meaning are so closely intertwined that one element cannot be changed without affecting the whole.

Painting in progress

I changed the gesture of Jesus to take a more active role.  Instead of a tired man resigned to his fate, he actively embraces it.  He is kneeling with his right leg about to push himself back on his feet.  The final change was to the other leg.  It became more bent and foreshortened to help bring Jesus forward in the picture and reinforce to potential movement upwards.  This helped create a movement in a counterclockwise direction.  The new movement ultimately redeems the soldier as it reinforces the possibility that he is trying to help Jesus raise the cross.

In progress

Over the course of the completion of the picture a spiritual research corresponded with the development of the painting.  It included study, reflection on the gospels and the Stations of the Cross, and meditation. Very little is written about Jesus’s actual bearing of the Cross in the Gospels.  That is one of the reasons I was drawn to this subject.  It is a powerful moment in the life of Christ and merited to be explored.

Painting towards the end

For the goal of the sacred artist is not to illustrate the gospels but to be an image creator whose work communicates the richness and profundity that its subject matter deserves.

A Mention in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.
The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.

In a previous post I spoke about the painting above participating in the 5th Nationwide Catholic Art Exhibtion at the St. Vincent Gallery in Latrobe, PA.  The Art Critic for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Mary Thomas, also wrote a wonderful review of the show where my picture was discussed as well.  The link to the article can be found here.

The 5th Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition

The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.
The Monk, 50cm x 70cm, pastel on paper mounted on linen.

The 5th Nationwide Juried Catholic Arts Exhibition hosted by the St. Vincent Gallery at the St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA opens today.  My painting pictured above ‘The Monk’ was selected to participate.  Sad news unfortunately accompanies this wonderful event.  Brother Nathan Cochran unexpectedly passed away this July.  He was the visionary and driving force behind the St. Vincent Gallery and this Exhibition.

Hopefully we can all learn from his positive attitude and carry forward his dream of reviving Catholic art.  To learn more about the exhibition the link can be found here.

4th Nationwide Juried Catholic Art Exhibition

Porta Croce
Jesus Carrying the Cross, oil on linen, life-size figures

The above painting was awarded 2nd place at the 4th Nationwide Juried Catholic Art Exhibition hosted by St. Vincent’s Gallery.  The site can be found here.  I speak in depth about the painting in a previous post found here.  The show is up until December 9th.  So if you happen to be in the Latrobe, PA area, please stop by.

I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to Br Nathan Cochran, the director of the gallery, and John Spike, the juror.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a short article about the show.  Find it here.

A Forgotten Master: Antonio Begarelli

Antonio Begarelli

The history of art is full of benchmarks of Genius.  They are signposts used to indicate periods and style.  They encompass ideology and are the zenith of human achievement.  Their names conjure dreams: Giotto, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Bernini.  However, an overemphasis on their greatness risks to isolate them from their context

Art is a continuum where generations of artists and their accumulated knowledge create an environment where Genius can blossom.  When we look more closely at the second masters, we find a lot of terrific artists. One of these is Antonio Begarelli.

When one thinks of life-size sculpture, the materials that come to mind are marble and bronze.  But it is important to remember that humble terra-cotta has been an important medium for sculpture on the Italian peninsula since the time of the Greeks.  There are some really nice examples in the collection of the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Poet as Orpheus with Two Sirens, terracottta, life-size, 350BC

Begarelli was born in the Italian town of Modena in 1499.  Very little is known about  his childhood and absolutely nothing about his artistic formation.  Yet his work is absolutely wonderful.  His first major work was the Madonna di Piazza completed in 1522.

Madonna di Piazza, terracotta, 190cm

In 1520 the city of Modena was planning to commission a sculpture of the Madonna for a niche located in the main piazza.  Begarelli, only 21 at the time, offered the above piece that was already completed.  Originally is was colored to look like marble. This was common practice for many of his later works.

Terracotta is a tricky medium and creating such large pieces is extremely difficult. The first step was to create an internal armature for the sculpture that would support the weight of the wet clay during the modeling process(as the clay is not able to support its own weight).  The sculpture was completed and allowed to dry until it was leather hard.  Afterwards it was sectioned off and removed from the armature and each piece hollowed out carefully to allow an even drying.  Once completely dry, all the pieces were strategically placed within a free flame kiln and cooked.  The pieces were then reassembled, joints stuccoed and imperfections corrected.

There are a lot of potential hazards along that path.  The industrialization of ceramic production has eliminated many of those risks.  Pre-19th century artists and craftsmen required a long apprenticeship to learn all the aspects of their particular trade.  Materials were not bought in an art supply shop, they were produced.  To produce the clay different types were extracted from the ground, dried, and cleaned of impurities. Once reconstituted they were then kneaded together to differing proportions depending upon the required color and handling properties.

Kilns today are of either the gas or electric variety.  They are temperature controlled and whole process is programed and guided by a computer.  Before this innovation they were basically rooms heated up with fire.  The cooking process could last over 24 hours.  All this taken into account, it is quite amazing that Begarelli was able to produce such an accomplished work at such a young age.

His career took off from that point and he worked quite steadily until his death in 1565.  Since he did not travel much, to see his work properly one must travel to Modena.  Below are several images representative of his oeuvre.

S. Giovanni Battista, terracotta, h. 38cm
Madonna col Bimbo, terracotta, life-size
Deposition of Christ, terracotta, life-size

Deposition of Christ from the Cross, terra-cotta, life size, Church of San Francesco, Modena

To learn a little more about Begarelli there is a Wikipedia entry here:

There is also a nice video on youtube that has some nice details of his work.  It can be found here:

Jesus Carrying the Cross

Jesus Carrying the Cross, oil on linen, life-size figures

I finished this painting a while ago.  Completed within a year, the scale is a bit over life size.  The image was worked up using a variety of models and a lot of imagination.  The picture is now sitting in storage.  Hopefully it will find a home someday.

This is a very personal picture that is an expression of my spiritual journey.  More specifically it is an investigation into my relationship with faith and Christ.  The formal characteristics are important to the meaning.  I placed myself in the painting with a self portrait as a roman centurion holding the rope.

Detail of Centurion

The composition is an circular with the movement guided by a play of gesture and hands. The two protagonists of the picture(the roman soldier and Christ) both embrace the cross in completely opposite ways.  They relate to each other through the cross but have no direct contact.  The soldier is engaged the ambiguous activity of either raising or lowering the cross.  The ambiguity is important as it reflects my personal state.

Christ embraces the cross.  He bears the weight without strain.  His portrait is the visual hub of the composition with the cross acting as the spokes of the wheel.

Detail of Jesus

The other two figures, St. John and the Madonna flank the scene.  St. John whispers into the soldiers ear, a precursory act to the spreading of the good news that he is destined to diseminate later.  The Holy Mother is visually isolated from the scene by the cross and quietly grieves.  Her emotive presence bridges the void between the works of Christ(symbolized by his hands, one active and the other passive) and the work of man(symbolized by the hand pulling the rope).  Mary is consoled by a divine light that falls from the break in the clouds.

Detail

Creating the painting

As it sometimes happens, after a couple years of reflection the composition came to me quite spontaneously.  I produced a thumbnail sketch after a nap under a cypress tree outside of the gate of San Niccolo in Florence.  The drawing has gone missing in the meantime.

After preparing the canvas I sketched the main elements of the composition in directly from my imagination.  As you can see, in the original concept Jesus was seated with a different arm position.  The gesture emphasized a tired Jesus and the rear figure was more actively raising the cross.

Charcoal sketch on canvas

The model for Jesus was the same architecture student(Alfredo Pace, now architect) that posed for my painting of Jesus in the Garden of Olives.

Jesus in the Garden of Olives, oil on linen, 70cm x 90cm(life size)

He posed holding a l cross that I constructed and was set up along side of the canvas as you can see in the photo below.  Another model posed for the arms of the soldier and I painted in my self portrait from a study.  The Holy Mother in the picture below was developed from my imagination.  Later I brought in a model to develop her in oil.  St John was originally supposed to be another soldier holding a lance rising up from the center rear.

Initial stages in oil

At this point I had changed the torso angle of the soldier to reduce the thrust to the left and therefore transformed the meaning of the picture.  With the new torso angle, the lowered arm of the Jesus mimicked excessively the right (our left) arm of the soldier.  The facture of any painting involves a series of decisions that combine the formal, thematic and ultimately emotive aspects of the work.  Subject, form and meaning are so closely intertwined that one element cannot be changed without affecting the whole.

Painting in progress

I changed the gesture of Jesus to take a more active role.  Instead of a tired man resigned to his fate, he actively embraces it.  He is kneeling with his right leg about to push himself back on his feet.  The final change was to the other leg.  It became more bent and foreshortened to help bring Jesus forward in the picture and reinforce to potential movement upwards.  This helped create a movement in a counterclockwise direction.  The new movement ultimately redeems the soldier as it reinforces the possibility that he is trying to help Jesus raise the cross.

In progress

Over the course of the completion of the picture a spiritual research corresponded with the development of the painting.  It included study, reflection on the gospels and the Stations of the Cross, and meditation. Very little is written about Jesus’s actual bearing of the Cross in the Gospels.  That is one of the reasons I was drawn to this subject.  It is a powerful moment in the life of Christ and merited to be explored.

Painting towards the end

For the goal of the sacred artist is not to illustrate the gospels but to be an image creator whose work communicates the richness and profundity that its subject matter deserves.

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