I have been fascinated by the art of Illumination since I was a music student, studying abroad in Italy, with the opportunity to see many illuminated manuscripts in person. The skill, time, and expense required to hand copy scripture, text, and music with ornate illustrations (often created with real gold and expensive pigments) was captivating to me. I loved these collections of the gospels with portraits of Gospel authors, called Gospel books, as well as huge complete Psalters and practical books of prayers as artistic artifacts. It seemed at once lavish and ornate, a book so expensive that monks, artists, and entire art workshops devoted to illumination could only make them with the patronage of wealthy individuals and institutions.
In an age where we consume and discard things at an alarming rate, the idea of a precious gospel book or manuscript of music that is worn down, valuable, and beautiful to behold is fascinating, even novel. It would have been looked at again and again, its words and illustrations pored over, new images and rich meaning leaping out of the pages with each viewing.
The definitions of illumination are as follows, according to Merriam-Webster:
My work is almost always informed by scripture, poetry, theology, and philosophy. I study the material intensively before I even put a brush to canvas or water on paper. This deep contemplation requires considerable time and energy. I have to give it time and space to breathe in a world where there is increasing pressure to be quick and efficient. If I don't understand the poem or the scripture, it comes through in my work. I have to ask what the author meant, who he or she was speaking to, what they intended me to feel. Of course, the process is filtered through my own experience, bias, and viewpoint. I convey what I am learning by taking all of this information and experience, creating a visual feast from my own point of view.
I paint using non-representational gestures and imagery with intensely pigmented ink, and using metal foils as an homage to the illuminators of the past. The gold in most of my work represents the presence of the divine in all things, taking all shapes, present in the blackest black or the purest white. For me, this process of illumination involves all definitions of the word: I am trying to gain understanding or find answers to difficult questions about myself, my life, or a particular spiritual or philosophical question. I am wrestling with the mysteries of God and faith through this marvelous tradition of illumination: using paper and canvas and pigment with precious metals to create a beautiful artifact that points to the one who made all things.
Sometimes I see a vision come to life on the canvas so easily, and other paintings come much harder. It mirrors the way that some questions have immediate answers, and others linger in the gray area, others are more difficult or take more time. Sometimes I seem to find the answer, or sometimes I can only see it in part.
My illumination of 1 Corinthians 15:51-55:
Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”