Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Carl Bloch's "Garden of Gethsemane"

Christ’s atonement is a delicate matter to paint. Sacred and powerful, it is has the potential to be expressed beautifully or simply fail to inspire. Viewings of Christ’s atonement have seldom been depicted in accordance to my own understanding.  At times Christ manners are lacking in grace and form, while the blood that some artists feel necessary to include take away from the holiness of the act. Though none know exactly how the sacrificial act was completed, I’ve never been more touched by an artist’s depiction than I was by Carl Bloch’s. “Christ in Gethsemane”, painted oil on canvas in 1878-79, is a portrayal of the great Redeemer’s atoning act of love. As written Luke;
And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (22: 43-44)
In a traditional depiction, the angel Luke speaks of would be bringing Christ the bitter cup. Bloch, however, paints with greater sensitivity. The anger, full of tenderness and compassion, embraces her Savior.
            The composition of the piece enhances the power manifested to the audience. Carl Bloch portrays Christ in a state of submission and frailty. The Savior’s hands are folded in submission and his eyes are weary from exertion. Dressed in red, Carl Bloch delicately conveys the blood shed by our Savior. Christ leans in weariness to the lustrous angel. Seeking strength and comfort, the Savior seems collapsed upon the heavenly being. Both positioned on a rock formation, Carl Bloch alludes to Psalm 95, “let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation” (1). Bloch does not belittle the Savior’s atonement, but rather continues to touch upon Christ’s power and redeeming goodness.
Furthermore, in contrast to the wearied Christ, the angel exudes power and strength. The angel comforts Jesus as best as she can, with her hands holding up his limp hands and her head laid upon his weary brow.  The illustrious being’s face is serene and heavenly- it’s purity enhanced by its glow. Crowned with golden hair and dressed in flowing garments, the angel’s attire contrasts from the Savior’s blood red garb.  Light cascades down upon the angel. Her wings are lit by a tangible aura- the illuminating goodness of the atonement.
Though not as paramount as the relationship between Christ and angel, Carl Bloch depicts masterfully the background of the Savior’s atonement. Dark and despairing, the scenery depicts the darkness closing in upon the two. Christ is the light of this world, and Bloch enhances this idea in allowing all light to shine upon the pair and the pair alone. Carl Bloch refers to the wickedness of the world around Christ in his depiction of the natural background. There is little vegetation around Christ and the angel. Nothing grows or flourishes as though corrupted by the wickedness of society. What life does exist is shriveled and dying. A twisted tree is split above Christ. Its ominous and warped nature mirrors the disposition of Satan, wicked and corrupt. Christ takes upon him the sins of all mankind. As the darkness encloses upon him, the struggle between good and evil becomes ever more pressing. All who view Bloch’s painting watch in pain as our Savior battles the sins of all. Moreover, to the lower right, a faint gleam of fire flickers foreshadowing the Romans coming to take Christ away. Stars glitter in the night sky as though other angels look down upon Christ and long to strengthen him as well.
Carl Bloch offers a depiction of the upmost power and beauty. Christ, who is our support has given of himself fully. This poignant portrayal captures my very perception of Christ. My Savior embraces me daily; much like the angel supports him. His atoning sacrifice shines upon me despite the darkness of the world.  I feel such gratitude for my Christ. In this depiction, all I long to do is embrace and support my Savior. He has been my constant support and I long to help in anyway I can. My heart aches at Bloch’s portrayal of my struggling Savior. I must do all I can to not allow his suffering to be in vain.
As I sit in the presence of this powerful painting, I never want to leave. I want to sit in the glory of my God and bathe in the love that emanates from the pair. I wonder and hope that angels are present strengthening me. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Professor Jeremy Grimshaw- The Presence of Ramé

Dr. Jeremy Grimshaw spoke on the presence of ramé in a cremation ceremony on the island of Bali in Indonesia. He spoke on the Gamelon, a percussion ensemble that represented community: the art and devotion behind the music. The music of Bali manifests a connection between the beautiful and the spiritual. Despite the island’s small size, Bali is filled by a unique concentration of art, music and devotion. As Professor Jeremy Grimshaw quoted, “In Bali, we don’t have ‘art.’ We just do everything as beautifully as we can.” For the Balinese, life is art; every movement, every action exists as art. Grimshaw further illustrated this unique and devoted culture through his experience with the cremation of the head of the Ubud Royal Family.
The ramé that Professor Jeremy Grimshaw identifies refers to a fullness of being. The Balinese culture has an aversion to empty space for they can possess evil spirits. To fend away any malignant presences, the people of Bali fill this space with virtuous things, be it offerings, arts, decorations or music. In regards to the manifestation of ramé in Balinese music, their music is composed of layered melodies, paired tuning and interlocking parts. Excerpts of music were presented, and Professor Grimshaw identified the aspects of ramé with each new method.
Today, I had the magnificent sensation of being brought back to my home in Thailand, even if just for 50 minutes. The Balinese music that he played triggered within me nostalgia for a time since passed. Memories of my beloved Bangkok resurfaced and I dreamed sweetly of home. The pictures that he took of the instruments and procession reminded me so sweetly of the Thai’s culture and traditions. I was nourished by Grimshaw’s talk for it filled me with memories of my home. The lecture fulfilled my deep longings for home and I sat contented with a smile of my face. 

Rita Wright's lecture on Tissot

Rita Wright’s lecture spoke on the incredible story and work of French artist, James Tissot. As luck would have it, Tissot’s work is exhibited at the MOA this November: a blessing for all who attend. In preparation for the November tours, Rita Wright spoke on Tissot’s life story and his remarkable conversion that influenced much of his later work.
            A recurring parable that Tissot portrayed was that of the prodigal son. As Wright would explain, Tissot was France’s prodigal son, returning to his religious roots later in his life. Much of James Tissot’s life was encompassed by conflict. He struggled with his identity: in his past, his career, and his religious beliefs. Born in France, but with a heavy influence in Britain, James Tissot struggled between his career and success. Both countries displayed an influence upon his religion- Catholic vs. Protestant. As a man impacted by many areas, Tissot manifested a great complexity in his artwork. Inspired by many things, Tissot depicted a glimpse into the past. Though his earlier works were beautiful, Rita Wright’s words on his religious pieces struck me deeply.
            Tissot’s conversion experience was incredibly moving. Sitting amongst the worshipers at St. Sulpice, James Tissot had a vision unlike any he had ever experienced. What he saw was a depiction of Christ leaning next to an impoverished couple. From this time forth, Tissot devoted the rest of his life to the painting of the Savior. Tissot aimed to capture the mystical and divine Christ in his watercolors. Tissot wished “to receive and grasp every impression.” He dedicated his time and efforts into the study of the Gospels hoping to identify deeply with the life of Christ.
Throughout our life we are given incredible opportunities to expand our knowledge of the world around us. Tissot’s exhibit at the MOA is one such opportunity and it within our reach. It would be foolish to ignore such a chance as this. I shall have to tour these incredible depictions of Christ’s life. 

Dr. Prater's Lecture

As soon as I walked into the lecture hall, I could tell today was something different.  For one thing, I couldn’t get a seat despite being 5 minutes early.  Whoever was speaking today must be greatly esteemed. As I scanned the heads of students and guests, my eyes happened upon the wonderful surprise positioned on the table.  Filled with books that I had loved as a child, the table peeked my curiosity. Who was the speaker? And where shall I sit? Hastily, I searched for a seat and opened my notebook with bursting eagerness.
Dr. Mary Anne Prater was a woman of love and devotion. Her speech, rightly titled “A Portrait of Dolly Gray,’ was a beautiful and perceptive lecture regarding literature’s position of disabilities. She began her lecture by illustrating her own journey and the source of her passion for this topic. As a child, Dr. Prater was not an avid reader. With a smile on her face, Dr. Prater described herself as a “late bloomer” having discovered her love for children’s book in college. Continuing her occupation, Dr. Mary Anne Prater used children’s literature as a special education teacher. Eventually, this love transformed into a professional decision to analyze characters with disabilities in children’s literature. With wisdom she relayed to her audience this adage: “Find something you really enjoy and then find a way to get paid for doing it.” Dr. Mary Anne Prater wholly enjoyed her work and this devotion helped inspire her work.
Dr. Mary Anne Prater emphasized the need for analysis in literature regarding disabilities. Why is the work important? As Dr. Prater explained, analysis can help to catalyze a change in attitude and general knowledge about the disabilities; it can be used to teach about disabilities. Dr. Prater intends to use her analysis as a way to ensure that accurate information regarding disabilities is promoted in society. Not only does the analysis allow those without to relate, but this work can also be used as a form of bibliotherapy by allowing those with disabilities to identify with a character who is experiencing much the same situations and emotions.