Faith exhibit promises to educate, entertain and amazePublished 9:12am Sunday, September 15, 2013
Column: Art Is, by Bev Jackson Cotter
What a neat idea – collecting and displaying art pieces from various faith groups in and around Albert Lea!
Thanks to enthusiasm of Tom Mullen, chairman of this exhibit, the Albert Lea Art Center is currently showing items from a number of area churches and individuals. The faith-based items include banners, paintings, crucifixes, altar cloths and candelabras. Some items reflect the historic ethnic background of a particular church while others reflect the seasonal celebrations. Mullen has also used his photographic expertise to mount a display of stained glass windows inviting the viewer to get involved in a quiz. The exhibit promises to educate, entertain and amaze.
When the idea of the exhibit was first suggested, my mind jumped to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings. Visiting Vatican City and viewing those incredibly intricate and detailed works was one of the highlights of my visit to Rome. I remember hearing about how these paintings had deteriorated over the years from leaky roofs and dirt, and the number of years it took to restore them. Priceless treasures could have been lost to future generations simply because of neglect. Another totally different thought crossed my mind. Our tour guide warned us about being especially careful about our purses and travel bags. The Vatican is notorious for pickpockets. I can understand why. Who is thinking about their wallets when they are surrounded by such incredible art?
Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. As a young man, he painted with oils, realism bordering on the abstract. I love the personality of his works. When he was older, he had surgery that almost took his life, and he was forced to work from his wheelchair or his bed for the next couple of years.
He had long been interested in color and line and began working primarily with paper cutouts — mimosa leaves, human figures, stars, flowers and beautiful designs. He had an assistant paint papers the colors he wanted to work with and then he cut the designs and arranged them. He called it drawing with a scissors, and for the rest of his life his works reflected this style. There is rhythm and poetry in his art. Walking into a gallery of his paper cutouts is like stepping into an environment in motion. In addition to book illustrations and wall murals, he designed stained glass windows, altar cloths and vestments for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France.
In the book, “Henri Matisse, Paper Cut-Outs” by the St. Louis Museum, there is a picture of him laying in bed with a long stick with charcoal on the end. He is drawing on the wall. When I saw it, I was reminded of a comment one of my earlier art teachers made, “You do art because you must.” Exactly.
I have always loved Grant Wood’s painting “American Gothic,” and have enjoyed the delightful parodies that evolved from it on television commercials, cereal boxes and parade floats. The couple (Grant meant them to be father and spinster daughter) appear so stern and remote. The book “Grant Wood, the Regionalist Vision” by Wanda Corn defines the setting. “To point out the pervasive presence of religion in their lives, he (Grant) put a dark jacket on the man, suggesting that he is a churchgoer, perhaps even a Sunday preacher, heightened the dimensions of the house so that the Gothic window hangs like a Christian cross between the two heads; and painted in a church steeple peeping over the treetops…” I never thought about the paintings as being particularly religious, just a delightful rendering of seriousness and humor.
As usual, I’ve wandered — but not too far — from the original topic of this column. Please stop and visit Art & Faith. It promises to be a warm and uplifting exhibit.
Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of the Albert Lea Art Center where the exhibit Art & Faith will be on display from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays until Oct. 11. The Art Center is located at 224 S. Broadway in Albert Lea.