“Welcome Happy Morning Age to Age Shall Say!”

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“Hail thee Festival Day, blessed Day that art Hallowed forever;
day wherein Christ arose, breaking the kingdom of death.”

“Alleluia! Alleluia! Hearts and voice heavenward raise:
Sing to God a hymn of gladness, Sing to God a hymn of praise!”

“Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee, God of Glory, Lord of love…….”

A day to sing all the wonderful favorites from the Hymnal!!!
He is risen, Christ is risen indeed!!

something magical

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Something magical transpires when you add sugar, water, heat (high heat–careful not to burn it or you)–next, some butter and cream, whisk it all up–can it get much better? Caramel!! ummmm… Using to drizzle over the chocolate molten brownies, add a little broken toffee bits, a smidge sprinkle of sea salt, a scoop of vanilla ice cream to the side and you have my 85 year old father, happy (and everyone else at the table as well 🙂 )

The age old mystery–the bunny or the egg??

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These eggs were too pretty to dye so I “blew them out” and have them displayed in an old rustic dough bowl. A nice simple touch. But as far as the mystery to which came first, the bunny or the egg…. there simply isn’t time to ponder as it’s time I get cracking, I mean, hopping, with my Easter cooking!! Blessings this Holy Saturday.

Oh sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble…

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When visiting Vienna this past Fall, I wandered into a small shop sitting in the shadow of the great Stephansdom or St. Stephens Cathedral. St Stephens is a romanesque gothic wonder that stands on the same site in which it was first consecrated in 1147.

The shop’s name is Cecconi (http://www.cecconi.at/) and it’s a shop specializing in arts and crafts, particularly woodcarvings. There is a huge selection of German hand painted metal ornaments. Wood carvings of animals, nativity pieces, decorative ornaments as well as religious pieces. I actually visited the store twice. The Christmas ornaments were all so pretty, meticulously hand painted and beautifully displayed. Wonderful small treasures to take back home as a reminder of Wien (Vienna).

It was however a beautiful image of the crucified Christ which caught my eye as it hung on the wall behind the counter. I had never quite seen this type of particular “take” on the crucifixion. There was no cross, just a hanging, distorted torso, twisted in agony and at the exact moment of death–delicately carved from a piece of wood. It was captivating as well as moving.

I asked how much, and knew I must purchase it. The young man whose family owns the shop told me that it is actually a copy of a larger “Christos” on display in the Alps. He told me that when I get home, I need to find the “perfect” piece of wood on which to display it–perhaps a piece of drift wood. He wrapped the carving in a mountain of tissue paper and I proceeded to carry it as if it was a baby for the remainder of our journey abroad.

Once home, I scoured the woods and area around my house looking for a piece of wood. I opted to “distress” a piece of oak, as I don’t live near a place where I could find any drift wood. I added some broken nails for the carving to hang on and hung it in my dinning/ kitchen area so that those entering my home would immediately see it up on the wall. It is one of those things that holds your attention and doesn’t quite let go.

As today is Good Friday I am reminded of what this small wooden display actually represents. It is a day that you and I all stand before the Cross–There is a vast heaviness as we stand today contemplating this very Cross.

I want to share with you not only my small treasure from Vienna, not only a piece of beautiful artisanship, not only a unique display, but the very reason as to what brings us all to this particular day— the Agony and Death of One which gave, and continues to give, way to Hope and Salvation for All.

There is a haunting old “negro spiritual” that we would sing in my church when I was younger during the Good Friday service:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

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spiraling towards a great light

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Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3
(photograph: Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert/ Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook 2011)

Are you hearing Ode To Joy playing in my head??

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The sun is shinning, I can actually feel it’s warmth when I venture out and not that irrepressible cold wind!! Somewhere in my mind I’m hearing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy playing. It’s time to think about Sunday’s Easter lunch…color for the table, color in the the house, color in this relentless winter–I think this color shall do!!!

My secret German love

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Call it Feng Shui, Chi, Balance, harmony or simply symmetry–
however you wish to view it or to name it, it is me and I am it.
I don’t know if I came preprogrammed this way or not,
but I am a very symmetrically oriented person.
Equally weighted and equally balanced.
None of this asymmetrical business for me.

And so it goes when I work on my own art.

I have always loved working with watercolors…
I like working with people, birds, nests, eggs, and you name it.
However, all my life I have felt that I have really wanted / needed to create
some type of opus, some sort of monumental tribute to God.

Why is that you ask?

Well, I think people who have talents and gifts—
well, they just don’t plop out of the sky.
A gift is just that—a gift…and it is something someone has given to someone else.
God has given me much, so what little I can give back…
well I’ve wanted to do it with a visual piece of art.

I’ve spent a lifetime looking at the Italian Renaissance masters,
passing later on to the Northern Renaissance…
with then the Germans and Dutch masters.
Powerful artists, who not only mastered body and mass,
but captured the epitome of emotion.
I can find myself in tears, full of emotion, while staring at various pieces.
I love the works of the Italian Caravaggio (see post What is an Icon).
Caravaggio’s Conversion of St Paul, or as it is actually known,
The Conversion on the Way to Damascus… is but one such piece.

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The space is tight; the figures juxtaposed with precarious lines of placement
and the use of light, crucial light—
oh Caravaggio’s use of light…
Critics argue about the use of space with the horse,
Paul /Saul, the groomsman, too many legs, not enough focus on Paul, etc.
I must disagree with the “critics” as I find it powerful.
Very powerful!

It is my belief that because this is a tremendous moment in time and
that it is somewhat crammed into a tight space as the horse seems to precariously
control his mighty weight so as to not step on Paul…
who is splayed out on the ground beneath him,
as a sword is dropped to the ground, just as the stricken figure of Paul/ Saul
lies now defenseless having been struck blind…
It is because of all of this and more that seems to make this big moment even bigger.
It’s a millimoment in time that is captured… and it works—or at least works for me.
It makes me feel overwhelmed and leads me to believe that I am witnessing something that is
shattering time.
Oh those Italians——always masters of emotion——
the wonderful excess of such.

However as far as an artist who captures raw emotion with such vivid use,
there is none more so, to me, than the German Matthias GrĂĽnwald.
Who you ask?
A German, not an Italian?
All I ever talk about is my love affair with all things Italian and here I am suddenly
coming out with a secret German love?!
Yes.
I confess, a secret German love.

Unfortunately there is not much to the history books regarding Matthias.
He is a bit of an enigma.
His last name is really not his real last name.
As it seems a 17th century biographer inadvertently added GrĂĽnwald.
It is believed his name was actually Matthias Gothardt Neithardt.
He was born in WĂĽrzburg in 1480 but even that comes under question.
Who he studied under, who studied under him, all remains but a mystery.

The one thing that is not a mystery is Grünwald’s use of emotion.
We must remember that the artists of Grünwald’s time operated in a time even before
the printed word.
Images were everything;
they spoke volumes to the viewer—–their works, their paintings,
were the You Tubes of the day.
And yes, I like art that evokes emotion, passion and feelings–
why stare at something that speaks of nothing?

It is Grünwald’s Isenheim Altarpiece that, for me, evokes that tremendous emotion.
(again see the post “What is an Icon” as I’m taking from that post a tad)

crucifixion

This is one of my most favorite images of the crucifixion,
as it shows not a languid image of an intact pretty European body of Christ seemingly
floating against a cross, but rather in contrast,
it shows in graphic, vivid detail the results of a deadly beating,
a body nailed, pierced, abused, now dead body in full rigor mortis—-
the altarpiece was commissioned for a hospital in Colmar (now France but originally in Germany)
for patients with various skin afflictions (most likely plague and leprosy and St Elmo’s fire).
Hope in suffering—
resurrection form death…
Glory and victory over sin.

It is believed that Matthias may have been a plague victim and perhaps he had seen the
Black Death up close and very personally…
leading to his apparent visual knowledge of the human body in the midst of the mystery
known as death.
It is also his vision of what transpires after that death which is also worthy of attention.

It is from my appreciation of Matthias, and other artists,
who can so realistically capture the emotional dramas of human life and death,
as well as the mystical beauty often found in illuminated manuscripts,
that has lead me on my own journey of exploration of such mysterious moments
in time through my use of the visual arts.

I started working on my “spiritual” pieces about 12 years ago.
They began with the idea of the cross, ancient medieval texts,
the use of biblical languages such as Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic,
as well as the use of mysterious mystical images as teaching tools.

The latest piece is a Triptych—
hence my love and need for balance and the symbolism as captured most
respectfully in this piece for the blessed Trinity.
It is not complete.
This whole “retirement” issue threw me for a bit of a loop and the groove of my diligent
quest has been slightly sidetracked.
There is a monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma, Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey that I wish to
eventually donate the piece to—
they are a group of Benedictine monks,
originating out of Notre-Dame de Fontgombault,
a French Abbey, which belongs to the Solesmes Congregation.
I will write a later post about St. Benedict and the Rule of Benedict—–
a wonderful standard in which to conduct ones life.
I will also showcase the monks of Clear Creek Abbey.
http://clearcreekmonks.org/

I thought that during Holy Week,
it would be fitting that I share my love of God’s idea of symmetry
(Trinity/ Triptych/tri/three) with you, my viewing friends.

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