Installation view of After Julian, 2012, at the Levitt Gallery at the University of Iowa.
Note on the textual source of the paintings:
In chapter 51 of A Revelation of Love, Julian of Norwich discusses one of her revelations that, at the time of the revelation, remained something of a mystery to her: this is what prompted her to comment that “every shewing is full of privities”—“secret things” in a modern English translation. She goes on to describe how the revelation was ultimately unlocked, twenty years later, under the direction to “pay attention to all the properties and conditions that were showed in the example, though you may think them misty and indifferent in your sight.” The way that Julian uncovers the meaning of the revelation is therefore a matter of paying attention to the revelation as it has been given—she importantly does not need to look beyond the revelation for explanation, but must look more fully into it. It carries the key that unlocks its secrets within itself.
I might characterize the work in this show as an a empt to uncover secrets contained within my reading of Julian’s Revelation. The texts that form the basis of these paintings are all taken from the Revelation. I held onto the words, descriptions or visual associations of the texts that, for some reason unknown to me, clung to my imagination. I came to understand the texts more fully by working them into paintings, although the relationship between the paintings and the texts is not always fully determined: that is, these paintings are full of secrets (for me) as well.
Four Colors for Dying Flesh (Pale, 2012, oil and graphite on canvas, 50” x 40”, More Pale, 2012, oil and graphite on canvas, 50” x 40”, Blue, 2012, oil and graphite on canvas, 50” x 40”, Brown-Blue, 2012, oil and graphite on canvas, 50” x 40”)
Four Colors for Dying Flesh are related to the following meditation on the changing colors of Christ’s flesh while on the cross: from pale to more pale and then to blue and finally to brown-blue. They are conceived as a kind of movement through color. The lines that mark the surfaces derive from brush marks made in the underpainting.
From Revelations: "After this, Christ showed a part of his passion hear his death. I saw his sweet face as if it were dry and bloodless, pale with dying. Next it became more pale and dead-looking, to blue and then to brown-blue as the flesh continued more and more to die. For his passion was visible to me most completely in his blessed face, particularly in his lips. There I saw these four colors, though they were previously fresh, ruddy, lifelike and pleasing to my sight."
Like Herring Scales, 2012, acrylic, oilstick and graphite on canvas, 50” x 67”
Like Herring Scales is a phrase Julian uses to describe the blood on Christ’s face at the crucifixion, quoting the herring scale design motif, not at all uncommon in medieval church decorative schemes.
From Revelations: "The fairness and lifelikeness is like nothing but itself. The plenteousness of the bleeding is like drops of water that fall from the eaves of the house after a great rainstorm; they fall so thick no man can count them with his human powers. As they spread over the forehead, the drops of blood were like herring scales in their roundness.
"These three images came to me at that time. The drops were round like pellets in the coming out of the head, and like herring scales in spreading out on the forehead; in their unnumberable plenty, they were like raindrops falling from the eaves."
Installation view with Quatrefoil, 2012, at the Levitt Gallery at the University of Iowa.
Quatrefoil, 2012, acrylic, oil and graphite on canvas, 50” x 42”
Installation view of Endlessness I - IV, Levitt Gallery, University of Iowa.
The Endlessness paintings are related to Julian’s pronouncement that God is “endlessness”—“the endleshede” in medieval English. I was drawn to this word not only for its poetry, but because while the endless could refer to an infinitely long span of time, it also suggests something that lies outside of the teleological order: an endless activity is on not pursued for any purpose. “Endlessness” suggests a kind of playful inhabitation of being appropriate for a God who is the condition of the possibility of Being.
From the Revelations: "[God’s] goodness encompasses all his creatures and all his blessed works, and passes beyond them without end. For he is endlessness, and he has made us only for himself, restores us by his blessed passion and keeps us in his blessed love."
Endlessness I (Spring), 2012, oil, oilstick and enamel on canvas, 84” x 72”
Endlessness II (Summer), 2012, pastel and graphite on canvas, 84” x 72”
Endlessness III (Fall), 2012, oil and graphite on canvas, 84” x 72”
Endlessness IV (Winter), 2012, oil on canvas, 84” x 72”
Installation view with Endlessness IV (Winter) and Four Words for Three Persons, Levitt Gallery, University of Iowa.
Four Words for Three Persons (May, 2012, oil and oilstick on canvas, 25” x 20”; Can, 2012, oilstick on canvas, 25” x 20”; Will, 2012, acrylic and oil on canvas, 25” x 20”; Shall, 2012, oil on canvas, 25” x 20”)
Installation view of After Julian, 2012, at the Levitt Gallery at the University of Iowa