Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Last Supper Lecture Part 2

(Continued from this post)

Like many biased art historians, I will now deftly skip from the art of the Renaissance straight into the supremely interesting 19th century, to a Last Supper painting that combines both the horizontal format of Da Vinci and the vertical, triangular format of Durer that we discussed previously:

William Blake. The Last Supper. 1799. Tempura on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

Yes, you are reading that caption right. This is a painting by William Blake, the famous poet, who also had careers as a painter, engraver, and illustrator, although that knowledge is now mostly confined to nerdy art history circles. 

Herald of the Romantic era, Blake thought of the Bible as the greatest work of poetry ever written, and he created a set of ethereal, radiant illustrations for the Bible that convey the poetic nature of many Biblical stories. Hilariously, Blake thought the classical art of the Renaissance was masked paganism :) which I find funny because, to me, the mysticism and the suffused glow of HIS works to connote paganism more than anything the rational Renaissance ever put forth.

In my opinion, Blake was painting not a factual reimagination of the historical event of the Last Supper, but rather a representation of the symbolic nature of that moment, fraught with destiny, betrayal, and love. As an aside, the patron for Blake's collection of Biblical illustrations was Thomas Butts, a prominent Swedenborgian. If you ever want to study a super fascinating line of Christianity suffused with seemingly clashing principles like science and heavenly visions, read about the Swedenborgians.

But back to Blake. Notice anyone different around the table?

Oi! Who sits right below Christ and Mary Magdalene? A happily conversing, totally topless Adam and Eve! What might the inclusion of Adam and Eve in the sacrament ordinance signify? For me, I like to think about Eve's choice to leave the comfort of the garden because she wanted children. She wanted to progress in love, knowledge, and family. I also like to think of Adam, who loved God and obedience so much, but realized his wife was right, and chose to follow her into the lone and dreary world. I like to think about the joy that came shortly after their decision, when God revealed to them that their transgression would be forgiven, and that their fall was temporary, because their line would one day include a Savior who would redeem them and all of mankind. In their bravery, their obedience, and their faith and love, they are truly types of the Son who, in this picture, sits above them. Can you imagine what their reunion looked like? Father, Mother, and great-great---- grand Savior/Son.

How could including Adam and Eve in our sacrament participation increase the experience? Something to think about...

Does anything else about the work reveal new facets of the Last Supper for you? A student in my class commented on the contrast of the bright mandorla of light around Christ with the black background. He said it reminded him that one of Christ's names is the Light, and that to be anywhere but near him is to walk in darkness.

I am drawn to the two men bowed prostrate on either side of the table: the one laid full out and face down on the bottom left in a red cape, and the other man with only a bowed head and arm visible, in the middle of the right hand edge of the painting. Blake seems to be painting the Last Supper in a symbolic rather than factual way, including people like Adam and Eve whose presence at that moment are more of a spiritual inclusion, so I like to think that these two worshipers could represent me. After all, each week during sacrament I too approach that upper room where Christ introduced the bread and the water. I too come to mourn him on the hill where he died, and witness the tomb where he laid and which he walked out of, in my mind's eye.

My next painting starts an examination of how the 20th century conceptualized the sacrament and the Last Supper, and I think you will find its interpretation a far cry from both the monumental moment of the Renaissance and the supernatural occurrence of the 19th century:

Salvador Dali. Sacrament of the Last Supper. 1955. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Boom! That's right! Salvador Dali enters the fray! If you are reading this and you are in Washington, do yourself a favor and go quickly to visit this painting yourself in the little nook by the elevator in the East Wing of the NGA, before the museum closes in January for a $68 million dollar renovation. Phenomenal piece of art.

I didn't know this before I began researching this painting, but Dali actually broke with Surrealists and returned to the Catholic faith in 1949. He had a new interest in nuclear physics and was beginning to see order in the world where he previously envisioned chaos and the uncanny. I find it lovely that he found order restored within the tenets of Christianity.

What changes occurred in the conceptualization of the Last Supper and the sacrament in the 20th century? There are lots!

Dali has removed many of the more arcane, traditional Christian symbols of the Last Supper (no lurking Judas, no fancy goblets or heaps of bread, no red or blue) and instead created a more universal reimagination of the act of partaking of the Bread of Life. He is still interested in the Classical celebration of the human body; you really can't escape a contemplation of the reality and power of God as your eye travels around that massive torso at the top of the canvas. I think Dali's inclusion of this non-traditional view of God and the Savior, who still retains a closeness to his father-- see him gesturing up to him?-- represents Dali's hope that God is nearer to man than often presumed in these modern days. The savior's gesture up brings to mind the scripture, "If ye have seen me, ye have seen my Father." Despite the attention paid to the Father and Son's presence and power, Dali questions the extent to which they are operating in our lives. Note that both Heavenly Father and the Savior are transparent.

Dali did away with the traditional identification of the different apostles; if you look closely, the men gathered around the table are all mirror images of each other. I both like and dislike this. I dislike it because it takes away a bit of the historical reality of the Last Supper. I like it because it puts the emphasis on the personality of the Savior and the eternal nature of the sacrament. Because his disciples don't come with a particular identity, I can easily imagine myself to be one of those gathered to the table.

You can tell Dali is interested in elucidating the challenges modern worshippers have in combining scientific discoveries and faith. He was VERY interested in science, physics, and "new religiosity." The brassy enclosure surrounding the scene is a dodecahedron, which is apparently the most stable solid element. Dali also took pains to recreate all the elements in the landscaped background of the painting: water, air, fire, earth. This reminds me of my moments in the woods, or camping, or hiking, where I feel closer to God, and more accepting of the reality of Christ, than I do almost anywhere else (except the LDS temple!!).


My final piece is a contemporary painting by one of my favorite Mormon artists, Ron Richmond. It will look familiar to any of you who visited the Beholding Salvation exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art a few years ago.

What symbols of the sacrament does this utilize?

How is this depiction different from others?

I love the removal of all human figures. The artist encourages meditation on just the symbols of the sacrament; no more being distracted by John's personality or Christ's hair or the size of the upper room. The red cloth is vivid enough to bring Christ's painful passions to life, and the silver swath of cloth on which the bowls rest delivers the idea of the sacrament into our hands, down through the bottom of canvas. I end with this one because it is my favorite reminder that, in a very real way, the choice of how we view the sacrament, what we make of Christ, how we remember him, is all up to us.

Monday, January 13, 2014

An Artists' Battle: SURVEY

Russell and I discovered the "Scribble" feature on Gmail's iPhone app yesterday in church. Tell me, who's portrait of their significant other is better?

"Lindsey Looks At Art"
"Superfast Downhill Russell"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Part at Once!

From this glorious piece of writing about... a condemned football stadium:

"Let's not unman each other - part at once; All farewells should be sudden, when forever, Else they make an eternity of moments, And clog the last sad sands of life with tears." -Lord Byron,

an advocate for Irish good-byes if ever I met one.

Good-byes are hard. But they can be hopeful. Hope in others' future, that good karma is coming their way, that you have left them full of understanding of your feelings for them and that this might buoy them up to the heights you foresee them reaching. Good-byes are, in fact, a great opportunity to plumb a depth and breadth in a friendship or relationship that would otherwise always be skated over.

No, thankfully, I have no good-byes to say to anyone at present. I'm just thinking of a few friends dealing with them, and perhaps of my cities, Arlington and Washington. Winds in the east... something is brewing. That kind of thing.

Gerard Bryne. A country road, a tree, evening: Cruagh, on the road between Kilakee and Tibradden, Dublin Mountains, 2006. Fuji crystal archive print. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Las Vegas Aerial Shot

Found this gem on I Love Charts this morning, had to share. Look at Lake Mead shrink!!

I love my city :)

Also, I need to get the second half of my Last Supper Lecture post done. I know! I want to finish this Sunday. I'm publishing this goal to get some accountability. Hold me to it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

One Year

2013 was my first year with a photo-happy iPhone and I did a lot of documenting. I haven't succumbed to Instagram yet, and therefore I will recap the last twelve months of my life "old school" style (and I can't believe I'm going to call it that) on my beloved albeit slightly dusty blog.

Months are backwards, because... you'll see. You get a story at the end.

I actually got into the Christmas spirit this year (unlike all the past years filled with finals). Went home for 6 glorious days which became 8 glorious days thanks to a glitch in Delta's booking system!!

My brother Marcus said it best when he said that Brown Thanksgivings are his new favorite holiday. I am blessed to come from two of the most entertaining, warm, funny, faithful, close extended families known to man, and it was a joy to bring Russell home to meet everyone for the first time. We sang, we stuffed ourselves, we made good use of the Strip... I even made a custom Google map documenting our adventures!

A pilgrimage to the Rosslyn garage where Deep Throat Mark Felt dropped off his FBI papers for Washington Post's Bob Woodward (if you are a history nut like Russell and I, go see it soon, the garage is going to be torn down!), a hike in the Shenandoahs during the government shutdown with roommate Kathryn, the Fall White House Garden Tour, and Halloween with my boyfriend the L-shaped Tetris piece!

Imagine Dragons concert, freakishly rainy UVA-BYU football game in beautiful Charlottesville, and this:


My brother Spencer leaves Virginia forever :( but then I chase him across the country on two GREAT trips to San Francisco and Utah! Gone almost the whole month!! Come home to an immediate roadtrip with Russell to Louisville, KY to cheer on my friend Ben as he completes an Ironman!!!


Fourth of July, of course, and a date to the Woodrow Wilson pool, the most beautiful pool I have ever seen!

Got back together with Russell after 76 days apart (every great couple breaks up at least once or twice!), bridesmaid at my beautiful friend Marissa Pugmire Findlay's wedding, whisked away to NYC for an artsy golden birthday and then a "Russell day" the next day, which meant seeing famous NYC sports arenas :)

Complete a relay half-ironman with a bunch of friends, go to my fifth Duck Beach trip, GRADUATED...

Second year of going to the Richmond International Speedway for NASCAR with friends, finally checked Mount Vernon off my list! Road trip with friends to St. Augustine Florida for my first ever Olympic triathlon!!!

(One of my favorite memories of the year! Loved that race, that state, but most importantly, my friends!)


Skiing at Wisp with Rachel and Megan, indoor triathlon in Baltimore with Kathleen and Ben, quick trip to Utah to be a bridesmaid at my wonderful friend Ashley Crist Girvan's wedding.

For V-day, I got him Spandex, he got me flowers :)

WARNING!!!! Moosh alert!!! I am very happy and ready to talk about it!!!

Around 1 am on January 1, 2014, Russell and I celebrated the one-year mark since our first kiss. I want to close by telling that story, because it really basically set the stage for 2013.

(2014 reenactment)

Before Christmas 2012, Russell had called me, his friend (and secret crush) of two years, to ask me out in celebration of my finals being over and my Master's coursework finally being complete. Unfortunately, I flew back to Vegas that very night so I had to say "No, but raincheck please?" Over Christmas break I remember showing my best friend Jessica the facebook pages of the three eligible young men I had in mind for the new year 2013. Jessica was absolutely Team Russell, who was bachelor #2. I remember her explaining, "He looks like your style. It's like you already dress him!" PS. I AM crazy about the mix of good-old-baseball-cap-boy and buttoned-down-casual-man he has fashioned for himself (see: the swanky collar above and the adorable fanboy outfit below).


After a sweet 2012 Christmas spent with family, I flew back on New Year's Eve, donned my stripey new Dress with a capital D, and set out to attend a big party thrown at a friend's house nearby. I saw Russell there, and I remember we had to shout at each other to have a conversation, the place was so packed. He actually asked me to step outside for a second, explaining that crowds like that get him anxious. Since then, he's told me he was worried I didn't feel comfortable around him, because the conversation didn't last long. I have since reminded him that he brought me out into 20 degree air wearing nothing but a simple sheath dress! We talked, we returned to the party, the countdown to 2013 came and went, I think we were in different social orbits in opposite sides of the room. About ten minutes later he noticed me gathering my things to walk home and offered me a ride (leaving behind his brother, Michael, who was just visiting for the weekend and knew no one there :). We sat in his car outside my house talking for probably 15-20 minutes, and a youtube video was mentioned, so I invited him in to watch it. At this point, apparently, he thought I was TOTALLY on the hook for hooking up. It crossed my mind that we might kiss, but I brushed off that thought before I'd even unlocked the door because I thought Russell was WAY too gunshy for that, and besides, we were just friends. We talked on the couch for at least an hour, I remember discussing really deep topics for "just friends," including, ironically, the idea that no one needs more than one year of dating to decide to get married (look at us, eating our words!). Sometime after one am Russell realized his brother was stranded and he rose to leave. He hugged me and I hugged him... for a while. :) Both of us still fight over who was "lingering" during that hug!! I swear he was the one holding on!! We then pulled back, and bam- three little kisses! Said good night to one another, and I closed the door, smiling, although slightly worried that I had just shot a giant hole in a great friendship. Fortunately, he called the next day to ask for a date and so here we are, a year later, marveling at the fun two people can have and how cool love is. Here's to a great 2014 ahead!