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Early Monastic Period 1950 - 1959
Some of  my work was lost in a 1963 fire that destroyed much of the monastery.

"Deciding", c.1951, oil on canvas, 19" by 28". This painting was made before entering my Novitiate year (1952-53). Follow the image links for a detail of the sitting figure. 
MONASTERY COURTYARD PROJECT
In the Summer of 1953 our Novice Class undertook to assist in the design and landscaping work for a Courtyard Garden. Located between the Monastery Chapel and the New Major Seminary the garden was dedicated to the Patron of Seminarians, St. Thomas Aquinas know as the Angelic Doctor.   

Angel Choirs 1953: A view of the statue, mural and pool in the late summer of 1953. René Gracida, an experienced architect and member of our novice class, created the design; Cecil Dietrich created the statue and I was given the opportunity to create this version of angels to celebrate the "Angelic Doctor".

 Angel Choirs, 1953.  Detail shows me viewing the work while crouched on a temporary scaffold bridging the pool. This project represents my  earliest efforts to create visual forms of the "unseen".

This outdoor fresco did not fare well in the Pennsylvania winter. A second version with experimental media proved unstable also. These failures led me to a final version made with heavy gauge copper wire with brazed joints (see below).     

Angel Choirs,1955.   Use of  heavy gauge copper with brazed joints, allowed me to "draw"  linear forms with three dimensional undulating lines. In this version the traditional nine choirs are symbolized and organized following the treatise of the Pseudo-Dionysius. Nine figures are  organized in three orders with three in each order.  Click on the images to see the groups and identities. Note on the influence of the "Celestial Hierarchy".  

These figures were dismounted some years later. Several have been preserved and others may be lost.

Drawing of Boniface Wimmer, founder of St. Vincent Archabbey, 8.5" by 11", 1955.  Black ink line drawing with overlay of scratch lines on red.  The program cover for a 1955 play, Shadow of Glory, that chronicled high-lights of the life of Boniface Wimmer.

Technique: Line drawing in 2 layers. Layer 1 is a black & white pen and ink drawing. The text "Shadow of Glory" is also hand drawn in black. The red-orange overlay is a "scratch" drawing. A sheet of Mylar coated with a solid color was scratched to reveal white lines of the paper field underneath. This was a line color separation technique for creating two zinc cut line plates, one for the black line work and one for the negative white lines in the color field.

 

CRUCIFIX, Glazed ceramic on stained oak, 1958. Glazed ceramic tile on stained oak, 21" by 24". Edition of about 24 included both red and green glazes.

Collection: Ryan Emmett, Pittsburgh

Photo of me working on the mold, 1958.

Early Christian Symbols, Enameled Copper, ca.4 ft w by 6 ft h. This Assemblage of early Christian symbols  suspended in basement passage way to the St Vincent Basilica crypt. 

These four symbols with the  lighting and cast shadow were intended as a meditative entrance space for the crypt.  The  architectural space and lighting were conceived and mastered by René Henry Gracida.

Click for details on 4 symbols     

 

Mural, Untitled, ca. 1956. Collage, clerics* recreation room. Shapes cut out from Masonite were painted and mounted on a masonry wall with fluorescent lighting.  This project shows the influence of Jean Arp whose work I greatly admired. During these  monastic years my various projects adapted approaches exhibited by early 20th Century artists whose work appealed to me..

*Clerics. This term referred to monks with the title Frater (Brother)  who were following theological studies for the Priesthood. After ordination they were referred to as "priests" and held a higher rank than the "clerics". 

Ceramic Mural, St. Vincent Library. This ceramic tile mural, measures 22 feet by 11 feet, I had designed, glazed and fired  all the tile St Vincent before he went to New York for advanced studies. Each piece was coded for assembly. The  preliminary work on the Library project was begun in the 1958-59 academic year  and completed in the Spring of 1960. The tile were stored for installation before I left for advanced study in New York.  The mural was installed in 1961 and the dedication date has been quoted in another source as 1962.

NOTE:

The Celestial Hierarchy (Hierarchia coelestis) by Dionysius the Areopagite (aka the Pseudo-Dionysius).  This work has had a subtle influence on western spirituality as it probably played a role in shaping later writings on the "transcendent" such as The Cloud of Unknowing. It certainly influenced my early attempts to create works of art that pointed beyond material objects and knowables.

 In the Journal of Esoterica (V.II, 2000), Arthur Versluis  made the following observation:  

"What makes Dionysius so influential? In my view, there are two central aspects of Dionysius's work that we must consider. On the one hand, in Divine Names and Celestial Hierarchy, he emphasizes the power of symbolism to convey spiritual understanding, and in this his work can be seen as a cornerstone for what has come to be known as Western esotericism, for Dionysius's work speaks to the power of the imagination in perceiving transcendent reality through symbolism. On the other hand, in Mystical Theology, Dionysius emphasized the absolute transcendence that cannot be conveyed by any symbolism, but only through negation like that of the Prajnaparaminal in Buddhism. Thus in Dionysius's work we can clearly see both of the central currents that run throughout the history of Western esotericism, on the one hand the attraction to the power of imaginal symbolism that manifests in magic, on the other hand a path toward sheer transcendence that is to be found in the mysticism of Tauler, The Cloud of Unknowing, and such contemporary figures as Bernadette Roberts." 

Quoted from the website: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Archive/Dionysius.html

        Celestial Hierarchy text available at: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeII/CelestialHierarchy.html


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