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Catholic University
Washington, DC 1964-66

During this period, as Staff Editor for NCE I spent most of my time in residence at the Catholic University in Washington, DC. There I  maintained a modest studio and had a modest room with a resident dining hall for priests  pretty much like the monastery. During this period my experience was not entirely different from life in the monastery where we had teaching and pastoral duties. I returned to the Monastery in 1966  and worked remotely with my Washington staff from  St. Vincent. The mural I executed in the religious studies building on 7th Street reveals something the temperature of my experience.

    Click for a personal account of departure from cloister two years later.


 

Crayon, acrylic and gouache, 1966. Catholic University, Washington DC. Present disposition unknown.

Text from Ibsen.

Brand: The jaws of death encompass me.. God above! Does it all count for naught with Thee that man in anguish strives to be?

Voice: God is love.

I painted this mural on the stairwell wall of  a residential building that the University adapted for temporary use. The Religious Studies department used it for temporary offices and I had use of a 2nd floor room  as a private studio. During this period I painted several walls using spontaneous gestures with texts to reveal states of experience. The procedures, derived from my  work in Paris, provide a glimpse on the spiritual struggle that eventually led me to leave monastic life.

During this period I continued work on the New City series employing techniques that I had initiated in  New York and continued using up through the summer of 1968.  These "New City" works  were optimistic and signs of a rewarding spiritual life that continued along side deep seated questions. The ambiguity that pushed and pulled  in opposite directions during this period are present  in the mural above as opposed to the "New City" works below.  Both were highly valued as manifestations of my  experience at that time.

The New City Grows,1965
36" by 36"
acrylic, crayon, gesso on wood.
Artist's Collection
The New City, ca 1966
(earth-blue version)
36" by 36"
acrylic, crayon, gesso on wood.
Saint Vincent Archabbey

The New City Series Technique.   From 1963 to 1968, both in Washington and back at the Monastery, these paintings were created on wood panels. For me this echoed the tradition of the traditional; "Eikon" panel.  The panels were an industrial grade 3/4" plywood  prepared  by first brushing the surface to raise the grain and remove less stable wood fiber. They were then primed with several layers of white gesso. 

The broad color fields were subtle washes of color achieved by rubbing acrylic into the grain of the panel; the  spontaneous gestures were achieved with crayon or heavy lead pencil markings. The rectangular shapes were achieved with heavy coats of impasto carefully and precisely panted on the panel in arrangements that were geometrically  spaced and scaled in some form of continued proportion. in ther relationship of one to the other.  Rational relationships in scale, col.or and spacing were the rule for the geometric forms.  The finished works attempt to bring visual opposites into a believable harmonious whole. For me, the resolution of opposites  were  signposts for the New City  - signs of a more harmonious world, the promise  of a  "New City", the "Heavenly Place".  

Interpretation: Click here for a statement on this New City series.
Washington Post: "Scholarly Priest at Home with the Beats" by G. Wolfe (1965)

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