Friday, March 8, 2024



Dear Readers: in the interest of posting anything at all I am declaring a stoppage on editing the text of this post.  Lets just say, it was kinda getting away from me and the words felt wordy etc.  So here it is, just like it was last time I opened the document, for better or worse.

Panel #6 of 7 is done! :)


 I now have a name for the dome: "Super/Natural"*.

*subject to change.

I'm sure you already know that the most disliked word in English is "Moist". The second most must be "spirituality", amirite?

I know someone who used the word spirituality in her artist's statement in college and her professor said she would fail her for the course unless she changed it.  I believe she kept it in.  Willing to die on that hill—I admire that!  But I understand the professor who was picturing some new age hellscape replete with the purplest of purple crystals.

 I was raised by two materialist atheists. My dad was a scientist. Not just any type of science mind you, but a microbiologist.  I have heard it said that physicists scan skew towards the mystical, but not biologists!  All that goo really reinforces the material side of reality! But wait!  There’s more….My mother was the director of a school for severely autistic children—the type that make any thought of a just and loving god, or even a practical one, near impossible. So, they abandoned the religions of their upbringings, along with all other religions as well as any notions of spirituality.  Fair enough!


 As a teenager I wanted nothing more than to rebel against them somehow…. They are lucky I didn’t run off with a doomsday cult. Suffice it to say, having atheism presented as the only reasonable option for structuring one’s thinking had its downside. Recently, I was participating in a discussion with friends about matters spiritual.  No surprise, most came down on the secular side. And some were very staunchly materialistic, characterizing spirituality as superstition or belief in the supernatural (as did my parents).  And I always end up wondering if science and spirituality completely incompatible (cue Einstein quote.) Why does spirituality necessarily imply an anthropomorphic deity? Can’t one believe in the divine without Sky Jesus or some such? Am I being obtuse here?


 For a long time, I have thought that art always wants to ally itself to the truth of its times.  Back in the day in Europe, that meant the Christian church. It must be interesting to live in a time when science, religion and art are all serving the same seamless “truth”.  I can barely imagine what that’s like.  Is it nice?  Limiting?  It certainly couldn’t work now.


 Around 1500 CE, along comes a burgeoning humanism and an increasing trend towards separation of church and state (and a separation of the individual person from a “source”, I imagine it like a big bang-like expanding universe, ever traveling away from the center) ...and it all seems to make room for science.  So gradually art became interested in science, or at least allying itself with science in the name of TRUTH.  This is not good news for stained glass, which has always been “spiritual”.  And that is because… because…….because…because why? Well, I am guessing because radiant colored light coming into an Official Sacred Space makes believers jiggy and feels like what we might imagine divine inspiration feels like.  Warm! Beautiful! Incandescent! Lucid! Ethereal! Or something like that. Where’s the good Abbot Suger (“stained glass is enlightenment embodied”) when you need him?

 I think setting up a dichotomy between a scientific truthand a mythologic truth is to miss something important.  For one thing, I really, really, REALLY don’t want to have to pick between the two.  But hey: at least in equating spirituality with the supernatural, materialists acknowledge spirituality is both super and natural!  Super-duper!


   The problem for me arises when you must pick between science and mythos for The Truth. Because any sensible person will choose moon landings and vaccines for the win every time, including me. I very much believe in the facts of science but is it The Truth?  Consciousness being what it is, The Truth is always going to be a human construct. As such, it’s on par with subjective reality. (I feel really brave for saying that out loud because I can already hear my parents screaming at me at how idiotic that is!) And yet but still, part of me is waiting to find out reality is all in my head. Maybe I read too much sci-fi as a kid, but as long as reality is mediated by our brains and senses, there’s room for doubt. After all, how can one study that which is extraneous to our own minds without employing our mediated, reality constructing brains to do it?


 One of many ginormous problems I had with Trump was the whole “alternative facts” thing. It forced people to side with science facts or his lies. But alternative realities are my bread and butter in the studio. I mean, what in the heck is art if not big honking displays of alternative facts? Especially art that derives from the imagination, like the flowers and birds in my dome. I didn’t appreciate their sudden demotion to the irrelevancy department. In the end I want to believe that The Truth is not knowable, therefore the best we might manage is a reunion between subjective and objective…or mind and body. IF. YOU. WILL.

Some of the stated intentions for the dome are underscoring the intersection of art and science.  But maybe…just maybe, part of this project is to “attempt” a reunion of science and spiritual via art.  Not that this is the only recent attempt—in fact, I think it happens all the time. I think maybe that’s the whole project of art all the time. But the last time we all agreed on that in Western culture was around 1499! 

In my original proposal I said this:

“Spirituality is not typically the realm of science (and from my personal experience, it is absolutely taboo in academia in general unless one is in a Religious Studies program). As such, I am assuming biophilic spaces are studied from a practical and material point of view. But I think, without getting too mystical about it, biophilic spaces offer an opportunity to reconcile a human consciousness with an environmental context. They can demonstrate that what appears to be a mind/body split, or a mental classification of interior vs exterior (self vs “not-self”) is a perceptual illusion and while it may have an important practical heuristic function, it also ensures a sense of a sense of loneliness and enables eco disasters, etc. Therefore, I conclude that if reuniting these seemingly separate things is not the essence of “spirituality” then nothing is. I would say that from a neurological or psychological perspective, this has some value.” 


 Fancy proposal language for: If I am gonna build a little mini-church, it’s going to have to reference spirituality. Or, shall I say, that aspect of consciousness that connects us to life, reconciles our mind and body and feels meaningful and inspiring? I may not believe in anything supernatural or any type of god, but I certainly believe things can be super and natural...sometimes even simultaneously! 


My choice to make a little church comes from the fact that ever since I became a stained glass artist, the CHURCH THING has loomed large. Enlightenment indeed—who doesn’t want a smidge of that in their art?  Being an official atheist, I think making a window for a religious space, be it a church, synagogue, mosque, or something else, would be weird for me. Plus, none of those places have never asked me. But I can relate to the idea of a space dedicated to sacred contemplation and felt a real urge, a real big urge, actually, to make one.  


One thing that differs about my dome is that stained glass in churches is that is all about a group experience and the buildings tend to be really large and therefore the windows are seen from a long distance.  My dome will be intimate.  Really intimate—maybe a wee bit claustrophobic, even. My art, my idea of spiritual experience is that its best one-on-one.



When I was a not-so-rebellious teenager, my dad was reallyinto mushrooms.  (No, not that kind!)

He collected old books—some as old at the 1700’s.  I remember being struck by the beauty of their hand-colored print illustrations.  Flash forward to now.  For some years I have been really getting into botanical and various natural history prints., perhaps inspired by this early exposure.


I remember reading a Dover (remember them?) reprint of a Medieval Bestiary.  I bought it for the images—but one day checked out the text.  I will include some examples. 

A Spicy Example


They were unintentionally hilarious.  For one thing, it seemed that the descriptions were not based on much in the way of observable reality. And this really got me—imagine that!! It was stunning to me to think that they could be understood as somehow a reflection of reality. And yet, they were. That was a first inkling that one needn’t always prioritize observable, external reality as real. Surely the imagination is also real.


 From a pernicious tendency towards anthropomorphism to an insistence on arranging them in mise-en-scenes to flat-out-decorative arrangements, old “science” illustrations manage to distort and manipulate “reality” in wild and crazy ways.  Even Audubon’s work seems hyper real rather than real-real.  Of course, the invention of the photograph co-opted our understanding of the observable, and now only photos seem real to us, which is a whole weird thing unto itself.  Photos never look even remotely real to me.


Really, these old illustrations could ultimately be seen as images of the artist’s brain, as self-portraits.  Pardon me, but your subjectivity is showing. Obviously, they lack a certain amount of what you might call scientific objectivity.  I found this rather amusing until I remembered that there was no such thing as “science” as we understand it now back then.


 Which got me on a long trip wherein I reveled at the doomed nature of attempts at “objective truth”.  She scienced me with blindness, indeed.

It seemed to me that the more the artist tried to depict something ocularly objective, the more they only managed to depict their own conception of it.  As it turns out there’s a whole book on this which I read.  I am highly recommending “Objectivity” by Lorraine Daston if this topic intrigues you like it does me.  She is a far better person at explaining all the paradoxes and twists and turns it takes to make a stab at objectivity.


 As an artist, I refuse to choose between objective and subjective truth.  I think “spiritual truth” could be a place where they become one.  And that is how I am defining the “super/natural”. At least today I am.

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