1999-12-18 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Rockaway Artists Alliance


"Getting Her Ready," by Kevin Callaghan (oil on canvas).

"Kenyan Girls," by Kevin Callaghan (oil on canvas).

By Susan Hartenstein

Give yourself a present for the holidays and the new millennium. Visit the Brooklyn Watercolor Society’s "Y2K Revelation Exhibit" in the sanctuary of the Old First Reformed Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The sanctuary, itself an exquisite work of art and craft, is a visual and spiritual experience to remember. Dedicated in 1891, the church was referred to as "a poem embodied in stone". Its interior decoration was considered one of the finest examples of arts and crafts design at the time. A huge Tiffany designed brass chandelier hangs below the 60-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling of the nave. Columns are painted to look like marble. The ceiling and walls are covered with elaborate hand-stenciled decorations and borders of gold fleur-de-lis. Carvings decorate antique oak pews. At least one of the gorgeous stained glass windows was designed and executed by the Tiffany studio. One is filled with a sense of extraordinary individual beauty within a spiritually majestic setting.

Each work in the exhibit is based upon a different verse from the Book of Revelation. The exhibit and church events coinciding with it were meant to inspire the exploration and evaluation of where we are, at the end of this millennium, in relation to God and each other. It is a vehicle for reflection on the state of our spiritual lives at this moment in history. Christian Le Gars, a member of both BWS and RAA, has created a work of amazing quality and unique from all others in the show. The triptych is composed of hand colored original artist’s prints done in aquatint and solar plate intaglio with aquarelle wash. Solar plate intaglio is a process similar to aquatint but employs UV light rather than acid. More about this process in a later column. The marbleized background of each is aquatint and the insets of each are done in the latter process. The third technique employed in this triptych is the hand painting of the insets in gold, silver and red watercolor. (Not gold and silver additives but watercolors put out by Schmincke.) Each print contains a line from the Book of Revelation. Le Gars discovered in his research that this last book of the Bible referring to Judgement Day, contrary to what one might think, is really full of hope and redemption. Even if one has sinned, one is not out of reach of God’s forgiveness and salvation. These beautiful prints were executed in labor intensive processes taking four months to complete. Le Gars even hand gilded the frames to achieve a particular effect. Much research and reflection went into the triptych. The result—works of artistic and intellectual complexity to be appreciated on various levels. One gets from them a sense of the eternal and of the profundity of the subject.

Unfortunately, space does not permit me to discuss the other pieces in the exhibit. However, this is a show worth seeing. It runs through January 9, 2000 and is open to the public every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Sunday services from 11 to 12 noon and a BWS representative on duty from 1 to 4 p.m. The church is located on the corner of 7 avenue and Carroll street.

Last month several RAA members and friends were treated to Joseph Rothenberg’s "Millennium Tour" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rothenberg, as you may know, is a docent at the Met as well as an award winning black and white photographer whose works have graced this column. Extremely knowledgeable in the history of art, his tours and lectures are comprehensive and enlightening. In his "Millennium Tour" Rothenberg presents one work of art from each of the last ten centuries. He has chosen these works so they reflect their social, intellectual and artistic milieus. The result of this is an enthralling visual and palpable survey of the movements of this century brought into very human terms. We understand better, for example, the different philosophical approaches in different centuries to the same subject matter. Rothenberg shows us two sculptures of Madonna and child—one from the 12 century, one from the 15 century. In the former the two figures are simply religious symbols presented in an austere manner, reflecting an austere devotion to the nature of Madonna and child. In the latter mother and child are very real characters relating to each other in real, tender fashion, reflecting the new humanism of the Renaissance. The tour ends in a room from a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Start time for the tour is 2 p.m. and will be given on the following Fridays: January 7 and 28, February 18 and March 10. Watch this column for possible dates after March 10.

Keep in mind Denis Macrae’s tour of P.S. 1 at 12 noon this Sunday. Questions? Call Denis in Broad Channel.

This week to enjoy—paintings by RAA’s Kevin Callaghan.


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