Friday, October 3, 2014

Virgin Annunciate

It's pretty fast-paced here in the Newsroom; sometimes we even have to chase articles down by texting. That's what I had to do with Red and the conversation went something like this:

"So where's my article?"
"Why don't you check your inbox."
"And DON'T MESS with the content."
"At the risk of offending one of my ritures, maybe you should include God in this. How about that?"
"Sent... add to last para."
"Good. Now go back to shopping at Macy's and getting blind at the bar."

When he's not cranking off rounds in abandoned burn-outs in Detroit, Red's taken to writing art reviews. Here's the second half of his latest, on Fra Angelico's Virgin Annunciate, at the Detroit Institute of Art:

"So often in depictions of the Annunciation, Mary appears surprised or concerned, sometimes shocked, and often reverent. In this depiction she appears positively calm, and if we look closer there is much more. Eyes almost nearly closed, one might assume she is on the verge of quiet tears, contemplative and still, contemplative of so much in that one great moment of realization that she is stilled even of breath, immobile, hands, tilt of the head, posture, all indicting total surrender. A closer examination still and we realize she is flushed, deeply taken by the moment. Although the angel too has rose in his cheeks, it is mere complexion by comparison: Mary has made a great realization of the world, and in it her understanding is universal and she is in communion with it.

"What is our reward for the inspection of such beauty, beyond the basic pleasures of aesthetic appreciation, as fine as they are? We too are in a communion. The communion of an artistic ideal, an aesthetic vista, the universal notion that we are not alone even in those singular moments as a viewer, a viewer in this case observing someone receiving the most unusual news imaginable. That the artist can speak to us over the course of time is indicative. It conveys the notion that we are allowed communion with someone else’s understanding and insight, both aesthetic and spiritual. 

"This is empathy, empathic response at its most fleeting possibly, but possibly its most rewarding, freeing us for a moment from the often too lonely state that our individualistic nature forces upon us, letting us bask in a greater understanding, a greater corporate whole. Reminding us that, even as Mary in her acceptance is contrite, we too can take faith in a singular moment, that contrite moment of spiritual observance when we gaze on such things, one that reminds us that there is a world out there and that we’re in it, that time matters. A faith, of sorts, in something larger than ourselves. And if, all the while, with that empathy rising in us, we see Mary as perhaps in a state of some sort of heavenly ecstasy, perhaps we too are allowed a small glimmer of that ecstasy in ourselves. 

"Thematic tableaux occasionally call out to us for direct interpretation. This is, after all The Annunciation, and the scrutiny we apply to it might not always be formal but also contextual, heightening our response still. Mary’s ecstatic state may be indicative of the fact that she is aware of the very immediate and even intimate presence of God, not just surrounding us in the real world or in the Heavens but much closer. She knows that everything is about to change. 

"And what is a portrait but the capture of an instant? In this case, the instant that sits as a fulcrum between two great epochs, and one which brings her face to face with God’s intent. All the salvation, all the fear, the tremulous concern, the quiet shame and the heartfelt wonder at what we’ve beheld. 

"Through the magnificence of this artist’s work, and if only fleetingly, we’re brought there with her."

Thanks Red, nice work. I like that painting too.



LL said...

Verbose, but accurate.

LSP said...

I know -- new writer overwrites... but still, keeps the wheels turning.

jenny said...

He's quite the poet! Loved his take on this piece.

LSP said...

I'll be sure to pass that on, with suitable admonition against conceit.

But glad you liked it -- great painting, I think.