......................................................................................................................................................................................................................
Ascent: Shadowcase

Ascent: Shadowcase

1st c. B.C., Volterra, Italy 

 

Volterra, Italy is a hilltop village with a long and illustrious history. Originally established by the Etruscans in the 8th century B.C. and centuries later by the Roman newcomers, its narrow medieval streets, quaint shops and colorful people make this one of our favorite towns.

Soaking up the bright Tuscan sunshine, we strolled down winding alleys and lanes. Warm ochre walls, brilliant red poppies and colorful linens out hanging to dry surrounded us. We eventually arrived at the Roman amphitheater where, among the shadows of the ruin, was a darkened passage. Peering in, we discovered a crumbling stone staircase that climbed until it was lost in the sunlight of an opening above.

It seemed to beckon us upward… 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
SOLD: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Hallowed Light, Redeeming Quiet, Glimpsed Grace

Hallowed Light, Redeeming Quiet, Glimpsed Grace

Orvieto, Italy

 

We discovered this intimate side chapel in Chiesa San Lorenzo de' Arari (c. 1291), a Romanesque jewel, but just one of the several smaller medieval churches found in Orvieto, Italy. Gentle light streamed through a lone medieval window onto the Christ crucified, hanging above and in front of intricately patterned but faded frescos.

Pardon and mercy revealed; a sense of peace and exquisite beauty filtered in with the hallowed rays. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Not Available

All Saints Chapel

All Saints Chapel

Church of the Heavenly Rest, Abilene, Texas

 

This jewel of a church, the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, is surprisingly located not in the English countryside but in the mesquite plains and plateaus of West Texas. It was designed by Philip H. Frohman (1887-1972), an American architect that specialized in the English Gothic style. He designed over fifty churches over his career and is perhaps most well known for his work with the Washington National Cathedral.

This image depicts the oldest part of the church, a side chapel with original windows from its earlier location downtown. The proportions, the glass and the light are exquisite and the sense of His presence there is undeniable. I am taken back to so many UK churches I have visited and I find this place to equal or surpass many.

There is a plaque at the church that reads: "No man entering a house ignores him who dwells in it. This is the house of God and He is here." I think its message could not be more apropos.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Private Commission

All Saints Chapel

All Saints Chapel

DETAIL

Empty Vessels: Marble floors and Wooden Bones

Empty Vessels: Marble floors and Wooden Bones

Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice, Italy

 

This baroque cathedral was engineered and crafted eight centuries ago. The architecture is huge, the spaces breath-taking, the figurative sculpture unsurpassed, and the beautifully cut and richly colored marble floors seem too precious to tread upon. Yet today there sit several ordinary wooden chairs facing an unseen altar. They are evidence of the human scale, of human frailty, plain yet purposeful. They are somehow comforting, unassuming and without pretense.

I love this church. It is vast and intimate. It is a place of respite, a place of peace.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Transcendence of Ash: Sic Opportet Ubio Non Hic

Transcendence of Ash: Sic Opportet Ubio Non Hic

Basilica della Santissima Annunziata di Firenze, Florence, Italy

 

This beautiful church is often ignored among the better-known churches and world-class art of Florence. However, its lack of tourists and gawkers just makes the experience of going there more meaningful. It is dark and covered in grime inside. It feels ancient and mysterious yet it’s just these attributes that affect the visitor so intensely. Voices invariably quieten to whispers as, through the heavy basilica doors, one enters holiness.

Founded in 1250, the facade was not added until 1601. The second oldest organ in Italy is in this church.  In 1252, a painting of the Annunciation was begun by one of the monks but abandoned in despair because he felt he could not create a beautiful enough image but while he slept an angel came and completed it. The church then became a pilgrimage destination for centuries.

The church is only partially restored. In these areas the colors are shockingly vivid in the grime. A glimpse of heaven I think. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Viettato I’Ingresso- Forbidden Entry: Iron Light, Shadow Rays

Viettato I’Ingresso- Forbidden Entry: Iron Light, Shadow Rays

Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy

 

Wandering through the labyrinth of passages and hallways at the Vatican Museums is breathtaking; to be in such close proximity to masterpieces, frescoes and religious icons of such fame and importance is a mind-boggling experience for the artist. And it’s not just the artworks. I believe I spent just as much time gazing up at the incredibly ornate ceilings and architectural details as I did looking at the priceless paintings hanging on the palace walls. Its so exciting but it can also be mind numbing and an overwhelmingly exhaustive experience.

At one point, I found respite up some marble steps that lead up a narrow corridor to a gated forbidden passage. It was curious to find this somewhat formidable but exquisitely crafted heavy medieval iron barrier in a world of high-tech security measures. But it was a convenient enough backrest as I became mesmerized by the play of light and shadow cast on the vaults above.  These gates created, a beauty not found in the iron itself but in the ethereal scattering of light it produced.

Are we not all simply rusting iron in hope of reflecting light from darkness and thereby creating a measure of beauty despite ourselves? I wonder …

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Sacred Crossroads: Intersection

Sacred Crossroads: Intersection

Scandicci, Italy

 

Strolling to our favorite gelato shop in Scandicci (Italy) we were intrigued by this shrined intersection. The blue ethereal neon seemed oddly incongruous amidst the common and utilitarian objects that fill our urban spaces. Yet in another sense, the cool glow of this divine representation was somehow exactly where it should be—in the world, not separated from it. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of our daily existence, it was an anchor and a reminder of what is true and lasting.

As the green generic symbol gave us permit to cross, we hurried on to our ice creams—the same, but different—pedestrians not unaffected by this sacred intrusion. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Available

Vineyard: Early Morn 30-San Gimignano

Vineyard: Early Morn 30-San Gimignano

San Gimignano, Italy

 

I remember awakening early in the morning, around 4:30 or 5:00 AM—as soon as there was the slightest glow in the east. I hurriedly dressed and, with watercolors in hand, I hiked out the medieval front gate of the village toward a vineyard below.

I walked until I found the perfect space and positioned myself among the vines and leaves of the rustic vineyard. I had a clear view of San Gimignano at sunrise bathed in a pink and golden light that seems to be found in no place outside of Tuscany.

It was my 30th wedding anniversary that morning and as I painted a gift for my beloved, I felt an incredible sense that I had found my Eden and center there.  As the early light illuminated the medieval “skyscrapers” and washed in the beauty of a new day, I was home.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Terra Santa: Holy Ground- Maximus et Minimus,

Terra Santa: Holy Ground- Maximus et Minimus,

St. John Lateran Arch-basilica, Rome

 

Dedicated in 324 by Pope Sylvester I, St. John Lateran was declared to be Domus Dei, the House of God. This church is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Lateran is the area of Rome where the basilica is situated.

It is difficult if not impossible to visit this place and not be overwhelmed by its monumental size and opulence. It is a grand statement of a zealous intention to create a place that is worthy for the praise and honor of God.

It was late afternoon and the central nave was darkening but the south side aisle remained illuminated by dramatic rays of light that created a gorgeous and almost celestial atmospheric ambiance. A lone plastic chair, plain and purely functional in its simplicity, was caught in the bathing light. It appeared too small and very out of place in its opulent surroundings.

I could relate to that chair and sensed God’s grace and mercy there in the “maximus et minimus”, the greatest and the least, the ordinary and extraordinary, all coexisting in the experience of being human.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Circle, Square, Triangle: Duomo di Orvieto

Circle, Square, Triangle: Duomo di Orvieto

Orvieto, Italy

 

Orvieto is an Umbrian hilltop village between Florence and Rome. In 1263, a Bohemian priest was on his way home from a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped near Orvieto to celebrate a holy mass, and was astonished to see so much blood drip out of the communion wafers that it soaked through the cloth below. Determined a miracle, the relic was to be housed in a new cathedral, the Duomodi Orvieto.

Taking 300 years to complete, it is now widely considered the most glorious example of Italian gothic architecture in Italy. Its masterfully proportioned facade is embellished with perfect geometric forms and structural details: the circle- a symbol of the heavens and the eternal; the triangle- the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and the square- the earth, and the four directions.

Looking down the narrow Vicolo dei Dolci toward the great duomo, the street signs repeat the geometry of the cathedral adornment, an inescapable irony, the sacred and the profane in coexistence.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Gilpin’s Fulfillment : Content Cows, Ancient Stones and Early Morning Light

Gilpin’s Fulfillment : Content Cows, Ancient Stones and Early Morning Light

Tintern, Abbey, Wales, UK

 

The majestic ruin, that is Tintern Abbey, has been a spiritual inspiration on several occasions, but on this particular visit it was absolutely incomparable. The raking light so perfectly delineating every texture and intensifying each color; the herd like actors on cue gathering to graze directly in front of this exquisite stage backdrop; and the architecture itself, aged and broken but, like an elderly person’s face wizened and wrinkled by time, it becomes more beautiful.

In 1882, William Gilpin, in Observations on the River Wye, coined the word “picturesque”. He studied and analyzed the nature of beauty and eventually labeled and quantified something so intangible. Incidentally, the River Wye flows next to Tintern Abbey, a sacred place that is certainly worthy of this descriptive word.

But do the contented cows appreciate or even recognize their close proximity to the divine? Do we as well?

Tintern Abbey, in Wales, has been a spiritual focus for us on several occasions. The space seems divine each time we are blessed to visit. The enormity and awe-inspiring nature of this 12th century abbey, seems of little consequence to the contented cows grazing nearby.

 

Medium: Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1 3/4"
Sold

Tree of Life: Light. Shadow. Stone

Tree of Life: Light. Shadow. Stone

Tintern Abbey, Wales, UK

 

As the early morning fog was just departing the small village of Tintern, we arrived to a towering skeleton of broken stone and lost vaults.  It was magical and captivating--an abbey in ruin but with an undiminished grandeur and majesty that continues to defy a long dead king’s dissolution. 

Meandering beneath azure skies framed by empty arches and ceilingless walls, we felt small and inconsequential in God’s creation. But we also felt his presence to a degree that I have not experienced in the most extravagant of churches--a reminder that man’s creations are but a dim reflection of His masterpieces.

In awe and wonder we continued to explore an interior carpeted with soft emerald grass when, in response to the sun’s warmth, punctuations of tiny white flowers suddenly began to open around us.

Emotionally overwhelmed by a space so suddenly and intimately transformed by divine creation, we both understood that we were witnesses to the miraculous...

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Veiled Covenant

Veiled Covenant

St Mary the Virgin, 12th century Norman church, St Briavels, UK

 

On an early Sunday morning, after spending the night in the village castle across the lane, we decided to investigate this 12th century Norman parish church. The door to St. Mary the Virgin was open and the church empty. It was a quiet meditative place, smelling of age and dampness but it was also somehow welcoming and comfortable. It made one feel good to be there.

After a few minutes, we met a gracious member of the church, an angel that had arrived early to prepare the coffee and tea for the Sunday school classes. After she left, I gazed at the shiny chrome percolator shrouded in holy linen and reflecting bright blue china teacups. I thought how comforting and familiar this felt. It reminded me of all the precious people that have served me and provided for me over my lifetime. 

On the walls back-dropping these utilitarian objects were centuries-old memorial stones, reminders that life and death, drink and sustenance are all part of being human and that simple activities like preparing coffee for others can become sacred acts of kindness, employing simple emblems that are sanctified by the hands that give to others.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

St Mary the Vigin Parish Church, St Briavels, UK

 

While exploring this small parish church, we secretively stepped past a drawn curtain that was draped across the back of the wooden pipe organ. Beyond the partition we discovered a storage area for the church. Like an old attic, it was haphazardly strewn with various objects of all sorts. Most were ordinary and a few suggested past spiritual purposes—all seemed abandoned and unrevered. Yet, somehow the light that filtered through the cut glass medieval windows seemed to bless and bestow each object with imbedded significance and a sense of the holy.

Three crosses, a wooden ladder, a lamp, a bare light bulb; kept objects, pondered things—mysteries.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

DETAIL

Sanctification of the Ordinary:  Fire-Water-Light

Sanctification of the Ordinary: Fire-Water-Light

Holy Trinity Church, Headington, UK

 

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 14th Century Gothic Revival style, Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1848. It is located about a 15-minute walk from the home of C.S. Lewis. He, his brother and Mrs. Moore were members of the congregation for over 30 years. There is actually a small plaque marking the pew where he usually sat. At his death in 1963, Lewis was buried there in the churchyard cemetery.

I found myself drawn to the simple still life so perfectly yet unintentionally arranged. An unassuming ceramic bowl and a decorative glass bottle filled with water are the only objects on the small shelf, yet the composition enlarges to include sacred and secular objects that are somehow consecrated by their surroundings. A radiator, a posted note, cut-glass windows, a stack of books, scarlet pillows, etc.—the ordinary may become extraordinary in the light of the holy.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Ghiberti’s Gates: Paradise Gained

Ghiberti’s Gates: Paradise Gained

Oxford, UK

 

This ancient gate, this seemingly long closed entry, once provided access into the grounds of Balliol College, one of the oldest of all the colleges in the Oxford University system. This year the college is celebrating its 750th anniversary as an academic institution.

With the intricacies of fine lace, a tangle of leafless vines covered the weathered doors making it obvious of their closure for many years. The pattern of the random clinging vines and the skillfully carved decorative doors fascinated me. Although there is inherent beauty in both, I believe nature easily wins the contest.

It struck me that these doors of “knowledge” sealed by the years, had many a story to reveal and I am sure I’m not the only one to wonder at the hidden mysteries they contain.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Available

Lead-Glass-Stone: Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey

Lead-Glass-Stone: Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey

Bath, UK

 

There is something intriguing about the transparency of leaded glass, reflected and fractured by sunlight. Each small pane, each puzzle piece, filters and transforms the light while providing a clarity and effect reminiscent of staring into the depths of crystal clear waters.

Known as the Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey’s myriad of windows washes its interior with an airy brightness that is seldom observed in medieval churches. It was consecrated in 1499 and situated near the ancient Roman pools. It now shares its proximity with curio shops, street musicians, giggling children and of course pigeons.

It is a mystical experience to be "bathed" in this odd mixture of the ancient and the present.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Sentinels. Sheep. Shelter: Avebury Stones-Early Morn

Sentinels. Sheep. Shelter: Avebury Stones-Early Morn

Avebury, UK

 

The Wiltshire Horn is one of the oldest sheep breeds in Britain, dating to the Roman occupation of the isles. But the story retreats back even further to the Phoenicians who supposedly bartered these sheep for tin and copper.

The tiny village of Avebury is built in the midst of the largest circle of standing megalithic stones in the world.

It was early morning when we arrived at Avebury and the sun only sporadically peeked through the early haze. The sheep contentedly grazed among the ancient megalithic crags, unaware of the historical significance of their surroundings. It seemed ironic that farmers till their fields and livestock roam freely amid this area that was surely once sacred to man.

Are we not all like sheep, blindly unaware or unable to see the sacred around us? 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Tree of Life: Guardian

Tree of Life: Guardian

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Approaching the entry to this intimate parish church, the path leads visitors through an ancient graveyard and past a tremendous tree, a great yew which stands as protector, arms outstretched over those living and those who have passed on.

The tree is so massive and it’s canopy so dense, so expansive that when it rains one can stand beneath it and not get wet. Some years back I watercolored for hours under the shelter of this tree, unaware that the mist had turned to rain. Only when my friend and fellow painter arrived, miserable, shivering and soaked to the bone, did I realize how wet the weather had actually become.

I wonder what others this tree has sheltered over what might be centuries. The oldest tree in Europe is thought to be a yew in Scotland—its age, 3000 years.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
SOLD

 

 

Broken Shadows: Light and Rest

Broken Shadows: Light and Rest

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

It is the perfect canvas for God’s favorite medium—Light. Filtering through the trees, it creates a slowly modulating dance of dappled shapes and shadows on this ancient church wall; a perfect backdrop for the headstones, inscribed with names, some lost forever to the erosion of time and weather.

And what beauty is found in the varied textures of both rough wall stones and the skillfully carved filigree that describes the wall’s narrow arched windows. I love the warmth of the stone’s golden color, especially against the cool blues of the sky.

I have always been fascinated by the way light changes throughout the day, but it is only since I began plein air painting that I have truly come to appreciate how dramatic these changes can be; rain, clouds, sunshine and shadows.

What a perfect day.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

 

Binsey Light

Binsey Light

St Margaret of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

This space epitomizes for me what it is to be sacred. It is about holiness but it also about the light. It is a light that expresses all the colors of the seasons, ranging from the greens of spring, the sunshiny ochres of summer, the warm earth tones of fall and especially the cool deep violets of winter.

I find it comforting that a space that is in some way separate from the world reflects and embraces it so fully. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

Chairs, Quiet and Witnesses

Chairs, Quiet and Witnesses

St Margaret of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Two simple chairs, an oil lamp, a small prayer altar, flowers, light: simplicity is beautiful. Sometimes it amazes me just how perfect a found scene can be. No person purposely created this harmony of light, color and composition. No human at least.

There are beautiful things that overwhelm the senses with intensity, color, sound and emotion. We are all moved by these magnified experiences. But the ones I cherish most are rather like this scene, a quiet and gentle moment when all is in balance and at peace. There is a beauty in these things that I find difficult to explain but hopefully it can be sensed and shared. That is enough I think.

A phrase Robert Browning wrote in his 1855 poem, The Faultless Painter, comes to mind—“Less is more”. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Altar Linens and Mop

Altar Linens and Mop

St Margaret’s of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Brooms, mops, and dusters lean against a back wall next to the protective chest labeled “altar linens”. This tiny space hides away the tools of the trade and intertwines the secular with the holy. It is a reminder that the work of Christ can be a “messy business”. He wants us to get our hands dirty, breathe in the dust and the grit of humanity. These tools of labor seem profound; the sacrifice of our time and energy, and the release of our ordered existence for the mess of the message, a message that is beautiful.

I also think the mop, the insect net and the duster are worthy of any artist’s efforts simply because they too have their unique beauty; their color and textures, so vivid and rich in the shadows of this hidden nook. There is beauty in all creation and ugliness is not a fact but often simply a misguided perception. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Silent and serene, the small representation of Saint Margaret of Antioch holds quiet vigil in the gentle morning light—welcoming all sojourners to this isolated place and inviting all to come, to be still, and to find peace.

I escape the sunlight and step back in time, quietly entering this dark humble church. The only illumination is from the leaded windows, for this place still has no need for such modernities as electricity. As usual, it is empty but for rough timbered beams, old plastered walls and timeworn furnishings. Cold stones are inscribed with barely legible dates and names, lives long gone but not forgotten here.

I breathe in air that is cool and wet but on this day the familiar musty aromas are sweetly accented by the hint of flowers. A funeral is to take place later this day.

As young art students sit outside and paint the churchyard, I am lost in this quiet sanctuary.  Alone I sit and enjoy the subtle nuances of color that the cut glass and filtered light reveal. I am lost but have found that promised peace. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

DETAIL

Not by Works… Passage

Not by Works… Passage

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

The fragrant flowers greet us as we pass through the two heavy doors and enter this holy space. For in preparation for a parishioners’ funeral, the small sanctuary has been readied and adorned with homemade floral arrangements, flowers perhaps picked from a neighbors’ gardens.

Thus reminded once more of the transience of life on this earth, the propped up push-broom in the corner stands as a testament to the stilled and unfinished labors of man…

As the heavy aroma of Heaven lingers.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

Extraordinary Ordinariness: Cross Light

Extraordinary Ordinariness: Cross Light

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

In exquisite colors, this small pair of west windows tells us a story that is unlike any other in the existence of the world—a young girl has been chosen to bear God’s son—it is the Annunciation and it is so beautiful. Glorious, extraordinary is this vision of love and hope.

Focused on the windows I do not see the cross. In the shadows below, forgotten beads are draped over a simple wooden post and deeper in the darkness hangs a diminutive crucifix.

Months later I begin this painting and only then, when enlarged on my computer monitor, do I discover it. It was there all along but I was distracted and I missed it. Surely there is a lesson here—surely there are many. How often have I been blinded by the shiny, the loud or even the beautiful? How many times have I not seen His presence or heard his whisper over all the shouting? 

I’m reminded of the German philosopher’s words:

                  “Look closely, the beautiful may be small”.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

 

 Oil on Canvas, 2014 Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"  Not Available

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Not Available

Ninety and Nine: But None of the Ransomed Ever Knew …

Ninety and Nine: But None of the Ransomed Ever Knew …

Dumfriesshire, Scotland

 

Is there anything more picturesque than rolling hills, soft green grass, dappled sunshine and distant sheep sheltered under the branches of a lone grouping of dense oaks?

 We caught a quick glimpse of this bit of heaven while driving through the lush countryside of southern Scotland. At first I thought the sheep were distant pale colored stones, as scale is so deceptive and distance so difficult to measure in the vast grass-scape.

We were compelled to turn about and immerse ourselves in this blissful view of paradise and peace—perfect peace not often found.

The words of the hymn, Ninety and Nine were pinned by Elizabeth C. Clephane (1830-1869), an invalid woman from Melrose, Scotland. Her inspiration is not difficult to imagine.

Is there anything more serene than sheep resting upon soft green grass shaded by protective branches? We caught a glimpse of this bit of heaven while driving through the lush countryside of Scotland. We were compelled to turn about and immerse ourselves in this blissful view of perfect peace.

 

Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 36" x 72" x 1 3/4"
Available

Iron, Stone, Water and Blue Door

Iron, Stone, Water and Blue Door

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

Moving through the tall grass amidst the simple iron crosses and massive gravestones, I am overcome with an appreciation of the moment. The beauty of Scotland is breathtaking and it causes me to pause and appreciate those who may have stood in my exact spot and pondered the same thoughts. I feel as though I am literally in a “cloud of witnesses”, overwhelmed by what my eyes behold…what their eyes beheld - Heavenly beauty here on earth.

The bright blue door welcomes me and calls me in.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Loch Linnhe, Morning Fog

Loch Linnhe, Morning Fog

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

The morning fog rolls in over the loch and onto the hillside home of Saint Bride’s Church in Scotland. This gothic revival structure stands as a spiritual citadel for the small community. The scene is so picturesque that it seems almost too beautiful to paint and, as an artist trained in the modernist tradition, it is hard for me to even consider it. For I ask myself, “Where is the irony, the ugly counterbalance? All I see is “pretty.”

But its beauty beckons me to paint it so I have.

I wonder how any artist can paint such beauty and not feel inferior and inadequate to the task. For despite any painter’s skill and expertise, an interpretation in paint is but a pale shadow of the creation of the one true Artist’s handiwork. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

St. Bride’s Flowers- Dominicus tecum (the LORD is with thee)

St. Bride’s Flowers- Dominicus tecum (the LORD is with thee)

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Onich, Scotland

 

St Bride, also known as Brigid, was an Irish lady who founded the first nunnery in Ireland. St. Bride's Church, built in 1875, is a small unpretentious structure on the shores of Loch Linnhe. Its churchyard is scattered with old stones and cast-iron crosses. Strangers are welcomed inside through the bright blue wooden doors.

The only light in the shadowy interior streams through meticulously crafted stained glass. The church is empty, but a colorful bouquet of fresh flowers belies a recent human presence. The flowers are placed in a deep sill and are silhouetted by the exquisite cut glass windows immediately behind them.

There is a floral pattern in the windows. Man’s imitation of God’s creation, a sharing in the creative spirit, but alas, through a mirror seen dimly.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Signs and Wonders: No Access

Signs and Wonders: No Access

 

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

When my wife, Jill, and I explore small parish churches, we are discovers seeking hidden treasures. We are often surprised and many times awed by what we find. Simple things: a hand-worn baluster, a color, a shadow, a lonely chair, a draped table, an open book, and the list continues on. Seemingly insignificant, with some contemplation these things can become packed with meaning.  

On the west wall, just below an antiquated pipe organ, we come across this vignette of stored chairs and miscellaneous items of both sacred and secular origin. We marvel at the metaphors that abound: the table, the shroud, the angel, the chairs, the stairs, the light, the red star, etc.. 

How can the unintentional and unplanned messiness of life have such significance? How does God work in this world?

There is much mystery. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Silence Waiting: Meeting Peace

Silence Waiting: Meeting Peace

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

Behind the pews there are gathered a casual grouping of chairs in a space defined only by a brightly colored rug, a draped table, the back of a church pew and a north plaster wall. It is a very ordinary and unassuming scene that might easily be ignored as one enters the church and looks east toward the formality of the altar and windows.

But for me this space is more inviting and certainly more intriguing. I once thought shadows were grey and I at one time would have thought these plastered stonewalls were white. But how could I be so blind? The plain walls are bathed in a rainbow of subtle pastels and the shadows are as deep and saturated as gemstones. When we “look” at the ordinary we often miss seeing the extraordinary within. When we “see”, the  simple, the unpretentious and the ignored become transformed; the last shall be first.

These humble wooden chairs are placed for conversation, for relationship and in their silence they await their fulfillment through the human presence. Personally, however, I think they are perfect as is.  What serenity, what peace…Glorious. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Awakening Glory: Morning Whisper

Awakening Glory: Morning Whisper

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

This “found” scene is to me so rich with metaphor and so harmonious in terms of its visual elements and composition. The stained glass window is pictorially centered and tells the familiar Annunciation story. With brilliant hues it transforms the clear sunshine outside into indescribably rich gem-like colors that fill and transform the dark interior, a “light brought into a world of darkness”. It also reminds me that we are like the individual colors of the spectrum each with unique gifts and potentials, but we are not the white light, only a contributor to that pure Light.

And flanking the window on the right is a slightly open door, on the left a mysterious dark painting of what may be a highland sunrise or perhaps another artist’s attempt to interpret the message of the annunciation story.

Is it wrong to seek meaning in a radiator or an open door?  I don’t think so… as I remember this again may be God’s rhyming. “There are no coincidences”. 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Two Trees: Eden Series

Two Trees: Eden Series

Two Trees: Eden Series is about choosing and depicts two ancient trees--roots inseparably locked and entangled together. These trees are located on the henge of the village of Avebury, England, the location of the largest Neolithic stone circle in the world. 

Oil and gold leaf on four wood panels, 2015

24"x36" (each panel)

Available

Transfiguration

Transfiguration

Time and neglect are evident in this space that is no longer a functioning church. Yet it has lost not one measure of its beauty or holiness as the filtered evening light and gently undulating folds of white fabric shroud the interior in transfiguring purity.

The Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built in 1853 and served the German Catholics of the Faubourg Marigny. It now serves New Orleans as The Marigny Opera House.

Oil on canvas, 2016    

30"x40"

available                                                                                             

Glimpse

Glimpse

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1853  Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans

I wanted so much to climb those stairs. But without permission, I could only peak in the narrow passage. The steeply ascending steps were lit with that quality of light that only stained glass allows. Did they ascend to a bell tower or a balcony? I will perhaps never know. Sometimes all we get is a rare glimpse, a sliver of the unseen, a reminder that there is more out there—more up there. Yep, I want to climb those stairs. 

Oil on canvas, 2016

36"x48"

Available

Shroud

Shroud

We visited St Stephen Catholic Church in New Orleans on a Good Friday. The sculptures of angels and saints were shrouded in purple as a reminder that the Lord had not yet risen and death was not yet overthrown.  The effect was powerful, somber and mysterious; looking forward to Easter.

The construction on St Stephen's began in 1868 and was finished in 1887. It is the second largest church in New Orleans.

 

Oil on canvas, 2016

30x40

Available

Ascent: Shadowcase

1st c. B.C., Volterra, Italy 

 

Volterra, Italy is a hilltop village with a long and illustrious history. Originally established by the Etruscans in the 8th century B.C. and centuries later by the Roman newcomers, its narrow medieval streets, quaint shops and colorful people make this one of our favorite towns.

Soaking up the bright Tuscan sunshine, we strolled down winding alleys and lanes. Warm ochre walls, brilliant red poppies and colorful linens out hanging to dry surrounded us. We eventually arrived at the Roman amphitheater where, among the shadows of the ruin, was a darkened passage. Peering in, we discovered a crumbling stone staircase that climbed until it was lost in the sunlight of an opening above.

It seemed to beckon us upward… 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
SOLD: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Hallowed Light, Redeeming Quiet, Glimpsed Grace

Orvieto, Italy

 

We discovered this intimate side chapel in Chiesa San Lorenzo de' Arari (c. 1291), a Romanesque jewel, but just one of the several smaller medieval churches found in Orvieto, Italy. Gentle light streamed through a lone medieval window onto the Christ crucified, hanging above and in front of intricately patterned but faded frescos.

Pardon and mercy revealed; a sense of peace and exquisite beauty filtered in with the hallowed rays. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Not Available

All Saints Chapel

Church of the Heavenly Rest, Abilene, Texas

 

This jewel of a church, the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, is surprisingly located not in the English countryside but in the mesquite plains and plateaus of West Texas. It was designed by Philip H. Frohman (1887-1972), an American architect that specialized in the English Gothic style. He designed over fifty churches over his career and is perhaps most well known for his work with the Washington National Cathedral.

This image depicts the oldest part of the church, a side chapel with original windows from its earlier location downtown. The proportions, the glass and the light are exquisite and the sense of His presence there is undeniable. I am taken back to so many UK churches I have visited and I find this place to equal or surpass many.

There is a plaque at the church that reads: "No man entering a house ignores him who dwells in it. This is the house of God and He is here." I think its message could not be more apropos.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Private Commission

All Saints Chapel

DETAIL

Empty Vessels: Marble floors and Wooden Bones

Santa Maria Della Salute, Venice, Italy

 

This baroque cathedral was engineered and crafted eight centuries ago. The architecture is huge, the spaces breath-taking, the figurative sculpture unsurpassed, and the beautifully cut and richly colored marble floors seem too precious to tread upon. Yet today there sit several ordinary wooden chairs facing an unseen altar. They are evidence of the human scale, of human frailty, plain yet purposeful. They are somehow comforting, unassuming and without pretense.

I love this church. It is vast and intimate. It is a place of respite, a place of peace.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Transcendence of Ash: Sic Opportet Ubio Non Hic

Basilica della Santissima Annunziata di Firenze, Florence, Italy

 

This beautiful church is often ignored among the better-known churches and world-class art of Florence. However, its lack of tourists and gawkers just makes the experience of going there more meaningful. It is dark and covered in grime inside. It feels ancient and mysterious yet it’s just these attributes that affect the visitor so intensely. Voices invariably quieten to whispers as, through the heavy basilica doors, one enters holiness.

Founded in 1250, the facade was not added until 1601. The second oldest organ in Italy is in this church.  In 1252, a painting of the Annunciation was begun by one of the monks but abandoned in despair because he felt he could not create a beautiful enough image but while he slept an angel came and completed it. The church then became a pilgrimage destination for centuries.

The church is only partially restored. In these areas the colors are shockingly vivid in the grime. A glimpse of heaven I think. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Viettato I’Ingresso- Forbidden Entry: Iron Light, Shadow Rays

Vatican Museums, Rome, Italy

 

Wandering through the labyrinth of passages and hallways at the Vatican Museums is breathtaking; to be in such close proximity to masterpieces, frescoes and religious icons of such fame and importance is a mind-boggling experience for the artist. And it’s not just the artworks. I believe I spent just as much time gazing up at the incredibly ornate ceilings and architectural details as I did looking at the priceless paintings hanging on the palace walls. Its so exciting but it can also be mind numbing and an overwhelmingly exhaustive experience.

At one point, I found respite up some marble steps that lead up a narrow corridor to a gated forbidden passage. It was curious to find this somewhat formidable but exquisitely crafted heavy medieval iron barrier in a world of high-tech security measures. But it was a convenient enough backrest as I became mesmerized by the play of light and shadow cast on the vaults above.  These gates created, a beauty not found in the iron itself but in the ethereal scattering of light it produced.

Are we not all simply rusting iron in hope of reflecting light from darkness and thereby creating a measure of beauty despite ourselves? I wonder …

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Sacred Crossroads: Intersection

Scandicci, Italy

 

Strolling to our favorite gelato shop in Scandicci (Italy) we were intrigued by this shrined intersection. The blue ethereal neon seemed oddly incongruous amidst the common and utilitarian objects that fill our urban spaces. Yet in another sense, the cool glow of this divine representation was somehow exactly where it should be—in the world, not separated from it. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of our daily existence, it was an anchor and a reminder of what is true and lasting.

As the green generic symbol gave us permit to cross, we hurried on to our ice creams—the same, but different—pedestrians not unaffected by this sacred intrusion. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 48" x 1.5"
Available

Vineyard: Early Morn 30-San Gimignano

San Gimignano, Italy

 

I remember awakening early in the morning, around 4:30 or 5:00 AM—as soon as there was the slightest glow in the east. I hurriedly dressed and, with watercolors in hand, I hiked out the medieval front gate of the village toward a vineyard below.

I walked until I found the perfect space and positioned myself among the vines and leaves of the rustic vineyard. I had a clear view of San Gimignano at sunrise bathed in a pink and golden light that seems to be found in no place outside of Tuscany.

It was my 30th wedding anniversary that morning and as I painted a gift for my beloved, I felt an incredible sense that I had found my Eden and center there.  As the early light illuminated the medieval “skyscrapers” and washed in the beauty of a new day, I was home.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Terra Santa: Holy Ground- Maximus et Minimus,

St. John Lateran Arch-basilica, Rome

 

Dedicated in 324 by Pope Sylvester I, St. John Lateran was declared to be Domus Dei, the House of God. This church is the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. Lateran is the area of Rome where the basilica is situated.

It is difficult if not impossible to visit this place and not be overwhelmed by its monumental size and opulence. It is a grand statement of a zealous intention to create a place that is worthy for the praise and honor of God.

It was late afternoon and the central nave was darkening but the south side aisle remained illuminated by dramatic rays of light that created a gorgeous and almost celestial atmospheric ambiance. A lone plastic chair, plain and purely functional in its simplicity, was caught in the bathing light. It appeared too small and very out of place in its opulent surroundings.

I could relate to that chair and sensed God’s grace and mercy there in the “maximus et minimus”, the greatest and the least, the ordinary and extraordinary, all coexisting in the experience of being human.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Circle, Square, Triangle: Duomo di Orvieto

Orvieto, Italy

 

Orvieto is an Umbrian hilltop village between Florence and Rome. In 1263, a Bohemian priest was on his way home from a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped near Orvieto to celebrate a holy mass, and was astonished to see so much blood drip out of the communion wafers that it soaked through the cloth below. Determined a miracle, the relic was to be housed in a new cathedral, the Duomodi Orvieto.

Taking 300 years to complete, it is now widely considered the most glorious example of Italian gothic architecture in Italy. Its masterfully proportioned facade is embellished with perfect geometric forms and structural details: the circle- a symbol of the heavens and the eternal; the triangle- the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; and the square- the earth, and the four directions.

Looking down the narrow Vicolo dei Dolci toward the great duomo, the street signs repeat the geometry of the cathedral adornment, an inescapable irony, the sacred and the profane in coexistence.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Gilpin’s Fulfillment : Content Cows, Ancient Stones and Early Morning Light

Tintern, Abbey, Wales, UK

 

The majestic ruin, that is Tintern Abbey, has been a spiritual inspiration on several occasions, but on this particular visit it was absolutely incomparable. The raking light so perfectly delineating every texture and intensifying each color; the herd like actors on cue gathering to graze directly in front of this exquisite stage backdrop; and the architecture itself, aged and broken but, like an elderly person’s face wizened and wrinkled by time, it becomes more beautiful.

In 1882, William Gilpin, in Observations on the River Wye, coined the word “picturesque”. He studied and analyzed the nature of beauty and eventually labeled and quantified something so intangible. Incidentally, the River Wye flows next to Tintern Abbey, a sacred place that is certainly worthy of this descriptive word.

But do the contented cows appreciate or even recognize their close proximity to the divine? Do we as well?

Tintern Abbey, in Wales, has been a spiritual focus for us on several occasions. The space seems divine each time we are blessed to visit. The enormity and awe-inspiring nature of this 12th century abbey, seems of little consequence to the contented cows grazing nearby.

 

Medium: Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1 3/4"
Sold

Tree of Life: Light. Shadow. Stone

Tintern Abbey, Wales, UK

 

As the early morning fog was just departing the small village of Tintern, we arrived to a towering skeleton of broken stone and lost vaults.  It was magical and captivating--an abbey in ruin but with an undiminished grandeur and majesty that continues to defy a long dead king’s dissolution. 

Meandering beneath azure skies framed by empty arches and ceilingless walls, we felt small and inconsequential in God’s creation. But we also felt his presence to a degree that I have not experienced in the most extravagant of churches--a reminder that man’s creations are but a dim reflection of His masterpieces.

In awe and wonder we continued to explore an interior carpeted with soft emerald grass when, in response to the sun’s warmth, punctuations of tiny white flowers suddenly began to open around us.

Emotionally overwhelmed by a space so suddenly and intimately transformed by divine creation, we both understood that we were witnesses to the miraculous...

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Veiled Covenant

St Mary the Virgin, 12th century Norman church, St Briavels, UK

 

On an early Sunday morning, after spending the night in the village castle across the lane, we decided to investigate this 12th century Norman parish church. The door to St. Mary the Virgin was open and the church empty. It was a quiet meditative place, smelling of age and dampness but it was also somehow welcoming and comfortable. It made one feel good to be there.

After a few minutes, we met a gracious member of the church, an angel that had arrived early to prepare the coffee and tea for the Sunday school classes. After she left, I gazed at the shiny chrome percolator shrouded in holy linen and reflecting bright blue china teacups. I thought how comforting and familiar this felt. It reminded me of all the precious people that have served me and provided for me over my lifetime. 

On the walls back-dropping these utilitarian objects were centuries-old memorial stones, reminders that life and death, drink and sustenance are all part of being human and that simple activities like preparing coffee for others can become sacred acts of kindness, employing simple emblems that are sanctified by the hands that give to others.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

St Mary the Vigin Parish Church, St Briavels, UK

 

While exploring this small parish church, we secretively stepped past a drawn curtain that was draped across the back of the wooden pipe organ. Beyond the partition we discovered a storage area for the church. Like an old attic, it was haphazardly strewn with various objects of all sorts. Most were ordinary and a few suggested past spiritual purposes—all seemed abandoned and unrevered. Yet, somehow the light that filtered through the cut glass medieval windows seemed to bless and bestow each object with imbedded significance and a sense of the holy.

Three crosses, a wooden ladder, a lamp, a bare light bulb; kept objects, pondered things—mysteries.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses

DETAIL

Sanctification of the Ordinary: Fire-Water-Light

Holy Trinity Church, Headington, UK

 

Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 14th Century Gothic Revival style, Holy Trinity Church was consecrated in 1848. It is located about a 15-minute walk from the home of C.S. Lewis. He, his brother and Mrs. Moore were members of the congregation for over 30 years. There is actually a small plaque marking the pew where he usually sat. At his death in 1963, Lewis was buried there in the churchyard cemetery.

I found myself drawn to the simple still life so perfectly yet unintentionally arranged. An unassuming ceramic bowl and a decorative glass bottle filled with water are the only objects on the small shelf, yet the composition enlarges to include sacred and secular objects that are somehow consecrated by their surroundings. A radiator, a posted note, cut-glass windows, a stack of books, scarlet pillows, etc.—the ordinary may become extraordinary in the light of the holy.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Ghiberti’s Gates: Paradise Gained

Oxford, UK

 

This ancient gate, this seemingly long closed entry, once provided access into the grounds of Balliol College, one of the oldest of all the colleges in the Oxford University system. This year the college is celebrating its 750th anniversary as an academic institution.

With the intricacies of fine lace, a tangle of leafless vines covered the weathered doors making it obvious of their closure for many years. The pattern of the random clinging vines and the skillfully carved decorative doors fascinated me. Although there is inherent beauty in both, I believe nature easily wins the contest.

It struck me that these doors of “knowledge” sealed by the years, had many a story to reveal and I am sure I’m not the only one to wonder at the hidden mysteries they contain.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Available

Lead-Glass-Stone: Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey

Bath, UK

 

There is something intriguing about the transparency of leaded glass, reflected and fractured by sunlight. Each small pane, each puzzle piece, filters and transforms the light while providing a clarity and effect reminiscent of staring into the depths of crystal clear waters.

Known as the Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey’s myriad of windows washes its interior with an airy brightness that is seldom observed in medieval churches. It was consecrated in 1499 and situated near the ancient Roman pools. It now shares its proximity with curio shops, street musicians, giggling children and of course pigeons.

It is a mystical experience to be "bathed" in this odd mixture of the ancient and the present.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Sentinels. Sheep. Shelter: Avebury Stones-Early Morn

Avebury, UK

 

The Wiltshire Horn is one of the oldest sheep breeds in Britain, dating to the Roman occupation of the isles. But the story retreats back even further to the Phoenicians who supposedly bartered these sheep for tin and copper.

The tiny village of Avebury is built in the midst of the largest circle of standing megalithic stones in the world.

It was early morning when we arrived at Avebury and the sun only sporadically peeked through the early haze. The sheep contentedly grazed among the ancient megalithic crags, unaware of the historical significance of their surroundings. It seemed ironic that farmers till their fields and livestock roam freely amid this area that was surely once sacred to man.

Are we not all like sheep, blindly unaware or unable to see the sacred around us? 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Sold

Tree of Life: Guardian

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Approaching the entry to this intimate parish church, the path leads visitors through an ancient graveyard and past a tremendous tree, a great yew which stands as protector, arms outstretched over those living and those who have passed on.

The tree is so massive and it’s canopy so dense, so expansive that when it rains one can stand beneath it and not get wet. Some years back I watercolored for hours under the shelter of this tree, unaware that the mist had turned to rain. Only when my friend and fellow painter arrived, miserable, shivering and soaked to the bone, did I realize how wet the weather had actually become.

I wonder what others this tree has sheltered over what might be centuries. The oldest tree in Europe is thought to be a yew in Scotland—its age, 3000 years.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
SOLD

 

 

Broken Shadows: Light and Rest

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

It is the perfect canvas for God’s favorite medium—Light. Filtering through the trees, it creates a slowly modulating dance of dappled shapes and shadows on this ancient church wall; a perfect backdrop for the headstones, inscribed with names, some lost forever to the erosion of time and weather.

And what beauty is found in the varied textures of both rough wall stones and the skillfully carved filigree that describes the wall’s narrow arched windows. I love the warmth of the stone’s golden color, especially against the cool blues of the sky.

I have always been fascinated by the way light changes throughout the day, but it is only since I began plein air painting that I have truly come to appreciate how dramatic these changes can be; rain, clouds, sunshine and shadows.

What a perfect day.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

 

Binsey Light

St Margaret of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

This space epitomizes for me what it is to be sacred. It is about holiness but it also about the light. It is a light that expresses all the colors of the seasons, ranging from the greens of spring, the sunshiny ochres of summer, the warm earth tones of fall and especially the cool deep violets of winter.

I find it comforting that a space that is in some way separate from the world reflects and embraces it so fully. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

Chairs, Quiet and Witnesses

St Margaret of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Two simple chairs, an oil lamp, a small prayer altar, flowers, light: simplicity is beautiful. Sometimes it amazes me just how perfect a found scene can be. No person purposely created this harmony of light, color and composition. No human at least.

There are beautiful things that overwhelm the senses with intensity, color, sound and emotion. We are all moved by these magnified experiences. But the ones I cherish most are rather like this scene, a quiet and gentle moment when all is in balance and at peace. There is a beauty in these things that I find difficult to explain but hopefully it can be sensed and shared. That is enough I think.

A phrase Robert Browning wrote in his 1855 poem, The Faultless Painter, comes to mind—“Less is more”. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Altar Linens and Mop

St Margaret’s of Antioch Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Brooms, mops, and dusters lean against a back wall next to the protective chest labeled “altar linens”. This tiny space hides away the tools of the trade and intertwines the secular with the holy. It is a reminder that the work of Christ can be a “messy business”. He wants us to get our hands dirty, breathe in the dust and the grit of humanity. These tools of labor seem profound; the sacrifice of our time and energy, and the release of our ordered existence for the mess of the message, a message that is beautiful.

I also think the mop, the insect net and the duster are worthy of any artist’s efforts simply because they too have their unique beauty; their color and textures, so vivid and rich in the shadows of this hidden nook. There is beauty in all creation and ugliness is not a fact but often simply a misguided perception. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

Silent and serene, the small representation of Saint Margaret of Antioch holds quiet vigil in the gentle morning light—welcoming all sojourners to this isolated place and inviting all to come, to be still, and to find peace.

I escape the sunlight and step back in time, quietly entering this dark humble church. The only illumination is from the leaded windows, for this place still has no need for such modernities as electricity. As usual, it is empty but for rough timbered beams, old plastered walls and timeworn furnishings. Cold stones are inscribed with barely legible dates and names, lives long gone but not forgotten here.

I breathe in air that is cool and wet but on this day the familiar musty aromas are sweetly accented by the hint of flowers. A funeral is to take place later this day.

As young art students sit outside and paint the churchyard, I am lost in this quiet sanctuary.  Alone I sit and enjoy the subtle nuances of color that the cut glass and filtered light reveal. I am lost but have found that promised peace. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light

DETAIL

Not by Works… Passage

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

The fragrant flowers greet us as we pass through the two heavy doors and enter this holy space. For in preparation for a parishioners’ funeral, the small sanctuary has been readied and adorned with homemade floral arrangements, flowers perhaps picked from a neighbors’ gardens.

Thus reminded once more of the transience of life on this earth, the propped up push-broom in the corner stands as a testament to the stilled and unfinished labors of man…

As the heavy aroma of Heaven lingers.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold

Extraordinary Ordinariness: Cross Light

St Margaret’s Parish Church, 12th C, Binsey, Oxfordshire, UK

 

In exquisite colors, this small pair of west windows tells us a story that is unlike any other in the existence of the world—a young girl has been chosen to bear God’s son—it is the Annunciation and it is so beautiful. Glorious, extraordinary is this vision of love and hope.

Focused on the windows I do not see the cross. In the shadows below, forgotten beads are draped over a simple wooden post and deeper in the darkness hangs a diminutive crucifix.

Months later I begin this painting and only then, when enlarged on my computer monitor, do I discover it. It was there all along but I was distracted and I missed it. Surely there is a lesson here—surely there are many. How often have I been blinded by the shiny, the loud or even the beautiful? How many times have I not seen His presence or heard his whisper over all the shouting? 

I’m reminded of the German philosopher’s words:

                  “Look closely, the beautiful may be small”.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Not Available

Ninety and Nine: But None of the Ransomed Ever Knew …

Dumfriesshire, Scotland

 

Is there anything more picturesque than rolling hills, soft green grass, dappled sunshine and distant sheep sheltered under the branches of a lone grouping of dense oaks?

 We caught a quick glimpse of this bit of heaven while driving through the lush countryside of southern Scotland. At first I thought the sheep were distant pale colored stones, as scale is so deceptive and distance so difficult to measure in the vast grass-scape.

We were compelled to turn about and immerse ourselves in this blissful view of paradise and peace—perfect peace not often found.

The words of the hymn, Ninety and Nine were pinned by Elizabeth C. Clephane (1830-1869), an invalid woman from Melrose, Scotland. Her inspiration is not difficult to imagine.

Is there anything more serene than sheep resting upon soft green grass shaded by protective branches? We caught a glimpse of this bit of heaven while driving through the lush countryside of Scotland. We were compelled to turn about and immerse ourselves in this blissful view of perfect peace.

 

Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 36" x 72" x 1 3/4"
Available

Iron, Stone, Water and Blue Door

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

Moving through the tall grass amidst the simple iron crosses and massive gravestones, I am overcome with an appreciation of the moment. The beauty of Scotland is breathtaking and it causes me to pause and appreciate those who may have stood in my exact spot and pondered the same thoughts. I feel as though I am literally in a “cloud of witnesses”, overwhelmed by what my eyes behold…what their eyes beheld - Heavenly beauty here on earth.

The bright blue door welcomes me and calls me in.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Loch Linnhe, Morning Fog

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

The morning fog rolls in over the loch and onto the hillside home of Saint Bride’s Church in Scotland. This gothic revival structure stands as a spiritual citadel for the small community. The scene is so picturesque that it seems almost too beautiful to paint and, as an artist trained in the modernist tradition, it is hard for me to even consider it. For I ask myself, “Where is the irony, the ugly counterbalance? All I see is “pretty.”

But its beauty beckons me to paint it so I have.

I wonder how any artist can paint such beauty and not feel inferior and inadequate to the task. For despite any painter’s skill and expertise, an interpretation in paint is but a pale shadow of the creation of the one true Artist’s handiwork. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Sold: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

St. Bride’s Flowers- Dominicus tecum (the LORD is with thee)

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church, Onich, Scotland

 

St Bride, also known as Brigid, was an Irish lady who founded the first nunnery in Ireland. St. Bride's Church, built in 1875, is a small unpretentious structure on the shores of Loch Linnhe. Its churchyard is scattered with old stones and cast-iron crosses. Strangers are welcomed inside through the bright blue wooden doors.

The only light in the shadowy interior streams through meticulously crafted stained glass. The church is empty, but a colorful bouquet of fresh flowers belies a recent human presence. The flowers are placed in a deep sill and are silhouetted by the exquisite cut glass windows immediately behind them.

There is a floral pattern in the windows. Man’s imitation of God’s creation, a sharing in the creative spirit, but alas, through a mirror seen dimly.

 

Oil on Canvas, 2013
Size: 36" x 72" x 1.5"
Available

Signs and Wonders: No Access

 

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

When my wife, Jill, and I explore small parish churches, we are discovers seeking hidden treasures. We are often surprised and many times awed by what we find. Simple things: a hand-worn baluster, a color, a shadow, a lonely chair, a draped table, an open book, and the list continues on. Seemingly insignificant, with some contemplation these things can become packed with meaning.  

On the west wall, just below an antiquated pipe organ, we come across this vignette of stored chairs and miscellaneous items of both sacred and secular origin. We marvel at the metaphors that abound: the table, the shroud, the angel, the chairs, the stairs, the light, the red star, etc.. 

How can the unintentional and unplanned messiness of life have such significance? How does God work in this world?

There is much mystery. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Silence Waiting: Meeting Peace

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

Behind the pews there are gathered a casual grouping of chairs in a space defined only by a brightly colored rug, a draped table, the back of a church pew and a north plaster wall. It is a very ordinary and unassuming scene that might easily be ignored as one enters the church and looks east toward the formality of the altar and windows.

But for me this space is more inviting and certainly more intriguing. I once thought shadows were grey and I at one time would have thought these plastered stonewalls were white. But how could I be so blind? The plain walls are bathed in a rainbow of subtle pastels and the shadows are as deep and saturated as gemstones. When we “look” at the ordinary we often miss seeing the extraordinary within. When we “see”, the  simple, the unpretentious and the ignored become transformed; the last shall be first.

These humble wooden chairs are placed for conversation, for relationship and in their silence they await their fulfillment through the human presence. Personally, however, I think they are perfect as is.  What serenity, what peace…Glorious. 

 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"
Available: Reflection Gallery, Santa Fe

Awakening Glory: Morning Whisper

St Bride’s Scottish Episcopal Church (est. 1875), North Ballachulish, Scotland

 

This “found” scene is to me so rich with metaphor and so harmonious in terms of its visual elements and composition. The stained glass window is pictorially centered and tells the familiar Annunciation story. With brilliant hues it transforms the clear sunshine outside into indescribably rich gem-like colors that fill and transform the dark interior, a “light brought into a world of darkness”. It also reminds me that we are like the individual colors of the spectrum each with unique gifts and potentials, but we are not the white light, only a contributor to that pure Light.

And flanking the window on the right is a slightly open door, on the left a mysterious dark painting of what may be a highland sunrise or perhaps another artist’s attempt to interpret the message of the annunciation story.

Is it wrong to seek meaning in a radiator or an open door?  I don’t think so… as I remember this again may be God’s rhyming. “There are no coincidences”. 

Oil on Canvas, 2014
Size: 30" x 40" x 1.5"
Available

Two Trees: Eden Series

Two Trees: Eden Series is about choosing and depicts two ancient trees--roots inseparably locked and entangled together. These trees are located on the henge of the village of Avebury, England, the location of the largest Neolithic stone circle in the world. 

Oil and gold leaf on four wood panels, 2015

24"x36" (each panel)

Available

Transfiguration

Time and neglect are evident in this space that is no longer a functioning church. Yet it has lost not one measure of its beauty or holiness as the filtered evening light and gently undulating folds of white fabric shroud the interior in transfiguring purity.

The Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built in 1853 and served the German Catholics of the Faubourg Marigny. It now serves New Orleans as The Marigny Opera House.

Oil on canvas, 2016    

30"x40"

available                                                                                             

Glimpse

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 1853  Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans

I wanted so much to climb those stairs. But without permission, I could only peak in the narrow passage. The steeply ascending steps were lit with that quality of light that only stained glass allows. Did they ascend to a bell tower or a balcony? I will perhaps never know. Sometimes all we get is a rare glimpse, a sliver of the unseen, a reminder that there is more out there—more up there. Yep, I want to climb those stairs. 

Oil on canvas, 2016

36"x48"

Available

Shroud

We visited St Stephen Catholic Church in New Orleans on a Good Friday. The sculptures of angels and saints were shrouded in purple as a reminder that the Lord had not yet risen and death was not yet overthrown.  The effect was powerful, somber and mysterious; looking forward to Easter.

The construction on St Stephen's began in 1868 and was finished in 1887. It is the second largest church in New Orleans.

 

Oil on canvas, 2016

30x40

Available

Ascent: Shadowcase
Hallowed Light, Redeeming Quiet, Glimpsed Grace
All Saints Chapel
All Saints Chapel
Empty Vessels: Marble floors and Wooden Bones
Transcendence of Ash: Sic Opportet Ubio Non Hic
Viettato I’Ingresso- Forbidden Entry: Iron Light, Shadow Rays
Sacred Crossroads: Intersection
Vineyard: Early Morn 30-San Gimignano
Terra Santa: Holy Ground- Maximus et Minimus,
Circle, Square, Triangle: Duomo di Orvieto
Gilpin’s Fulfillment : Content Cows, Ancient Stones and Early Morning Light
Tree of Life: Light. Shadow. Stone
Veiled Covenant
Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses
Kept Things Pondered Things: Ladder and Three Crosses
Sanctification of the Ordinary:  Fire-Water-Light
Ghiberti’s Gates: Paradise Gained
Lead-Glass-Stone: Lantern of the West, Bath Abbey
Sentinels. Sheep. Shelter: Avebury Stones-Early Morn
Tree of Life: Guardian
Broken Shadows: Light and Rest
Binsey Light
Chairs, Quiet and Witnesses
Altar Linens and Mop
Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light
Saint Margaret, Flowers, Light
Not by Works… Passage
Extraordinary Ordinariness: Cross Light
 Oil on Canvas, 2014 Size: 24" x 48" x 1.5"  Not Available
Ninety and Nine: But None of the Ransomed Ever Knew …
Iron, Stone, Water and Blue Door
Loch Linnhe, Morning Fog
St. Bride’s Flowers- Dominicus tecum (the LORD is with thee)
Signs and Wonders: No Access
Silence Waiting: Meeting Peace
Awakening Glory: Morning Whisper
Two Trees: Eden Series
Transfiguration
Glimpse
Shroud