Project Handel: Messiah 03
My piece was inspired by Handel & Haydn Society’s own violinist Aisslinn Nosky. I chose to create a centrally focused digital painting of a Stradivarius violin surrounded by a Byzantine style pattern frame. I wanted to bring the religious content of Handel's Messiah into my piece subtly, so I decided to paint the violin in the style a venerated religious icon might be shown in art.
Pen and Ink
For this project I endeavored to do justice to this classic production. My method of inspiration for this piece was simply listen to the performance, and translate what I heard into visual imagery. The pressure to create something that would match this prestigious work was high, but I persevered through this to create a piece that I believe perfectly encapsulates my experience with this well pedigreed oratorio.
For this piece, I decided to go with a rather unconventional viewpoint for the Ascension, a pivotal and iconic moment from Handel's Messiah. With a viewpoint provided in the first person, as opposed to the more common third person, my piece has let the viewer look through the eyes of divinity. The piece utilizes both acrylic paint and digital painting to establish a sense of modernity and texture. It is through this combination that the paint can show through, each brushstroke defining a fold in Jesus's clothing. I decided to go through with this alternate angle when it came to exploring a moment that has not exactly been viewed at such a perspective.
As a Jewish person, a piece of music primarily about Jesus, who is not the messiah to me, was complicated to create artwork for. And as a transgender man I am very familiar with the feeling of my body not being mine, so this piece is also deeply personal in how I connected to the music and the verses. In the end I decided to lean into those feelings about religion, to the benefit of the piece. This piece is about how Mary’s body was not her own, and how many times our bodies are not ours.
Ink and Digital
My piece is inspired by the lines in Isaiah 60:2–3. I also took inspiration from my experience attending Catholic school to help reinforce my concept. The idea to style the piece as a stained glass window came from the times I would zone out during weekly mass and just look at the stained glass windows and the reliefs that depicted the 13 stages of the cross. I chose to depict Jesus as a brown man with curly hair because I never really accepted the idea of Jesus being a man with fair skin and blue eyes and much prefer what Jesus might have actually looked like given the location’s racial and ethnic background.
For this piece I responded directly to the text of Handel’s Messiah. In the Part I the tenor accompagnato sings “...cry unto her [Jerusalem], that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.” I found these lines striking and imagined the spirit of Jerusalem shown as a woman waging war. I have always identified with warrior goddesses because of their ferocity as well as their archetypal maternal nature. Together these traits create a strength and righteousness that is terrifying and beautiful. I drew from references of ancient Israeli women to embody this spirit, and convey the duality of this line in the text.
Handel’s Messiah tells the story of Jesus Christ using relevant Bible verses as its text. In this piece, inspired by Messiah, I chose to depict the Virgin Mary in the role of the Good Shepherd, and Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, as one of her flock. To me, Saint Mary is one of the key characters in the story of Christ as his mother, and I wanted to emphasize the importance of the role of women in faith, while still keeping the relevant themes of the original piece of music.
Handel’s Messiah holds a lot of history, which is why I based my piece off of Handel’s process rather than the music itself. This period of time was grueling on Handel, a time where he only thought of music and barely ate. My piece is specifically inspired by the moment where Handel finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus of Messiah. It is believed that Handel cried out to his servant with tears in his eyes that he had seen Heaven and the great God himself. My piece shows Handel sitting at his desk surrounded by a snowy forest with God and his angels amongst the stars above him. I wanted to create a dreamlike atmosphere that would evoke some of the emotion that Handel must have experienced while triumphing through his composition.