Project Handel: Messiah 01
Gouache on watercolor paper
Messiah has many layers of religious allusion, imagery, and imposes an almost surreal loop of time with its repetition and reintegration of previous melodies and phrases throughout the piece. My work uses symbolic imagery of lambs, doves, and lilies among a victorian hat are meant to play with similar concepts of Christ’s resurrection and the morbid beauty of Victorian hats. As they walk away from the hat, the lamb and dove continue onwards, blurring the possibility of being a reanimated taxidermy or being reborn as new beings in a pastoral field.
Upon listening to Messiah, my head felt full of a choir of angels. I naturally began to paint. Somewhere in this process, I became brutally aware of the issue with classic depictions of angels. They are said to recognize an ideal version of the human body, typically reducing their appearance to one type. They seldom account for the abundance of diverse beauty that humans can exemplify. This illustration, in a way, defines my relationship with the human form. There is no single ideal. There is only love of one’s own flesh.
This piece was inspired by text taken from the scriptures by Charles Jennens titled, Messiah. Quoted in the scripture, "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising". (Isaiah 60:2-3) The vision I had while creating this was to capture Charles Jennens' use of the words "darkness", "arise", and "brightness". I visually conveyed this play on words, and the connections those words had to the people, the Lord and his glory. I expressed this by using pattern and color to represent the contrast between darkness and brightness, in addition to the impact that they visually had on the people and the Lord himself.
I painted the secretary bird warrior battling a venomous serpent. I wanted to illustrate the story of the Messiah through Chinese mythology. The secretary bird is known for beauty but also stomping on snakes. This bird was my main inspiration, I also looked at Dunhuang paintings and old master’s oil paintings of the Bible.
For the Handel and Haydn Society’s Messiah performance, I chose to deeply express the emotional ups and downs throughout the entirety of the music. The Messiah is reaching for heaven, but his Earthly burdens keep him from paradise. As a sacrificial lamb for the human race, I wanted to portray the struggle of his journey as depicted in the emotional story. There is perhaps an internal Messiah in all of us.
Taking inspiration from the lyrics from Part Two of Messiah, "Thy rebuke hath broken His Heart; He is full of heaviness; He looked for some to have pity on him, but there was no man, neither found He any to Comfort Him. (Psalm 69:20)" and my own experiences with religion as a queer person, I depicted a forbidden relationship between an angel and a demon. I took these lyrics and interpreted them to tell a story of tender love that isn't seen or taken kindly within the religion. Love is sweet and full but there is also temptation under the surface; love is complex and I wanted to depict that as well with this piece.
“The Creature’s Garden” was inspired by the music’s suspense. The work translates crescendos from the music into an eerie skeletal deer, staring right at the viewer’s face as though the being itself is stuck in time. In the glowing lush environment where the creature stands, falling rays of light are represented as the hope which the Messiah gives us in our times of need.
After listening to the music from Handel's oratorio Messiah, I decided to create a 3D tunnel book that has 4 layers. Each layer has different elements that I had cut out and assembled to create more depth and perspective. The LED lights illuminate the halo and stained glass windows that surround the wine glass symbolizing enlightenment. The borders are meant to resemble the program covers. I wanted my subject to represent a lost soul searching for guidance from Jesus. Hence why they’re reaching through the clouds to the pool of wine. There’s also sheet music in the background and borders as inspiration from the orchestra.
Watercolor, Ink, Collage
My piece was deeply inspired by Handel’s symphony Messiah. My piece is made of around seven different layers of individually cut and painted paper. All colors used in the project were done with hand stained paper with the exception of the black and the light purple layers. The Piece is 29x20” which is 11x16” scaled up about 1.5 times. The piece is my own colored variation of the biblically accurate angel Seraphim. I wanted to create something scary but also beautiful as the death and rebirth of Jesus was.
I was looking forward to beginning this assignment being a classically trained musician, however I do not have much experience in regards to religious works. At least, I am not familiar with their meanings or stories. After researching the Messiah piece and considering its context I decided to go with a very prominent symbol, Jesus on the cross. I also wanted to include my love for music and appreciation for the orchestra so I made a cello and bow perpendicular to one another to suggest a cross. This is to show the connection between the music and its historical significance.
Ink and Digital
For my piece, I was drawn to the imagery and symbolism of the Lamb in contrast with the Serpents -- their clear opposition and disparity against one another, as the Lamb signifies Christ, innocent and holy, while the Serpents are often depictions of Satan and evil. However, I did not want my work to be a violent, conflicting one; I wanted instead to show a sort of coexistence -- a calm before the storm -- as "good versus evil" circumstances often hide themselves in nuanced ways right in front of our eyes.