Project Handel: Messiah 08

A nude figure holding a sphere of light



My biggest inspiration in this piece was the original program covers for the Handel and Haydn Society from the 1800s with the decorated borders and elaborate type. I wanted to create something that could emulate that but in my own voice, and looking at Messiah with a more contemporary view obviously. I also took inspiration from the lyrics of Messiah, and while I’m not religious I still felt that there is a very powerful and all encompassing feeling that comes with the idea of Messiah, and the concept of the creator who both gives and takes away. The concept of the omnipotent God is terrifying at best, but what stuck out to me was the idea of human life being bestowed with the gifts of the natural world and its all it has to offer.

An angel holding a lamb



While listening to Handel’s Messiah, I realized there were so many different emotions throughout all of the parts of the music. Rather than focusing on a singular emotion, I wanted to create something ambiguous that could be interpreted by the viewer. I was reading the text and was particularly drawn to the phrase “lamb of God”. I decided to take a literal approach to that phrase and illustrated an angel embracing a crying lamb.

Figures singing on violin scrolls



In Handel’s Messiah, I was very much drawn to the beautiful and powerful vocals of the choir. The strong and emotional melodies that their voices emit all at once while also accompanying the melodies of the orchestra altogether create this fantastical image of higher beings whose souls could forever sing to their hearts’ content. From this, I decided to create golden celestial beings with mouths open wide enough for their powerful voices to flow out from while their bodies are morphed with violins since both the choir and orchestra could not powerfully tell the story without the other.

An angel singing music



Messiah is a powerful and magical experience, I wanted to capture this fantastical feeling in the artwork. The winged character was initially inspired by angels depicted in Christianity, but I didn’t want that to be the sole focus. The second set of black wings act as a distinct character trait and a reference to the black garments worn by most choirs. The sheets of music swirling around her reflect the movement in the music, contrasting the strong statuesque posture held by the performers.

A red haired figure reaching for a fish



Every song I hear has either a certain shape or color scheme that it brings with it as it enters my mind. When I first heard Handel’s Messiah, it came to me with smooth, flowing shapes that moved fluidly and effortlessly through the air. I translated those shapes in this piece as fish, water, and hair. A water scene made sense to me, since it could not only perfectly replicate the soft moments of the music, but it could also match the sharper moments as well.

A trumpet shining in a beam of light



While listening to Messiah, I felt the ups and downs heavily. The decent and gravity of the instruments.

A conductor and musicians performing



This piece was inspired by Debra Nagy, an oboist who spoke to our class about her experience performing Handel’s Messiah. Nagy talked about her first time performing the piece, and playing as second oboe to her mentor. According to Nagy, typically, the oboe plays a more central role, but for Messiah, the oboist falls more into the background. She described her experience being a part of the symphony, but also observing from within. With this piece, I wanted to depict the childlike wonder of a young oboist’s first performance, both performing and observing.

A girl holding a candle with her eyes closed



When thinking about the characteristics of innocence and purity, many beliefs associate these with children. As for parents and others that are in a child's life, their influence is what steers a child into differentiate between what is right/good and what is wrong/evil. This piece is to represent the relationship between adults and children and how children are essentially guided "blindly" into becoming a person of good or evil in our world.

Angel rising above sand dunes



Since the music is about the story of Jesus, I thought I'd run with that theme.

Crowd reaching for gold sigil



This piece was inspired by the royal feel of Messiah in combination with a feeling of obsession. I decided to make a piece about a kingdom obsessed with a faceless king to represent the idea of worship an unknown figure and the obsession that comes with that.

Textile work of stained glass wings


Embroidery floss

After becoming disenchanted with traditional illustration materials, I wanted to figure out a way to fulfill this project using a more hands on material, such as embroidery. This entirely embroidered stained glass window features a pair of angel wings, a halo, and a cross, and was made out of many different colors and types of embroidery floss. This was the product of countless hours, many broken needles, and multiple emergency runs to craft stores.

Black and gold etching of a Chinese phoenix



When I heard the countertenor sing “he is like a refiner’s fire,” I suddenly registered the parallel between the story of Jesus Christ and that of the phoenix. Messiah narrates Christ's nativity, passion, and resurrection and ascension. These three stages each correspond to the phoenix as a chick newly risen from ash, as a full-grown bird, and as an egg enshrouded by flames. Engaging Christ with the mystical creature of phoenix guides viewers to appreciate Messiah outside of strict religious context, which was Handel’s intention. Drawing inspiration from past Messiah covers, I created an illustrated border that depicts Baroque instruments, geometrical flora, and a banner with type from 1855.

Hand conducting four trombones



When I first thought about how I was going to approach the Handel and Haydn commission I thought about what we were really being asked to do: we are interpreting music and transforming it into art. When I think about transformation in music, I think of the musicians. As an homage to the orchestra, I decided to focus my design around them.