Portrait if Icons draws on the significant reputation between light and icons in historical religious western painting and architecture. Such art metaphorically depicted the heavenly as light, and church architecture relied on stained glass windows to naturally illuminate biblical texts while symbolizing the divine.
The use of natural light in houses of worship is disappearing. An example of this can be seen in mega churches. Needing to give precedence to accommodating masses of worshippers, pulpits are replaced with stages, video screens and elaborate light/sound systems. Staying true to modernity’s design principal of “form follows function”, the preacher is projected on the screen, serving sometimes, as a sole pictorial representation of the church.
Portrait of Icons uses unbleached flour as a drawing medium for its opacity and western-biblical reference to bread and the body. Two portraits of mega-church preachers Rick Warren and Joel Osteen are cradled on either arm of a cross whose upper arm is absent. The drawings are rendered in loose flour, then "trapped" in acrylic. Once electrically lit from behind by a light box built into its frame, the opacity of the flour creates illuminated portraits of these men, who simultaneously represent as the arm of religion and as its icon(s).
I examine relationship with light and religious worship through Adoration, a series of sound and light installations. Focusing on church architecture, four sides of contemporary churches are poured in layers of transparent and opaque acrylic skins, held up by a cube of plexiglas frames. The cropped, perspective of the buildings are drawn and glazed in mixtures of acrylic medium and graphite. The lines of the churches’ architecture reference both Ed Ruscha’s standard stations and Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures: simulations of commonplace buildings scattered amongst our constructed landscapes, ones which may reveal much about our modern-day practice of culture.
The work confirms the human side of religious practice. The houses are lit from within using sound-sensitive lights that slightly fluctuate with sounds of breath, emphasizing the individuality of each religious person and house of worship. Recorded from a sermon given at Saddleback church, a mega-church whose minister, religious messages and house of worship have reached celebrity-like status. Sounds of applause, laughter and roar represent moments in which the attending bodies create one unified human voice. Our protagonist’s illumination fluctuates with these sounds and its followers respond in suit, pulsating organisms from within the buildings’ soft architectural skins.
Installation, Ryllega Experimental Contemporary Art, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2007
Acrylic, mylar, plexiglas, graphite, screws, cd, cd player, sound-sensitive converter and lights, dimensions variable