Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Lady of the Angels

During our visit to relatives in Los Angeles, we took a side trip to visit the main cathedral in LA, Our Lady of the Angels. The cathedral has some wonderful jacquard wall hangings designed byCalifornia artist John Nava and woven at a mill in Belgium. (I hesitate to call them tapestries, because jacquard weaving isn't true "tapestry," which is defined as having discontinuous wefts and a warp that doesn't show.)

There is a series of 7 panels in the front of the cathedral, behind the altar; 2 groups of panels, 25 in all, on either side of the nave; and another series of 5 panels at the back of the nave, over the baptismal font. All the panels are huge - up to 7 feet wide and 40-some feet tall.

Here's an overall shot of one group of the panels on the sides of the nave. I left the people in the foreground to show scale.

And a close-up off another panel:

The faces are deliberately modern-looking - appropriate in an architecturally modern cathedral - a few based on the artist's family members, others on photographs or death-masks of the saints being portrayed, and others on models recruited by a Hollywood casting director because of their resemblance to portraits of the saints. I was interested to see the fine black line around faces and hands that brings them into sharp focus against the background.

The background textures of the hangings are wonderful. The effect is of aged, weathered frescoes, and in one case, according to the church literature, based on "actual scans of excavations of the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem."

More detailed information about the artist and the wall hangings can be found here.


Deanna said...

Wow, those are exquisite!

neki desu said...

i feel a tad uneasy when i see such realism in weaving.same with baroque tapestries.if what one wants is realism there are much better ways to depict it . to me it's not worth the effort and says little of the craft and the language of weaving.
(sorry for the rant, but it's one of my peeves)

Sandra Rude said...

I agree with Neki to some extent; I really disliked the Magnolia Editions hanging that showed Michelangelo's statue of David, based on a photograph. The original statue is one of the most beautiful objects in the world; a photo of the statue is one step removed; and a weaving of a photo of a statue is so far removed from the original, it's pretty much irrelevant. At Our Lady of the Angels, I was more interested in observing the different weave structures and yarn choices and background textures than in the human figures portrayed. I'm not saying these hangings are good or bad, just interesting from a technical standpoint.

Tommye McClure Scanlin said...

Sandra, thanks for this posting... and also thank you for saying "I hesitate to call them tapestries, because jacquard weaving isn't true "tapestry," which is defined as having discontinuous wefts and a warp that doesn't show" As a weaver of plain weave, discontinuous weft tapestries I so much appreciate the use of the distinction in terms. I also very much appreciate beautifully designed and executed jacquard weaving. I'll be checking back to see how you and your new loom proceed!
Tommye Scanlin