Bit o’ Honey ~ the little things that please

The little things that please . . .

Tree of Life ~ pt. 2

with one comment

“It looks like a chalice,” the chaplain said. 

Tree?  Chalice?

We studied the drawing tacked to the wall.  A chalice?  It hadn’t occurred to me.  “Not surprising you would find that,” I said, “considering your profession.”

“Everyone on the committee thought so,” he added.  

The chaplain and I were in my studio waiting for the other committee members to arrive.  I was thrilled at the news that my proposal had been chosen, but the real work was just beginning.  This would be my first public art piece, my first experience working with a committee, each member with their own ideas and interpretations of my design.  Like the chalice.  I would’ve never seen it had the chaplain not brought it up.  

“We can’t have a symbol so religious.  This design has to be as inclusive as possible.”

The project manager and art consultant arrived and together we discussed the chaplain’s concern.  I didn’t think the reference to a chalice was a bad thing, but I told them it could be easily fixed.   “I could add a few extra lines in the canopy or change the shape of the trunk.”

“In the watercolor there was yellow in the background,” the chaplain continued.  “A lot of yellow. And nothing else.”

Ouch!  He was right!

“I hadn’t really had a chance to consider how I might develop the background, and I want to do that.”

“There’s a stained glass window in the hospital chapel, you should see it.   It has a circle representing the moon and sun together.  A very powerful, ancient symbol.  There’s a bridge over a stream.  A rainbow too, something that speaks to many viewers as symbols of hope.”

Rainbows?  I thought.  Please, no rainbows!

“The chaplain has a point,” the project manager said.  “We really need to have the sense of hope.  I think of the sun pouring through the leaves.  It doesn’t have to be a literal sun, but a feeling.”

I led them to my light table where I’d lined glass samples in the palette I’d hoped to use.   The way glass comes alive in light is a marvel.  Colored glass, particularly mouthblown glass, has a purity and brilliance of color unmatched by paint or photography.  Its impact goes beyond any literal context or symbolism.  I’d kept my lines simple precisely because I wanted to draw attention to glass through my design, and not the opposite.  It was hard to express that at the time.  I’d hoped the glass would be allowed to do its magic on the psyche without the need for so many literal references.  They agreed the colors would work but that the design needed more symbolic relevance.  This seemed especially vital to the chaplain, which was understandable.  Of all those committee members present, he would be most involved with those who used the room where the window would be displayed.  

“Water is an important symbol,” he said.  “I’d like to see water.”

Water? I thought.  That means blue.  

The art consultant scribbled notes.  “I’ll need to document this.”

True collaboration means it’s no longer my single vision, it’s our vision.  They wanted water, and I would have to find a way to include it so that it fit with the rest of my design.   I rifled through old photographs of earlier windows I’d done depicting water.

“This looks more like the ocean,” the project manager said, sorting through the photographs.  “If I’m a parent whose child is in the neo-natal care unit, it might make me feel like I’m drowning.  It should be calmer.  ‘He leadeth me beside still waters.’  That’s what I think of.”

 “The twenty-third psalm,” the chaplain nodded.  “A cleansing water.”   

“Right,” I said, wondering how I might render cleansing lines.

“And leaves,” the project manager said, “I like the use of green.  Bright green, like this,” he said, pointing to a citron piece of glass used in a piece that hung in my studio window.  “This color gives the feeling of a verdant abundance.   Of growth and renewal.”  

Sexy lines. . .

“These lines,” he said, “I could look at them all day.  They feel meditative.  That’s why we chose you.  We just want you to put that same treatment into more symbols.” 

“Right.  I can do that.”  I tried to sound confident.  Actually, I wondered how I might do that without the result looking about as original as a paint-by-numbers landscape.  But this was a good reference.  My Tree of Life didn’t have the same flow of lines.  In this windows, the full leaves and movement added to the verdant quality.  That seemed a significant detail.  I would need to remember it for my second draft.   

We ended the meeting with pleasantries.  I reassured them of my willingness incorporate the ideas we discussed into the design.  We shook hands and they filed out.  The art consultant lingered a moment at the door.  “It’s a lot of information, but we like your aesthetic.  Just stay with that.”

“Thanks.  I’m sure I can come up with something that everyone will approve of.”  I wasn’t lying exactly, just wishfully thinking out loud.


Written by Janie

June 20, 2008 at 9:11 pm

One Response

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  1. That’s amazing. Wow, thanks for sharing that! I’m sure you can come up with something–I love the way you describe glass- it’s true- glass has a dimensionality and an interaction with the environment that painting and photography can never have. I know it must be hard to have someone telling you to change your work, but it is an eye-opening collaboration process!


    June 23, 2008 at 11:47 pm

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