Recently on display in the gallery of the villa Via Sacra in Barga, Italy is the work of two artists whose contemplation of the sacred is expressed in abstraction. The exhibit, Luce del Mondo, The Light of the World, presents the recent work of Florentine artist, Filippo Rossi and Kansas City born painter, Susan Kanaga. The two unite in their consideration of the Light of the World: the light of Christ which illuminates, the light of Christ which saves.
Luce del Mondo is sponsored by The Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality, founded in 2013 at Barga, Italy. The new Centre is a mission of the Community of Jesus, a Christian monastic community in Orleans, Massachusetts. It promotes the study of three central aspect s of the Community’s life — monastic spirituality, sacred art, and ecumenical exchange—at the international level. The exhibit brings together two artists, Rossi, Italian and Roman Catholic, Kanaga, American and Protestant, both contemplatives, both rooted in their calls.
The pursuit of abstraction has always been about one kind of purity or another—pure form, pure color, pure paint. The establishment of the genre in the Early Modern era was accompanied by one artist’s manifesto after another, each declaring the transcendence of their ideal as they slipped the moorings of conventional content. Rossi and Kanaga both draw inspiration for their work directly from their Christian faith and employ the richness of their respective vocabularies of abstract form to plumb the depth of its expression.
While contemplation of The Light of the World may well be beyond traditional figurative reference and the “things of this world,” both artists maintain their connection to the world we live in through their exuberant attention to surface. The elaborate layering of both traditional and non-traditional material, the distillation of form, and the focused application of color and texture found on the surfaces of their work recalls the loving labor of Renaissance or Medieval masters.
The work of both artists invites the viewer to undertake the journey into the sacred, rooted in constructs of meaningful form and inspired to joyful abandon with radiant expanses of luminous gold leaf and uncompromising color. Rossi and Kanaga give clear reference to themes of hope and the celebration of the salvific intervention of created light into the pain and darkness of the world.
Rossi’s bright forms communicate his belief that through the light of Christ our lives become full of color. The light of Christ is pure and contains all color; it is the sum of all colors. Rossi’s polystyrene panels employ two and three dimensions to present richly textured layers of pigment and gold for our contemplation as we embrace and walk in the light of Christ. The work, Bright Start presents another aspect of the “Light of the World”. The golden hemisphere emerging from a surface permeated with color in a pure white field can be seen to represent the light and purity of Christ present from the foundation of the world: Uncreated Light creating the light that endures in spite of the brokenness it encounters.
In Fiat Lux: Let There be Light, Kanaga’s rich color and gold leaf are meticulously layered over a foundation of God’s Word; pieces of biblical text are both concealed and revealed by the sumptuously textured pigment and gold. Thus, this world’s darkness and imperfection, represented by the rough textures and scrumbled colors, is mediated and pierced by the Light-bearing gold forms whose energy and shape suggest the presence of angels.
The inaugural exhibit of the Mount Tabor Foundation, Luce del Mundo, has been on display in Barga throughout the summer. It travels next to the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus in Orleans, Massachusetts where it will open on November 28 in conjunction with the Lux in Tenebris Artist’s Retreat.
Lux in Tenebris: Advent Encounters With Art presents an opportunity for artists and art lovers alike to explore Advent themes with the investigation of sacred art experienced within the monastic context of the ecumenical Community of Jesus on Cape Cod, MA. Participants prepare for the coming of the Light of the World with Art Historian Timothy Verdon, Director of the Office of Sacred Art from Florence, Italy and Florentine artist, Filippo Rossi. Verdon and Rossi will both deliver a series of lectures on sacred art and the artist’s call. Verdon’s topics include: Art and Faith: Monasticism and the Arts, The Artist’s Faith and Creativity, Art and Life: The Incarnation and the Visual Arts, The Artist’s Life and Creativity, Art and Prayer Contemplative Art, The Artist’s Prayer and Creativity, Art and Communion: The Eucharist and the Arts. Rossi will speak on The Sign of the Cross, Lux in Tenebris, and Magnificat. Interspersed with slide shows and lectures, the retreat will include quiet times for reflection, Monastic Vespers, graciously prepared meals, and outings to notable Art Galleries in the surrounding area.
The retreat is available as a one-day experience, or a full five-day encounter, with accommodations provided at Paraclete Retreat House at the Community of Jesus in Orleans, Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.mounttabor.it, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-240-7090.
Anna Mitchell is a Senior Designer for Paraclete Press and the Director of the Patmos Art Center at the Community of Jesus in Orleans, Massachusetts.