“He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” -Psalm 147:4
“Lift up your eyes to the heavens : Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” – Isaiah 40:26
There are many different natural phenomena that brings people to their knees at the feet of Jesus saying, “yes Lord, I see you”. For me, it’s the stars. But it’s the nights that are overwhelmingly full of stars, where the milky way can be seen clearly and the magnitude of the universe comes crashing towards me. The stars have the power to make me feel incredibly small and insignificant and yet full of a purpose and calling. They show me just how big God is, so big that I can’t even begin to understand the magnitude of His creation.
Humanity can guess that there are roughly 100 billion stars in existence. Of those billion, humanity has located and “named” (or numbered) thousands of them. Constellations were the first attempt to grasp the magnitude that is the stars, to use and understand the recurring patterns that are present at night. They were used for religious purposes, understanding the seasons, agriculture and travel. In 1922, 88 modern constellations were given official merit in the world of astronomy. They act as points of reference for astronomers as they continue to dive into the depths of the universe.
Constellations are “stars in stellar patterns”. The crazy part is that stars are on their own orbits, only clustered together based on how they are viewed from earth. As time goes on, the constellations will shift and change. Even our attempts to pin down the vastness of the stars cannot be totally understood – our maps of the universe are ever changing.
I wanted to touch at the stars in this project, pick a constellation, and allow a moment to notice the stars. I picked the constellation Capricornus, and arranged my plates to fit its shape, and used gold luster to connect the constellation. I wanted them to be hung as a wall installation, but able to be removed and used for everyday use.
I’ve got to be honest now, I do not think my pieces are good, as we’ve come to understand the word. I was deeply moved by Rowan Williams’ words in Grace and Necessity. He highlighted that work made with integrity “of vision, purpose, and splendor manifests itself into beauty” (168). He talked about honest creation and imagination, an attempt to embody what we see in God’s creation. I am inspired by Creation around me, and I want my work to speak into that creation, and to ultimately point back to that. But looking at my final piece, I don’t think it points back to creation. There was a lack of integrity when I pursued the making, I was making to satisfy a class requirement, not because I truly wanted people to see again a sky that maybe they had lost sight of.
“Bad art is art that does not invite us to question our perceptions or emotions, that impose an intrusive artistic presence, that obscures both the original occasion of encounter, the original object in the world, and it’s own concrete life” (Williams, 150). I know I shouldn’t call my work “bad” but there is definitely an obstruction, a disconnect between my plates and the beauty that I wanted them to be inspired by.
“…this involves a dual act of reverence towards the world that is first seen or heard and towards the object” (Williams, 151).
I’m not going to stop here – I think the idea that began the process is one that I want to pursue. I just need to explore the idea with more curious and gentle strokes. I tried to force something that wasn’t ready to be embodied, but maybe this idea will pop up again in the future.
“The combination of that integrity, consonance and radiance is the work of love… it is beautiful when it is released from the artist” (Williams, 169).
The artist that is inspiring the visual and practical formation of the plate wall installation is Molly Hatch. I’m inspired by the cohesion and imagery of her work. I would love to see my pieces installed at this level, with the same cohesive vision and attention to detail as Molly Hatch has in her work. You can see more of her process and pieces at her website below.
Photographs : Corrie Mahr Photography
Grace and Necessity by Rowan Williams
Molly Hatch : mollyhatchstudio.com