Interior of Ruined Church,
San Juan Capistrano
Robert Winter, 2005
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
40" x 30"
Giclee Print: $750
On Sheet Canvas, Unframed
Framed Original: Not currently for sale
Sometimes it looks as if the Mission San Juan Capistrano will be to me what Rouen Cathedral was for Monet. I just keep getting drawn back to it.
This particular painting is very much about openness and light. At its bottom, things are dark and solid; but as your gaze moves upward, the cold stone takes on progressively lighter and warmer tones--until at the very top, it seems to almost evanesce into the air and light.
I like this scene because its inspiring without being in any way narrow or constraining. You dont feel you have to get dressed up or adopt some piously uptight manner to be here.
In fact, a lot of the scenes emotional power comes from an element of sexual symbolism. For example, the dome interiors and arches have a womblike quality, the columns have phallic overtones, and the small stones at the very top suggest a kind of orgasmic release. I wonder if perhaps this type of imagery is more common in religious contexts than we realize--maybe because sexuality, as a basic life force, has such inherent emotional power for us.
What also enhances the sense of naturalness and wholeness is the roughness of the stone ruin. It reassures me that I can move around however I like in this environment, without worrying about breaking something fragile.
And of course, I find the openness of this church to the sky to be a wonderful metaphor. It doesn't cap anyone's rising gaze with a lot of contrived structures. Once the structure has served its purpose of directing the eye upward, it gets out of the way, leaving a sense of something higher that's far more powerful (as well as more honest) for its open-endedness.
© COPYRIGHT 2005 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.