Where do science and religion intersect?
According to artist Cornelia Parker, the two opposites are currently merging in the corner of a room in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. She calls it Anti-Mass, and the work of art is currently housed at the de Young Museum, gallery 16, to be exact.
Recently, when a soulful Southern Baptist Church burned to the ground at the hands of arsonists, Cornelia, with permission, collected and reclaimed the charred timbers of the once-vital wood structure. And then, without permission, she began her magical transformation that would, in her own artistic language, fuse science and religion; mind and heart; tangible and spiritual; grounded and otherworldly; violence and reverence into a powerful image, to lure people out of dualism and at least momentarily, into an awareness of the underlying unity of all things.
And how is this possible, you might ask? The answer: magical transformation and communication beyond words, is what art is all about—and where Cornelia Parker’s universe is centered. In the hands of such a gifted artist, the alchemy takes place.
Creating her masterful message, she chose to hang the charcoal debris from the ceiling by nearly invisible threads, suspending them as if hovering—defying gravity (anti-mass). What was once solid and earthly starts to rise and float in an ethereal form above the floor. Organizing the charred remnants into the shape of a cube in space, she suggests a ghostly outline of the original church. The word “Mass,” carries the double meaning of the physicality of our world, as well as the ritualistic sacrament at the heart of the Christian faith. Contemplating her sculpture from across the room, it’s possible to slip into that mysterious space where the faith of the stalwart, curiously mingles with, and transcends the violent act of arson. A calming sense of profound forgiveness surrounds her work. In fact, this presence of forgiveness is akin to what we felt amid the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche in Dresden Germany.
Art and sculpture aren’t for everyone—we know that. However, the message of transcendence and victory over hatred and destruction hopefully rings true for most of us. Thanks to Cornelia, there’s another voice in the world, reminding us of the infinite power of the unseen, and our collective capacity to shift our focus from hatred to love.
A great message to consider as we step into 2012. In fact, the message is poignant at any time . . . of any year!
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