The spiritual aspects of Holy Week and the Easter season are themes of a unique art installation at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, representing the first time young artists from the Los Angeles Archdiocese have been invited to share their creative vision.
Twenty art students from Immaculate Heart and Loyola High Schools delved deep into their imaginations and came up with a wide variety of images and expressions of Christ's passion and resurrection for this inaugural art exhibition.
The installation, located in the north ambulatory area, was unveiled on April 10 and will be up until May 29. Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor, welcomed the students after Sunday Mass, presenting them with a certificate and words of encouragement and thanks.
"We at the Cathedral will get thousands of visitors here for Holy Week so your artwork will be seen by many people," he said. "Art is a great expression of God's creativity and we are happy that you are sharing your talent with us."
The artwork on display runs the gamut of media --- acrylic, photography, pencil, pen and watercolor --- as well as imagery ranging from realism to theoretical.
For example, Kyle Moreno's "Tree of the Cross," is a meditative study of a scratchy texture that evokes the physical nature of Jesus' cross. "The idea was to think about what Jesus must have felt when he was on the cross," says the Loyola sophomore. "Up against his back, [the cross] wasn't like a smooth chair; it would have been rough and ragged."
Likewise, Lily Clark's "Life From Flames," is an abstract mixed-media image that features a picture inside a picture where a stylized sun rises over a hillside of dead trees, all surrounded by a brightly colored boarder. For the Immaculate Heart senior, the process to her final product involved reviewing and seeking inspiration from Scripture. "I really didn't want to do a literal interpretation of the Resurrection, but what it means in the bigger scheme," Clark explains.
For many students, art is a way for them to challenge traditional ways of thinking, of breaking down the ordinary into something interesting and challenging. At first glance, Juan Carlos Duarte's "Release" seems to be the classic image of a hand releasing a dove --- but upon closer examination, the bird is actually a dirty pigeon. "I like my work to take the 'typical' and transform it," says the Loyola senior. "It makes you stop and think more."
Also channeling in different modes of expression in her artwork is Emma Hammond's "Flight" which juxtapose two images into one dichotomy of life/death, emptiness/fullness.
"There are feathers and bones in the middle which symbolizes death, but that negative space is surrounded by blue skies of life. There's also a face of a dove in the middle, very peaceful," says Hammond a junior at Immaculate Heart. "I was inspired by optical illusions, where you think it's only one image, but it's more than that."
"What these students have done really blows me away," says Immaculate Heart art teacher Denice Douglass. "The girls are thrilled that their artwork is here for many to see." Early in the project, four theology teachers at the all-girls' school were invited into the art room to discuss interpretations of the Resurrection.
"They planted the seed in the artists' minds," says Douglass. "That discussion really got the ball rolling."
"I like that this was a joint project and it has a great theme: the religious and spiritual connection of our faith to art," adds Cristina Faulkner, art teacher at Loyola. "The challenge was not to be too literal but rather to present our faith in a way without words. Art is another way you share who you are; it's a silent way but that artwork speaks for you."
Students and their art teachers applaud the efforts of Gayle Roski, director of arts and furnishings for the Cathedral, who suggested opening up exhibit spaces for local youth. "I really wanted to get our Catholic schools involved with the art program that is currently here at the Cathedral," says Roski. "For me, the Catholic Church has always been a patron of the arts, and honoring that connection between spirituality and creativity is a long-standing tradition."
Roski is thrilled with how this inaugural exhibit transformed from a mere idea back in November of last year. She hopes that next year, more high schools will participate, growing the event into an even bigger installation that allows local talent to present their concepts in a professional setting.
"Art is a wonderful expression which can open up the artist and viewer to the possibilities all around," she says. "After all, art makes life more fun, interesting and exciting."