The Dadian Gallery allows a rare opportunity to explore art as faith without the constraints of worship, workshop, indoctrination or pedagogy. It allows the work and questions contained in the work simply to be. This freedom was both energizing and daunting. Rather than laying out a specific theological construct or scripture that I was attempting to illuminate, I sought out a kernel of an idea, a mustard seed that I could explore, grow and follow.
Sometimes, if one is praying with open hands, the seeds that are needed appear unexpectedly. During a lecture at the American Academy of Religion 2012 annual meeting in Chicago, Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, spoke about the Saint John’s Bible project. In passing, he mentioned the passage that would serve as the Biblical springboard for the work: Proverbs 9, Wisdom builds her house on seven pillars and sets an elaborate feast for all. That same weekend, at the Art Institute of Chicago, I encountered the largest silverpoint drawings I had ever seen. On the train home, two things were clear. The show would have seven trees and there would be large silverpoint drawings. Everything else would emerge out of the nine-month-long process of making.
The creation of the Extravagant Gift was about process. The physical making of the components of the show revealed meaning rather than expressing a preconceived idea. The tree drawings began to take form at the level of applying layers of gesso as a primer. I could fight the medium and aim for the idea of perfection or follow what appeared before me. Irregularities in the base surface influenced the application of the watercolor wash and the silverpoint drawings.
Silverpoint by its very nature is a quiet medium. It speaks in a whisper of contemplation of a seed under ground... dormant, preparing to break forth. The trees emerged out of the panels in unexpected ways. Despite the barren and inhospitable landscape the trees are strong, deeply rooted, reaching for the sky. Like the drawings, the paper trees touch the ground and reach upwards. Rather than relying on a support structure, the trees are suspended, treading lightly on the earth; supported by the infinite dome of the sky.
This exhibition is an offering; art that invites contemplation instead of confrontation; art created as a form of hospitality; an extravagant gift to a community that has supported me on my journey.
Amy E. Gray
The Dadian Gallery has been transformed by Amy Gray’s Extravagant Gift.
Traditionally, a ‘gallery’ is a room or building devoted to the exhibition of works of art, where people look at paintings, sculptures or other art objects. Some of us have even (uneasily?) experienced a gallery as a business ‘dealing’ in works of art, and we expect to be approached by someone who has something to sell.
But this Extravagant Gift is an installation; it is not an object per se, it is an opportunity. It is not just a grouping of two- or three-dimensional things, but a site-specific four-dimensional experience.
Amy Gray’s Extravagant Gift offers visitors a place, some time, and a cloistered space, to shed extraneous mental chatter. We are allowed to wander amongst gentle, giant, swirling vortices of paper lace and ponder evocations of nature created by repeated flicks of a stylus filled with a semi-precious metal on prepared ground.
The creative process murmurs here. This ‘wonder’ land didn’t just magically appear, but evolved and morphed over three seasons. Contemplating, configuring, revising, drawing, cutting, stitching, placing, hanging, lighting . . . its impermanence is equally poignant. The paper will be pulled down and recycled; the drawings dispersed, the gallery space restored to ‘normal.’ But for a few weeks, wanderers may be swaddled in the elegant, subtle, prodigal generosity of this contemplative passage on their faith journey, allowing the possibility to reconsider, refresh, renew, re-invent, resume . . .
May the viewer may be transformed by this Extravagant Gift: worship in the making, joy in the receiving.
Trudi Ludwig Johnson
Curator, Dadian Gallery
Amy E. Gray, an Ohio native, received her B.F.A in Illustration and Advertising from the Columbus College of Art and Design. She worked as a Graphic Editor for Wesley Mancini Ltd., a textile design studio in Charlotte, NC. In Charlotte, she continued to work in silverpoint, ancient drawing techniques, gold leaf, and other media on a variety of projects and commissions. Attention to detail and meaning had always been important elements to her work. The opportunity to do the decorative work on a harpsichord for her church had an enormous impact on all of the work that has followed. The concept of art as prayer and art as a large part of her spirituality were new to her. The experience propelled her to relocate to Washington, DC to study the relationship between religion and the arts at Wesley Theological Seminary. While at Wesley she served as intern for the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion, as an apprentice to Catherine Kapikian, and as a Liturgical Designer for chapel services. Amy completed her Master of Theological Studies at Wesley Seminary with honors in 2011.
Now working as Program Administrator for the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion, Amy continues to create site specific installations for sacred spaces and teaches workshops on Religion and the Arts.
Examples of metalpoint exist back to Roman times. It was later used by such masters as Botticelli, DaVinci and Dürer. With the discovery of graphite in 1560, and the rising popularity of painterly styles, its use declined. By the middle of the 1600’s metalpoint had fallen into obscurity.
Metalpoint is distinguished by its extremely fine delicate lines. It is a permanent medium. Once a mark is made, it cannot be erased or altered. Pieces of silver, gold or lead wire, sanded to form a point, are used to draw on carefully prepared ground. Sometimes colored ground is used with white to add highlights. Silverpoint stands out from other metals due to the subtle warm color attained when it tarnishes.
The large drawings in this exhibition were created by drawing with silverpoint over a brown watercolor wash. The silver has been allowed to tarnish naturally.
Samples of different types of metalpoint are in the gallery along with prepared paper for guests to try.