Paradigm Shift

“If you are art, then so too am I art, as are we all.”

Why a bronze naked woman squatting in a niche in the Henry Art Gallery?


What I most wanted to develop in this piece was a sense of presence.  So much figure sculpture, as so much representational art, is exactly that; a representation and little else.  And this is the reason why, rightly I think, so many generations of artists and theorists have shrugged off this art form.  A representation of a thing trying to be a thing is a poor substitute for a thing.  Let the painting be a painting, the reasoning goes, and not a picture of a pasture with sheep and some puffy clouds.

paradigmshift (2)Let a sculpture be an object, and not a poor doppelganger frozen in an eternal bronze scream.

But in the best art, the object is a thing of its own.  It has a power.  It owns its space.  I wanted this piece to own her little corner of the gallery.  And if that was all she did, then that is enough.  She is not particularly asking for anything else.  She is not commenting on anything other than her space and her role in that space.

She is not saying, “I am art and you are not.”

What she is actually saying is,

“If you are art, then so too am I art, as are we all.”ParadigmShift_Burien








Resurrection Altarpiece


 Intended as a sort of fifteenth and final Station, The Resurrection Altarpiece was dedicated at St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Portland Oregon in June of 2000. 


While the Stations of the Cross were intended as a very direct and visceral interpretation of the Passion, The Resurrection, was intended as a less literal, more lyrical interpretation on the theme of rebirth, re-inspiration, or redemption.  In this piece the road to death depicted in the Stations is vindicated by a consummation that implies victory over the forces of annihilation.  If the Passion was a sort of gamble, faith in the face of certain annihilation, the Resurrection is an affirmation of the delight in attaining glory through that improbable path.  He is just awakened, seeing before him not only his own path to reunification, but the multitudes of dispirited with whom he has lived.  His expression is to say, “It’s fine.  You are welcome.   Come this way.”  In the grandest sense it is “I see this, and I see you. It is the same.”

Formally, I see the piece being about smoke, about spirals, about the drapery veil falling off as the figure arises into the less corporeal realm.  The fact that light coming off the south window would ignite the upper torso in gold while the ground light of the church would base the feet and legs in blue made the composition a natural for the transition from material to ethereal.    While the square frame of the wall demanded, and a conservative need compelled a flowing drapery, I’ll confess to a metaphoric preference to an overarching shape to tie the outline together.  Be it shell or womb, the entire is conceived as an organic frame for a life promoted as archetypal of integration between living and ideal form.  


 Michael Magrath


June 2000

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