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Orvieto Arch Painting: “Are We There Yet?”

By December 28, 2020December 30th, 2020Architecture, Art and Faith, Painting, Italy

Arch painting: Are We There Yet?

The title of this Orvieto arch painting “Are We There Yet?”, painted in 2019 resonates in a different way this year.  Looking for a bright spot through dark passageways is perhaps a defining feature of 2020 for much of the world. 2020 had many moments of darkness as so many people fell gravely ill and passed away from COVID-19, resulting in a change in lifestyles as we all sought to keep hospitals from being overrun by COVID patients.

“Are We There Yet?” Although a vaccine is beginning to be distributed as I write, that will only protect our bodies. The political divisions brought from this year will require much more than a shot in the arm to heal.

I continue to create arch paintings in every media and style. Interior arches and exterior arches, big and small, secular architecture and sacred architecture.  I spent several formative years early in my artistic development in the Umbria hilltop town of Orvieto. This painting developed after my most recent trip to Italy in 2017 with my young children, their first trip abroad. My time there was full of encounters: with history, art, Church, God, vocation. They were exhibited at 20North Gallery in the two person exhibit “Divine Dimensions” in 2019.

Orvieto Encounters

The metaphor of looking through this heaven-oriented shape can be interpreted in so many ways. The arch in this painting is called the “Porta Postierla”, which leads out of the clifftop town of Orvieto, Italy and down towards the train station. The road criss-crosses the path of the funicular which is the way most tourists arrive in Orvieto. But when I lived there I loved to use the slower, medieval path. These gates have been altered several times. They were reconstructed for the 13th century fortifications, remodeled for the 14th century fortifications. Their contemporary appearance reflects the 16th century modifications for the Fortezza Albernoz, still standing. It is precisely the traces of these alterations which fascinates me about this area. You can see the evidence of additions and subtractions, where archways have changed shape according to technology and fashion. ⁠

When working on these paintings I was thinking a lot about the re-connection I experienced on that trip. I reconnected with my confirmation sponsor and close friends important in my journey to Catholicism. We also re-connected with the ancient places of faith which are central to Catholic faith but also to the Italian economy.

Orvieto Duomo, 2019 Photo Credit: Seth Paine

For 2020 I had hoped to reconnect again with Italy and my friends and embark on some projects which would allow me to return to Italy. My hopes of re-connection with my Italian friends were fulfilled in unexpected ways. We sent frequent WhatsApp messages to ask if they were well and how they were enduring the lockdowns. We had more video calls than ever before, checking in on my friend, pregnant with twins in a pandemic, or my doctor and nurse friends ill for weeks with COVID-19.

Arches, Passages and Metaphor⁠

The mix of shapes and colors and a rhythm of dark and light in the painting provides a metaphor for the way we look at the past and the future – the important moments shift when we look back from a distance. “Patina” rather than “shiny and new” becomes more valuable. The light in the distance is hope in the future… or perhaps the glow memory gives to the distant past. ⁠Present moments are often full of the darkness of uncertainty, but the past illuminates the present, and the present informs the future, and love illuminates all. ⁠May you have a blessed 2021.