Collaboration with Anastasia Gabriel

Truly Madly Deeply

In 2014 I was invited by 500X Gallery in Dallas to create a collaborative work with a student of my choice, and I selected Anastasia Gabriel. We chose to make a site-specific installation based on commonalities of having been raised Catholic, despite relating differently to religion as adults, as she retains her faith and practice, while I do not. We decided that our collaborative piece would be based around how we percIeved the concepts of Heaven and Hell as children. The centerpiece of the show was a very large thurible, also known as a censer, which is the device used in the mass ceramony for burning frankincense, myrrh, and copal. This thurible is made of terra-cotta, initially thrown on the wheel in two main parts (by me), then carved (by Anastasia), with imitation gold leaf applied (by Anastasia) after firing. When fully assembled, the clay form is over 5 ft in vertical dimension, and suspended by large chains. The form had a functioning, hinged door, allowing access to an electric incense burner, on which the traditional incense resins were placed (and replaced throughout the show). The incense burner was activated by a motion sensor near the doorway, so that visitors smelled fresh incense smoke. There was a veil in front of the thurible, made of a row of cotton strings, onto which a series of video clips were played.The video clips showed imagery from popular culture (mostly scenes from classic movies) that exhibit some sense of the concepts of heaven and hell, or simply portray a kind of religious power and awe. Examples include: a scene from The Ten Commandments with Moses (played by Charlton Heston) parting the Red Sea; the flying monkey scene from the Wizard of OZ; the opening scene from The Sound of Music in which Julie Andrew’s character spins in a meadow (edited so that she spins repeatedly like a whirling dervish); an image of a nuclear bomb exploding, and so on. The main open area in the room also included two bell-shaped clay forms (wheel-thrown) covered in mirror pieces, and hanging from disco-ball motors. The mirrored forms had a projector pointing at them playing looped video projection-mapped to the forms, so that the words “heaven” and “hell” were scattered throughout the room and in constant movement.