This work is from my series "Vespre," created during the year I lived and worked at an art residency located at the foot of the Montserrat mountain range in Catalunya. While there I was able to deepen my interest in Catalunya’s art and historical patrimony, particularly as it relates to the Santa Maria de Montserrat Monastery. These paintings are a reflection of my ongoing interest in Catalan identity, language, and literature.
The monastery dates back over 1000 years and is an important pilgrimage site for both Catalans and Catholics around the world. Legend holds that in the Middle Ages the Holy Grail was once housed there. The monastery cathedral is home to La Moreneta – The Virgin of Montserrat, a venerated statue of the Virgin Mary, patroness of Catalunya and one of several ¨Black Madonnas¨ located throughout Europe. During Franco's brutal dictatorship, where any expression of Catalan culture was suppressed and the language for a time was outright banned, the monastery became a place of resistance and refuge for scholars, artists, politicians, and students, as well as a hiding place for artworks, books, and other cultural artifacts important to Catalunya.
This series is a nod to both evening vespers at the monastery and the ever-changing sky reflected off the jagged peaks of Montserrat, as well as an exploration and celebration of Catalan language and literature. The pigments used in these paintings, painted on hand-cut birch panels, are dried pigments procured from the monastery that were used in the restoration of frescoes in the abbey. Excerpts of Catalan poetry and musical verse are harshly, yet purposely scribbled in graphite. Words of passion, love, loss, longing, impermanence, and change are not only a reminder that the sky, that nature is ever-changing and unpredictable, but that history and human relationships are as well. The sun will always set and evening ('vespre' in Catalan) will surely come on both place and time – what remains are the memories – and the words.