Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery at the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Washington, D.C.
March 27-May 22, 2015
The annual exhibit and fundraising event for the Smith Center's cancer support programs, Alchemical Vessels, features 125 local artists who each rendered a white ceramic bowl into wildly unique and striking statements about various facets of transformation, alchemy, and human experience.
Statement for my vessel titled "A Dream of Reconstruction"
Pondering the shape of the vessel coincided with my reading about the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the collapse of its first dome twenty years after its dedication in 537 CE. Hagia Sophia has suffered the effects of time but remains a treasure of artistic craftsmanship. There is no evidence of what the original dome looked like. This 'unknown' offered an opportunity for my imagination, and together with the motif, facilitated a focused exercise of symmetry and the challenge of working with a delicate material on a curved, diminishing surface. The gold and silver refer to the metals of alchemy, or the sun and moon, constantly changing with the movement of the eye and light. The sooty blackness that tarnishes their glow refers to decay, crystallization, and the residue of smoke that collects on sacred objects.
I chose a motif that was a popular background pattern in Byzantine mosaics, where the gold in iconography symbolizes otherworldliness. The pattern was adapted in Islamic decoration, carved into stone entranceways, evoking boundlessness. The motif is most recognized in Japanese art, known as 'seigaiha' or 'crescent sea waves.' It became prominent in the 17th century but is still today a symbol of good fortune.
Photo courtesy of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts