In 1998, I led a group of students on a study-abroad program exploring the idea of classical beauty and its manifestations in Roman ruins, Romanesque architecture, and Gothic cathedrals in France and Italy. I returned from the trip with one hundred small drawings of various architectural monuments. These drawings were the beginning of a process of exploration into how to represent the experience of being present in these historic spaces.
More than two decades and 18 drawings later, I have developed a disciplined work process that begins with site selection and research, preliminary drawings to determine format and materials, and a final, large-scale drawing that attempts to deal with the particulars that make these magnificent sites unique.
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Chartres Cathedral is the first drawing in what has become the Anastylosis Project. The process of working through the challenges of this drawing set many of the “rules” for the subsequent works.
One reason I chose Angkor for the second drawing was that it was originally built at approximately the same time as Chartres Cathedral, a half a world away. A second parallel came in the restoration: the French restored Angkor in the 19th century at roughly the same time they were restoring Chartres. The restoration process employed a very particular sense of what it meant to be an “old sacred space.”
Thatbinyinyu is a Buddhist temple, one of the 2229 remaining temples in Pagan, Burma. It is built of brick with stucco overlay and decorations. Closely related to Indian architectural forms, this gu-style building has inner shrines used for meditation, hallways and stairs all shown in a darker value in the drawing.
Palace of the Governors
I first visited Uxmal in 1980. The intricate tapestry like carvings of late Mayan buildings inspired me then to create a series of decorative collages. After returning from Southeast Asia in 2004 I was thinking about my next drawing, and The Palace of the Governors came to mind again.
After completing 5 drawings in the Anastyolosis Project I realized that a central drawing challenge I was attempting to unravel was the role of time in the life of these buildings. Drawings are adept at representing the two dimensions of height and width, and with attention to perspective can suggest the 3rd dimension of depth as well, but are not well suited to presenting the 4th dimension of time. So for my 6th drawing I chose a relatively simple Mayan monument, the Castillo from Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Pennisula.
The Great Mosque of Divrigi, Turkey was built by the Seljuks, a Turko-Persian group. The sultan who commissioned the mosque in “the middle of mountainous nowhere” hired masons from what is now Armenian Georgia and they used small Christian Churches of the time as a model for the interior.
Borgund Stav Church
Stav churches were built like boats the “float” on a stone foundation. To represent that unique structure in the drawing, the ground plan of the beams is superimposed on the surrounding graveyard.
This is the building that blew away everything I thought I knew about decoration and pattern. The Byzantine idea about the dematerialization of space through the use of pattern and gold leaf is awe-inspiring. A Byzantine interior overwhelms the senses and lets you know that you have entered a place that is not of this world.
The tenth drawing in the series, completed while artist in residence for the City of Salzburg. This smaller single panel drawing deals with the entirety of the building from multiple points of view and reflects daily visits to the site over the course of the residency.
The tessellated floor of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice is often described as “a marble carpet.” It was laid by Byzantine craftsmen from Constantinople and includes both opus sectile (obtained by setting out pieces of different colored marble to create geometrical forms) and opus tessellatum (obtained with tiny pieces of marble or glass used to create floral motifs or animal figures).
The Baptistry of St. John in Florence, Italy stands in the Piazza del Duomo and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. This complex mosaic floor was begun in 1209. The thirteenth drawing in the project, it was first shown at the University of Northern Iowa in 2018.
La Giralda was originally built as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville, Spain during the Almohad dynasty. This 14th drawing in the project was first shown at Lawrence University in 2019.
Santa Maria Assunta
For the 15th drawing in the Anastylosis Project I chose to draw the apse end of the cathedral, as it represents most clearly, the interplay of Norman elements with the exquisite design and realization of its decorative program by the Arab workers.
The Pitaka Taik, the “Library of Buddhist Scriptures” is the 16th drawing in the Anastylosis Project. It was built in 1058 by King Anawratha to house Buddhist scriptures seized in the conquest of Thaton. The drawing is on laminated rag and rice papers and is unframed, as would be true of the original palm leaf books and scrolls in the library.
Palimpsest (Notre Dame de Chartres)
The first drawing of the Anastylosis Project was a study of Notre Dame de Chartres and as such is the foundation of all subsequent drawings. The building’s clarity and coherence captured my imagination from the first and propelled me down the road of working to understand how a building is experienced and each building contains traces of all that has happened during its lifetime. So, when I had the opportunity to revisit Chartres in 2018 (20 years after I first drawn it) I was anxious to see recently completed restorations – the latest layer added.