The definition of orthodox is someone or something that strictly adheres to religious beliefs or the conventional, normal way of doing things or normal accepted standards. An example of orthodox is a person who abides by all religious doctrine.
For Sacrosanct Gallery’s September 2018 art exhibition “Orthodoxy,” we sought to find artists who exhibited a singular doctrinal approach to art making. In the manner with which one dedicates themselves to an adherence that speaks beyond words, we are thrilled to take a departure from our normal exhibition of multiple artists.
Join me in celebrating our very first solo artist
Mary Griep. Mary beautifully challenges what is accepted as true or correct by most people as it relates to architecture and art of stunning works of sacred construction. In this way, she has documented the orthodox truth of color, form, function, and features in supporting or believing what others may remember of a place and its components. Her acceptance of this compulsion for the detailed rigor of the work is near to accepting and closely following the traditional beliefs and customs of a religion. The work is historical, stunning, exceptional, accomplished, and meditative. Griep’s artwork has the certain added advantage of simultaneously bordering the orthodox and the unorthodox, and we are thrilled and honored to share it with you.
In 1998, Griep 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. She 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.
Eighteen years and many drawings later, Griep has 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.
Featured Artist: Mary Griep – Anastylosis Project Drawings
Mary Griep, Borgund Stav Church – Norway – Mixed Media – 24″ x 32″ – 2008. There are very few 12th century wooden buildings that have not been rebuilt with new wood every few centuries. Yet some of the Norwegian Stav churches contain heavy beams and other wood that has been dated from trees that were cut in the year 1100, making stav churches among the oldest original wooden buildings remaining in use. Stav churches were built like boats that “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. (Look closely at the drawing to see the description of how the buildings were built written within the plan. This dark writing not only describes the building process, it also visually acts as the shadow of the church.) The historic photo of Constantinople (or as it is known today, Istanbul) in the center of the plan is a reference to the wide travels of the Vikings – leading some to speculate that the strong similarities of the finials on stav churches and the finials on Thai temples come from personal observation, or from meetings in Constantinople with other travelers. The longer Griep studies the architecture of the 12th century, the more she is drawn to the buildings that exhibit clear echoes of other buildings or cultures and speak to connections across time and space. There truly was a Global Middle Ages and she has begun to more consciously choose monuments that embody those connections. Between 1825 and 1925, more than 800,000 Norwegians—about one-third of Norway’s population — immigrated to North America— with the majority immigrating to the upper Midwest of USA With the exception of Ireland, no single country contributed a larger percentage of its population to the United States than Norway. To commemorate this exodus, Griep placed historical photos of emigrants on ships leaving Norway beneath the floor, where the builders of these churches would have buried church members. The second version of the Borgund Stav church is titled Dark Light. Historical observers of Stav churches often commented on the interior “dark light”. There were no windows, just a few round holes drilled in the area between the two lower roofs so a holy gloom filled the churches. This drawing speculates on the mysterious atmosphere within the buildings and the churches’ links to the fjord landscape. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Mary Griep, Franziskanerkirche – Salzburg, Austria – Mixed Media – 36″ x 48″ – 2013. The Franzikanerkirche is a 12th century Franciscan church in Salzburg, Austria. As artist in residence for the city of Salzburg during the summer of 2012, Griep had unparalleled access to historical and cultural sites. She settled on the Franciscan church initially for its incorporation of so many architectural elements and ideas, including the ancient stone floor that had originally been part of the main road traversing the city. Taking advantage of the ability to visit the space daily to draw, Griep had the opportunity to meet monks, brothers and musicians involved with the church. While all the sites included to date in the Anastylosis project have had sacred uses over the centuries, many of them have become museums that only hint at their previous lives. In contrast, while the Franziskanerkirche has been remodeled and changed over the years, it has been in continuous use. Griep says, “It was a pleasure to have had the chance to experience that ongoing life as I studied its history, forms and details.” The composite drawing is much smaller than the other Anastylosis pieces and does not follow the scale used in the other drawings, given my limited time in Austria. But just like other drawings in the series, this piece deals with the entirety of the building from multiple points of view. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Mary Griep, San Marco (The Marble Carpet) – Venice, Italy – Mixed Media – 18′ x 10′ – 2013-2015. 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). Notice the center panels running towards the altar – the matched slabs of marble are represented in the drawing by gold and copper leaf. These slabs of marble are often referred to as the Ocean Floor, and are under the great central domes. As the symbolism of the floor was inspired by literature and by oriental and western textiles, Griep incorporated collage elements in this drawing that contain fragments from medieval sources ranging from illuminated manuscripts to the Bayeux Tapestry, in addition to pieces of earlier drawings. Along with the multiplicity of patterns, notice the two cocks carrying a trussed up fox in one panel, three versions of the Byzantine eagle, a rhinoceros under a palm tree, as well as the famous peacocks. This drawing took over two years to complete and just as Griep was finishing it, she happened to see an exhibit of rubbings at the Menil Foundation in Texas. Those ghostly images made me think about the fate of San Marco’s magnificent floor as sea level rise continues to threaten Venice. What might remain after it floods? This drawing, the 12th in the Anastylosis Project, is titled The Ocean Floor – in reference to the marble panels of the central aisle, but also to the site as a probable casualty of climate change. This drawing is a departure from the earlier Anastylosis drawings that meditate on the past and the passage of time. While this drawing also is concerned with time, it is not the time of the floor today, but what the future may hold. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Mary Griep, Facade – Chartres Cathedral – Chartres, France – Mixed Media – 14′ x 10′ – 1999-2000. 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. These rules are: Most of the drawings are executed at the same scale: 1 inch of drawing equals 2 feet of the original building. The architectural ground plan of each building is represented somewhere in the drawing – see if you can find it as you tour around the exhibit. Each drawing uses more than one perspective or point of view to help you see more of the important parts of the building. Each drawing tries to represent the experience of moving through and around the building by alternating the views of inside and outside. Metallic leaf (gold, silver or copper) generally denotes light – like an oculus or clear windows. In some drawings, gold leaf is also used on domes, many of which were originally gilded. As you look at this drawing, you will see a thin line of red bricks running from panel to panel. The line represents a reference course of masonry included by the original builders to ensure that the various sections, which they knew would be built over a long period of time, would line up. At Chartres, it is a physical reminder leading to the structural and visual continuity of the building, and for me it represents the reference line of this entire project. While a visitor cannot see the lead roof from the ground, it is an important element of the building. In contrast to the wooden roofs common at the time, the lead roof was less susceptible to fire. Fire was a terrible problem for early large buildings, as a burned roof often lead to structural failure and collapse. The fact that so many 12 th century buildings remain today is due in no small part to these lead roofs. To highlight this vital technological advance the lead roof in the drawing is represented by panels of tarnished silver leaf. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Mary Griep, Ulu Camii – Divrigi, Turkey – Mixed Media – 10′ x 8′ – 2007. The 12th century is relatively early in a timeline of mosque architecture. 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. The plain masonry walls with elaborately carved portals came from the local example of the caravan serais – secular, rather than religious buildings and it is doubtful that the original building even had a minaret (which is why Griep has drawn the existing minaret lightly on the backing board). This drawing was a conceptual puzzle to her. Up to this point all the drawings were elevations of the facades. But once she returned to the studio with sketches, photos and research from Divrigi Griep found she couldn’t make a very interesting drawing of this site just showing “the front side”. Once she figured out the important part of a mosque is the floor, she decided to “unfold” the drawing. The central two panels represent the floor with the red rugs put down first. Then Griep added the structural elements including the carved vaults. The gold leaf represents light – the oculus. Look for Koranic verses written into the vaulting and around the mihrab (niche that orients the mosque towards Mecca.) The blue vining pattern defining the structure of the building was inspired by a border pattern from a Koran. Of all the drawings this is the most obviously like an x-ray. Look carefully and you will see the interior arches and decoration. The next step was to superimpose the exterior stonework. To recreate the warm tone of the stone Griep pasted sewing patterns over the walls of the building – notice their arrows and printed lines. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Mary Griep, Agios Dimitrios – Thessaloniki, Greece – Mixed Media – 12′ x 9′ – 2010-2011. This is the building that blew away everything Griep thought she 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 riot of pattern, texture and gilded surfaces resulted in the first of the drawings to be explicitly about the interior of the building, with just hints of the brickwork and roof line to refer to the rather plain exterior. This drawing is filled with collaged elements from other drawings in the series and embodies the theme of conversation between the drawings of these contemporaneous buildings. Look for many examples of differing perspectives and views of interior spaces, including the 3 bottom panels, which represent the much older crypt beneath the present day church. Some details you might look for include: The representation of St. Dimitrios being lowered to his death in the well. The green porphyry columns with capitals salvaged from many other buildings. The carved wooden screen. The chairs for the priests. Curtains hiding the silver casket of a donor. And the remnants of mosaics – especially the patriarch peeking out from behind a column. Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).
Artist Mary Griep shown with a portion of her Anastylosis Project. Griep is Professor Emerita, Department of Art and Art History, 2017-present at St. Olaf College. She is program reviewer with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Her Anastylosis Project is the featured Solo Exhibition at the University of Northern Iowa – Cedar Falls, Iowa in 2018 as well as the Solo Exhibition with Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America October 2018 show, “Orthodoxy.” Courtesy Sacrosanct Gallery : Contemporary Sacred Art in America (2018).