This semester in my IDSVA PhD program, I have the pleasure of working with Dr. Don Seastrum, Professor of Art at Western State Colorado University, as my Independent Study Director. This means that Don acts as a mentor as I write a term paper. My paper is going to explore heterotopias (basically unusual or incongruous spaces) in paintings of the Annunciation to the Virgin during the Renaissance.
Paintings of the Annunciation depict the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she will bear the Christ child. My argument? That these peculiar spaces or divisions of spaces (such as the way a wall or even a pillar separates Gabriel and Mary) are not so much about space as they are about Time. I’m proposing that these strange spaces represent the confluence of eternal and normal time, the heavenly and the earthly.
The late 20th century French philosopher Michel Foucault popularized the term heterotopia, but used it in different ways throughout his career. Foucault wasn’t much of a metaphysician. I see him rather as sociological in emphasis. In order to have another important perspective, I am turning to the work of 20th century Romanian-born Mircea Eliade as a way of exploring the mythological and spiritual aspects of the Annunciation. Eliade was a historian of religions, and similar to Foucault, was a kind of anthropologist. Eliade seems to have currently fallen from favor except in theology. I’m happy to bring him back, in my own small way. The concept of the coming together of mythic and normal time when rituals are performed is an idea that I have adapted from him.
I see a painting of the Annunciation as a kind of ritual that shows disparate Time coming together, bringing the mythic and eternal into history.
Don Seastrum will act as an advisor for my paper, but he was adamant that I think about how the entire process of earning my PhD was going to affect my studio work. If I recall correctly, Don’s own PhD was predominantly in studio work, whereas mine at IDSVA is entirely academic (Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory). I thought having a forum on my blog would be a great way to document this process, and Don agreed to chime in, in response my posts.
I’ve been interested in creating my own versions of The Annunciation over the past couple of years, but haven’t gotten beyond preliminary stages. However, I thought to myself, what if I am already creating Annunciations and don’t know it? A recent piece that I was working on therefore became an Annunciation. I’ll write more about it, and some pieces that are under way, as the semester progresses. In the meantime, I’d like to welcome Don, and have him share his comments. I hope others will feel free to comment also.