Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day


At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angel’s Ave and Consummatum est.

Excerpt from Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day
1608, John Donne

Home Altar – Advent 2014


Our home altar has been a long time in the making.  By “making,” of course, I mean “procrastinating and working on veeeery slowly,” which is obvious when you consider that we’ve lived here for a year and a half and have just now finished it.  While I hope to always put some thought and care into changing it each season, I’m glad that there are so many reusable, one-time-effort pieces involved.

The first thing to settle on was the table itself.  After looking around for something that would be just right, we went to Ikea for one thing and ended up with a model that I’d overlooked on the website.  I love the half-circle shape, though it does make sewing a little tricky (more on that later).  It also has a shelf halfway down for storing pieces that have been rotated out for the season.

The next thing to accomplish was the linen for the top.  No, we’re not actually planning to have Mass said here or anything, but a simple white linen adds an appropriate, classic touch.  I haven’t decided whether or not one of the linens will get some surface embroidery, and I do plan to wash them occasionally, so I decided to do the right thing and thoroughly prepare them (using this great tutorial).  I spent most of Saturday afternoon doing this hot water/cold water/hot water waltz, and the process was as interesting as it was tedious.

Linen Prep-1

This would be one of the cold water rinses, not the boiling.


Tracing the half circle onto the fabric is where things got a little dicey.  We measured properly (so many times), and I sewed it with a precise hem all around, but it still managed to fit not *quite* perfectly on the top.  You can see it a little in the photo below, but it’s not really noticeable from eye level when the table is covered with stuff.

The frontal was so easy that the hardest part was finding a thread to match.  The cloth came from a local fabric warehouse (where I also scored a great green).  It’s just a rectangle with mitered corners (instructions here, and many other places).  It’s attached to the table by a strip of adhesive velcro running across the top.


Home Altar-Advent-6


As for the other pieces we’re using this Advent:

  • Wreath: Trader Joe’s, sitting on a large plate
  • Candles & holders: Hobby Lobby, and blessed at Candlemas a couple years ago
  • White doily, crocheted by yours truly many years ago
  • St. Nicholas statue: a Confirmation gift (available here)
  • Crucifix: Purchased at a local Catholic book store on our trip to MN last week.  I’m having trouble finding the exact same one, but the link is very close to it.
  • Annunciation diptych: Handmade, from Mom several years ago.  The art is Fra Angelico.

Home Altar-Advent-2

Other People’s Art: Philosophy Posters

From the site of designer Genis Carreras come these philosophy posters.  As a visual learner, I’m digging the distinct color and simple designs on each one.  I think they’d be quite helpful in keeping these concepts straight and remembering details.  My train of thought when recalling details off notecards during, say, an Art History test, went something like “Palazzo Medici Riccardi….I made a mistake in spelling the architect on the card…Michelozzo!  The cards were written in chronological order, so this is 1450s.  Aaaand, the bricks aren’t as yellow as that other building…..” and so on.  Anyway, I’m not sure what these were originally intended for, but I can definitely see some good uses.

Decorating with Paper

Although my apartment complex allows the painting of walls, I don’t think I’m going to do it in my room because I don’t think I’ll want to repaint them white while dealing with moving out.  Leaving the room solid white won’t stand, however, so I’ve spent the last few weeks devising various ways to break up the space.  My green bed and bedspread help a lot, as do the black shelves and bookcases I have.

Desk area. It looks more cluttered here than it feels in real life.

Wanting to add a little color beyond that, I turned to a simple, cheap, and easy decorating tool I discovered last year: Paper Stacks.  For about $20, I got way more cute, color-coordinated paper than I’ve been able to use in a year.  Last year, I hung full sheets in a grid behind pieces of clear plastic that I got from a home improvement store.  I haven’t done that yet in this new room, but I’ve used the paper in various ways around the room.

Around the border of my whiteboard. Measured, cut into strips, and attached with packing tape. So simple.

A full sheet on the door of my filing cabinet. I used an x-acto knife to cut a slot for the handle, and attached it with double-sided tape.

In the back of my bookshelf to lighten up the black a little. I think it took eight sheets or so (taped in) to cover the whole thing.

I also have some lining the shelf and door of my bright teal nightstand, but of course, I forgot to take pictures of that.

For the walls, I decided to create a little original art.  One of the advantages of being an art student is that one accumulates a large assortment of materials: acrylic gouache here, watercolor paper there…

I finished a piece that I started a couple years ago and abandoned, changing the color scheme to fit the room.

Each page is an individual journal entry, painted over so as to be mostly illegible, except where the flowers are.

It was concept art for a class when I started it, but I finished it in a way that I liked, which is much more satisfying.

I hung them with binder clips and cotton yarn, from thumbtacks stuck in the wall. I’m not sure whether I like the overall effect of that; I may look into simple frames at some point. For now, though, I’m quite happy.

The Pope on Artists, and Beauty in the Modern World

Sculpted by Raffaelle Monti (1818-1881)

Via Whispers comes an article about the Pope’s remarks on beauty and art, made at the opening of an exhibit of art curated in honor of his 60th anniversary of ordination. An excerpt:

Dear friends, I would like to renew to you and to all artists a friendly and passionate appeal: never separate artistic creativity from truth and charity; never seek beauty far from truth and charity, but with the richness of your genius, of your creative impulse, be always courageous seekers of truth and witnesses of charity. Make truth shine in your works so that their beauty awakens in the sights and hearts of those who admire them the desire to make their existence, all existence, beautiful and true, enriching it with that treasure that never diminishes, which makes of life a work of art and of every man an extraordinary artist: [the treasure of] charity, love.

(full text)

As an artist, I always find it encouraging when art – and specifically, the trouble of beauty in the modern age – is mentioned. I remember in particular one Mass when at the Prayers of the Faithful the priest, seemingly out of the blue, offered a rather lengthy prayer for Catholic artists, that they may persevere in seeking beauty in the face of adversity, etc. It was a reaffirming recognition of what is a very real struggle for artists. Nearly the only way to get an education in art is to do so in an educational culture that rejects every past tradition*. Students of music, in my experience, still learn about which harmonies are beautiful and are encouraged to follow certain principles that have been in place for centuries. In the visual arts, what students learn is the equivalent of a musician being told, “Here are the keys, push whichever ones you want. The further you are from Mozart, the better. Dissonance is the key to music.”

The Holy Father is absolutely correct in suggesting that art should inspire the viewer to seek beauty in their own lives. Consider this in contrast to the modern notion that “good art” is that which disturbs the viewer, the more deeply, the better. Consider the kind of world that would be created if man sought to make things more beautiful through their actions and creations, rather than a world in which men are increasingly desensitized to ugliness and brutality as artists continually try to one-up each other in shock value.

Those who are artists, and those who are not, should all take a cue from the Holy Father’s words and try to beautify our own corners of the world.  This isn’t a problem that will just be solved in the museums; it is one that will be confronted by beauty in our homes, beauty in our dress, beauty in our actions.

This piece ("Red Plank") falls more into the "drab" category than "shocking," unless you're shocked that it's in a museum.

*I know there are still places where one can learn traditional forms of art (figural bronze sculpture, representational mosaic, etc.), but the American university system is not the place to find them.