Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mystical Horizon

I'm somewhat reluctant to post this image on the By-Product because it reminds me of such a terrible time in my life. It was done with my then-new airbrush between December 1979 and January 1980. This was a time of great emotional and spiritual turmoil for me. I had been baptized Roman Catholic earlier in '79 and was trying to make sense out of my new life as a Christian. I was still very much a science fiction fan living in the "fannish" culture. I was trying to imagine what life as a science-fiction-fan Christian would be like, and what kind of lifestyle such a Christian would lead. In those days, in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I lived, Roman Catholics in the academic world were very left-wing and in sympathy with revolutionary movements in Central America and elsewhere. Doing political and social action for the "liberation of the people of God" was the only way you were supposed to show your Christian faith. But I was never political nor did I believe in those causes. So I wondered what a science fiction/fantasy artist would do to contribute to Christian action. This and other emotional struggles wrecked my life back then. I didn't have a lot of friends to turn to.

I was reading books on Ignatian spirituality, the way of the Jesuits, back then. There was one book called "The Ignatian Mystical Horizon," which I never quite understood and didn't finish. But I loved the title and turned it into a visual image. I imagined a mysterious light on an ocean horizon, into which a single jet plane (trailing a contrail of illuminated vapor) bravely flew. The jet plane is flown by an intrepid Space Jesuit, who was both adventurer and priest. The light on the horizon was inspired by seeing lightning in the distance overseas some years earlier while I was on a ship in the Mediterranean. So what you see is a single illumination flash rather than the clouds of breaking dawn.

This picture was popular in its day even though I never really explained it (before now). It got into an exhibition of science fiction art that was shown at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. During the transportation from this exhibit, the painting was damaged and when it was returned to me I just buried it in my closet rather than try to restore it.

In 1989, I became one of the first members of the Order of St. Michael, a religious group for science-fiction Christians. This was an answer to the friendless struggles I went through ten years earlier. I also did pieces of esoteric, fantasy/Christian art, which gave my own personal work significance that I could not find in social action. The Order of St. Michael is still going after more than 20 years. I am not as openly religious or spiritual as I was in the era of this painting but I still can do spiritual work through my art.

"Mystical Horizon" is acrylic on Masonite, 18" x 14", 1979-80.

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