Monday, July 14, 2008

Art Review: St. John's Bible and Thomas Tallis in Tacoma

Somehow someone sent me an invitation to the Tacoma Art Museum for the opening of a traveling exhibit on the St. John's Bible. This is the first English-language, fully hand-illustrated illuminated manuscript ever commissioned. The basic idea is to do a Bible with medieval methods but a 21st-century sensibility. What resulted was an impressive art museum exhibit (and lots of books you can buy for varying amounts of money!). One thing is sure, seeing it in person is much more impressive than on a computer screen. The gold shines, the details are sharp, the colors are much more vivid, and the art looks great on the vellum, in person. To tell the truth, some of the calligraphy looked a little CCM-ish to me on the screen, but in person, it unfolded all its dimensions. (That's a good thing.) The top picture above is of the seven days of creation, from chaos on the left to man on the right, with a darkened dove above it all. The bottom pictures is of the crucifixion from Luke. You can get a small sense of the raised relief of the Christ figure from the picture above, but its full impact must be observed in person!

In another room, an artist recorded five choirs singing a 40-part motet by Thomas Tallis. Each member was recorded individually, and each track is played over its own specific speaker. The speakers are set in a circle and you walk around, hearing the parts differently depending on where you are standing. It was neat, and a great piece of music, but not really relevatory to someone who sings in a choir and is used to having an imbalance of audible parts depending on position!

It's well worth the drive to Tacoma for this combination of exhibits. We're thinking about if there's chance to go again sometime.

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