Spires reaching up to the sky. The overlapping textures of roots, leaves, and rocks. Humankind’s search for reflection and resilience throughout the centuries. Tranquility and harmony. Something captured in a photograph that no longer exists.*
Last May, one month after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, LACMA held a public program to reflect on works depicting sacred spaces and images of nature. Participants gathered to spend extended time looking at the artworks and responding to a series of open-ended questions. Now, one year later and in the midst of a pandemic, we thought it would be engaging to revisit some of these images and prompts for reflection.
We invite you to find a comfortable place to sit, pull out a piece of paper and pencil, and spend time looking and reflecting with one or more of these artworks.
Before spending time with works of art, we often suggest taking a few moments to ground yourself. You can rest your hands on your legs, feel your feet on the ground, and take a number of deep breaths.
First, take a few moments to look at the selection of works highlighted here. Select one with which you would like to spend an extended period of time. Then, select one or more of the following questions to guide your looking. (If you connect to these works through Collections Online, some have an “enlarge” feature at the bottom which allows you to see additional details. You can also view additional works such as James Ensor’s The Cathedral, David Douglas Duncan's Notre Dame de Paris, or even search in Collections Online using terms such as “cathedral.”)
- Look at the space of the work. How do your eyes travel the print or photograph? What dialogues are set up? (Light and dark, mass and emptiness, smooth and textured, geometric and organic, etc.)
- In what ways does your imagination play a role in looking at this work?
- If you were within the space of this work, what would you hear? What other senses might be activated?
- What choices do you notice the artist made in creating this work?
- What else is important or interesting in this work?
- How has the work changed the longer you have looked at it?
- If you would like, you can take time to sketch some of the things you have noticed in the work.
You can reflect on larger themes as well.
- In what ways does nature make us think of the sacred?
- Has the work made you consider sacred spaces, or the sanctuary of nature, in a different way? How so?
We would love to hear your reflections. Please feel free to email any of your observations and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may repost them in an upcoming blog. Be well!
Note: These images and prompts are selected from the program Mindful Mondays: Cultivating Empathy and Connectedness. While LACMA’s galleries are closed to the public, this is part of a series of Unframed posts and online content encouraging close looking and reflection. If you are interested in attending a virtual session of Mindful Mondays, please join us next Monday, July 13 at 4 pm.
*Thank you to Adriana De Franco, Claudine Dixon, Karen Leach, and Carol Phillips for providing initial responses to these prompts.