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Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

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Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014

Second Self-Portrait With Symbols 2014
“I’m gonna exchange my things for precious wings and fly, over the valley of the kings and queens where the sleeping
cities lie. One bright night I’m gonna fly right out my window.
Gonna fly so high in the night sky, that the people below won’t see me go by...”
“A Famous Myth” by Harry Nilsson 1969
Some songs are so hypnotic that they call to you even when you don’t know exactly what they mean. They express a deep longing or wish that’s unconscious. This might be called the language of Art . To express what cannot be said literally, through enigmatic songs, poetry, images, icons, drawings and paintings...giving form to inner visions. I would imagine music is comforting round the world right now as we all attempt to walk through this dangerous landscape, stalked by an invisible insidious vapor. We mask up outside, our sense of hope that climbing this way, into Noah’s Ark, we have at least taken the warning seriously. And we collectively grieve for those who mock and ignore the warning. My 71st birthday is coming on Friday, July 10th. I remember when I lived in Taos, reading an autobiography by Jane Fonda where she says age 1-30 is act 1. Age 30-60, is act 2, and age 60 to death is act 3. Mary Oliver’s most famous poetic quote comes to mind, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life ?” Or another quote from Georgia O’Keefe, which is really comforting, because her legendary image, persona, is that of an extremely stoic artist; “I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life - and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” And then you have St Paul forever steeped in his vision of the Risen Lord, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus .” Philippians 4:6-7. To supplement St Paul, I have been dependent upon the Don Dolindo Novena for at least three years now; it’s bound to sink in if I keep at it.
I laugh when I remember that for my Confirmation name I wanted at age 10, to take the name of an older teenage Martyr of the early Church, the 14 year old St Pancratius. Sister thought that was too eccentric and told me to take either Anthony or Dominic. So I took Dominic not knowing then, that along with Veritas, (Truth) the other Dominican motto is “Contemplata aliis tradere” - to share what you have contemplated. This sums up my life and artistic attempts at images and icons. This second self portrait is surrounded by some of the help I found from the age of 27 ( my first self-portrait with symbols) until I decided I needed to do a second one after my heart collapse April 27, 2012. The images in boxes, inspired by one of my favorite children’s book illustrators, the Russian Ivan Bilibin, honor some of this encouragement and help I was given or found. The first, is symbolic of myself and enduring friends, the Kintsugi cracked bowl, with the cracks filled with gold.
As Ernest Hemingway said, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” The second box symbolizes a life of being inspired and blessed by music, in this symbol its a green flame which is in particular the music of St Hildegard of Bingen. The third is from the mystical life of St Joseph given by Our Lord in 1736 to the Italian Benedictine Mystic, Sister Maria Cecilia Baij. She was told at the birth of St Joseph three stars appeared above his house symbolizing that the Earthly Trinity had now begun. The next box is just an arrow flying into the Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous spiritual book on prayer that deeply affected me, in the “first act” at age 21. Then there’s the radiant broken heart, showing the collapse in 2012, and subsequent mending through the Love I was given. Below the heart is my “second Dad” or Holy Father Ignatius Loyola, who truly gave me another birth and life that continues on through “act three.” Dear Holy Father Ignatius who invites all of us to “find God in all things.” Below Ignatius is the image of the Tarot card “Le Pendu” or man hanging upside down. This explanation of my life I found in the extraordinary masterpiece “Meditations on the Tarot : A Journey into Christian Hermeticism” by Anonymous published in English in 1986. Below the hanging man, who is suspended between heaven and earth, is the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, for obvious reasons. Next is the largest image (besides the self portrait) of, in my opinion, the most beautiful church in the world! San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos. I was invited in 1999 by my dear friend Fr Tim Martinez, to paint a large image of St Francis receiving the stigmata, inside, above the main doorway. I ended up staying for 14 years. The raised stigmatized-wounded hand of Jesus symbolizes the 7 years I worked as a Chaplain in the AIDS pandemic in Manhattan and surrounding areas. Above that living wounded hand is Our Lady of the New Advent, which really began my vocation as an iconographer during “act two” from 1990 into “act three.” The Archer is above Our Lady, shooting his arrow into the Cloud, and a symbol for me of a vocation too. I’ll close with a poem I wrote around my birthday in 1993, one month before meeting St John Paul II in Denver at World Youth Day.
Epithalamium
O I am an Archer.
This is the vocation that
I can stand under, that
holds onto me too.
I have run along with hunted
Jonah, year after year,
following him safely into the
Heart of the Sea Creature,
his vast water tomb where
I can rest, long enough to
find a way to serve You,
My Lord.
Now here I am in the Zone at last.
I aim these images and the few words
I have left, into the
Heart of the Church : the Bride.
So this is chapter 8 of my Song of Songs,
my Epithalamium.
One more arrow to let fly.
It says with pure speed
and perfect precision:
“Love is stronger than death, and
many waters cannot quench this
Burning Love.”
Fr William Hart Dominic McNichols
July 1993