CHURCH OF THE VISICATION: THE ALTAR RAILS ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________ August 2014




In order to frame the sacred space, an altar rail has been installed in this church.  It is adorned with depictions of the four Gospel writers: Luke, Matthew, Mark and John.
Inspired by the vibrant stained glass windows, which feature San Franciscan architectural landmarks and bridges, these painted panels have the Gospel writers inhabiting the natural landscape of the Bay Area. We enter from the Pacific Ocean to Land’s End, then travel to Visitacion Valley, and finally to San Bruno Mountain where we exit to the Bay at Brisbane (a nod to Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission).
As the Holy Spirit in the icon over the holy oils is a white dove in silhouette, as if it is a porthole from our realm to the light of the heavens, so these “messages” brought to us via the four Gospel writers seem to pierce through the curtain of the visible world.  Silhouettes of deep blue = the Great Mystery; the Cosmos, God above and beyond our perception and understanding…
The Holy Spirit electrifies and invigorates the environment, and so the Technicolor techniques of the Post-Impressionists and Fauvist painters have been employed (also in line with the lively, colorful forms in the windows). 
The skies in traditional iconography are usually gold, but are occasionally red when referencing the Resurrection (the cornerstone of our faith) and Pentecost (the birth of the Church). In icons, red occassionally is a substitute for the sun; gold. Water, long the symbol of Spirituality and of baptism, is a bright blue, alluding to Mary. 

The sole man-made structure depicted in the paintings is the original Visitacion church building, and on that same panel is that “altar rock” in the foreground.    

And we must not forget about the fog!  White like the vestments on high holy days.  It covers portions of the setting – a screen between this world and the Greater Unknown?  The Great Veil had lifted..

  In1777, a party of Spanish soldiers and Franciscan friars traveling north to the Presidio in San Francisco became lost in a heavy fog and determined to camp overnight.  They awoke the next morning to find a beautiful valley beneath their gaze. They named their discovery Visitacion Valley, as the date was July 2, the Feast day of the Visitacion.  According to lore, before continuing their journey the priests offered a mass, using a large rock as their altar. *
*Visitacion Valley History Project 2005

CHURCH OF THE VISICATION: HOLY SPIRIT ICON _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________APRIL 2013

The Holy Spirit is depicted here as a fierce graphic enigma… a shape suggesting a dove or a treble clef, or some foreign symbol employed by the archangels?  An abstract force, beyond our comprehension, from the Heavens; from outer space. A comet?  A UFO?  A great white phantom from the Greater Unseen…
The dove is a bright white that pierces through the darkness, which echoes Christ emerging from the darkness in the painting of Divine Mercy, to the right of the ambo and icon.

And the accompanying flames – lively and playful, like fireworks, or paper streamers falling on a parade. This is a Celebration!

And the color tiles below… is this confetti? The stained glass windows feature some of San Francisco’s buildings, so here we have a quiet night Visitacion neighborhood scene.

ST. PHILIP THE APOSTLE PARISH CHAPEL: ST. FRANCIS WINDOW __________________________________________________________________________________________  December 2013

In conceptualizing the style in which this window would be rendered, I began with paying attention to the way in which the existing windows in the room were realized. 
Since they are quite different in style, the one of Our Lady was the more influential source to draw from, since it is adjacent to Francis.Note the simplified forms in the Madonna’s face and garments.  The setting is almost abstract in its sparseness, with bands of clouds that almost look child-drawn.  The Star above also has a folk-art expressiveness to it.
The Window of Christ also has a sort of childlike, folk art way about it, and also sports a minimal backdrop.
Both existing windows are done in a “Naïve” style – A simplified representational approach. The Madonna brought to my mind “Primitivisms”: The Nabis and Symbolist painters of the Late 19th Century, and Post-Impressionists like Paul Gauguin and Maurice Denis.
I looked at sources such as Giotto, Fra Angelico and other medieval painters.
The rendering of Umbria is based on actual buildings.  A wall surrounded the town at the time of the story.  The buildings are almost all white, with a red door, to quote the stark red and white shield above (which is taken from the S.F. Archdiocese’ coat of arms). 

Red poppies are sparsely peppered about, as they are present in Umbria, and are a common symbol for those who have died in war.  This red is also quoted in the shield (as Christ’s suffering) and in the closed door (that which bars the “others” out). Francis is here to make peace between enemies.

CHURCH OF THE VISICATION: TILE MURAL OF THE VISITATION ______________________________________________________________________________________________ April 2015