Friday, December 4, 2009

Our Universal Sacred Space by Alice Peden, Ginger Nelson, Longino Nunes, and Traci Newberry

The Universal Sacred Space is situated on a hilltop that affords breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.  Standing in a small meadow, a small river gently flows past.  All of this peacefulness is on an island surrounded by beautiful blue-green oceans.  The beauty of the view from the top of the hill encourages serious meditation.
  The path leading up the hill towards the Space winds around the hill in a spiral pattern mimicking a sort of simple labyrinth.    As you near the entrance to the Space, a low stone wall is under construction.  The purpose of this wall and its constant state of suspended construction is so that pilgrims from the world’s religions may bring a stone along with them on their journey.  The stones are placed in the wall upon the travelers’ arrival.  In this way, the contributions of the world’s diverse people are represented.
The grounds of the Space are entered through a grand archway.  The arch is completely covered with carvings.  These carvings represent different cultures, people, and religions.
On the premises are 3 separate structures.  There is a columned, open air structure, an amphitheater, and another building that is completely enclosed.
The first structure is circular in shape with columns all around its perimeter.  These columns support a domed roof that looks like lattice work.  The lattice design lets natural light into the space below.  There are sculptures from different religions of the world placed around the interior perimeter.  In the center of this space is a small reflecting pool.  The pool is fed by a diversion of the river that flows nearby.  Stone benches are also situated near the pool.
The next structure, the amphitheater, sits farther back behind the other two.  It is used for religious celebrations and has an unimpeded view of the ocean.  This amphitheater can seat a multitude of people.
The last building is fully enclosed.  It has been built in the shape of a large “X”, with each of its legs exactly the same length and at precise right angles to each other.  One leg of this “X” points in each of the cardinal directions-north, south, east, and west.  There are great windows on most vertical surfaces that reach from floor to ceiling.  Inside, these windows are hung with rich, heavy draperies that may be drawn to give privacy to those who wish it.  There are also more sculptures, carvings, and religious icons inside this building.
Throughout this Universal Sacred Space one can find harmony with nature and with the higher powers that one believes in.   Almost all religions believe in a power, or even powers, higher than themselves that is responsible for the creation of humans and the natural world.  This is reflected in the myriad of religious icons, sculptures, and artwork that can be found throughout this sacred space.  Artists from the surrounding islands were commissioned to create pieces that showed the diversity of both the religions of the world and the people that inhabit it.
With all of this considered, this truly is a most Universal Sacred Space.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shinto Shrines by Traci Newberry

General Description

Shinto Shrines first arose after the Yayoi period of Japanese history; in what scholars predict were created initially called yorishiro that would give Kami, or deities, a physical place to occupy. This made it to where humans could access and seek advice from the Kami. In most shrines, a shindin, which acts as a sanctuary, enshrines the Kami; but sometimes the hoden may not exist. It is speculated that there are now over 100,000 Shinto shrines in Japan. The earliest, The Imperial Ise Shrine, demonstrates the first Shinto shrines, but the design can vary wildly. There are some certain similarities though. Buddhism has influenced and has partially dictated the Shinto Shrine design.

Architectural Design

To commune with the Kami, the Shinto Shrines were erected to house them, and the architectural style was dictated by the location where it was built and the environment. The shrines were made only with wood, thatch roofing, and support beams from Hinoki bark. The roofs took on many forms, just like rest of the shrine, depending on where it was build, but have been erected with traditional Japanese sloping curves or with much straighter A-frame lines. Buddhist influence created shrines of more and more complexity and intricacy, with delicate roofings, and ornate decorations. To provide more access for the common man, some shrines were erected within villages, and developed into an architecture more like a complex, where the shrine was surrounded by a fence, with several buildings within designated for areas of worship. The consistent architectural design is building materials, wood and thatch, and consistent harmony with nature.

Harmony with Nature

Shintoinsm believes that deities, Kami, exist in every natural thing, from rocks, to trees, to the wind. Since Kami resided in nature, the shines were most traditionally erected close to areas that were “concentrated” in nature, like river heads, waterfalls, and mountains. The building materials were also brought in from nature consisting of almost only wood and thatch. Many designs were open air, so that the shrine could commune with nature, along with the worshipers.

Symbolism and Sacred Objects

Purity was essential in Shintoism. Most Shrines were re-built every so many years. For example, the Ise Shrine is re-erected every twenty years, in an area next to the previous shrine. Where the previous shrine stood, white rocks are placed everywhere, and all that remains is a small shed that contains a shin-no-mihashira, or the sacred heart. This is the most sacred object in the Ise Shrine and must remain hidden and pure at all times. In the Shinto complex, the Honden is the most sacred place, and holds the go-shintai. The go-shinai is a symbolic object that houses the numinous spirit of the Kami.

How it is Used by Worshipers

Buddhism was introduced from China and Korea by the sixth century. Buddhist and Shinto shrines were quickly integrated into the same complexes. In Shinto Complexes, you pass though a gateway, called a Torrii, that resembles the popular Japanese archway icon. After the Torii, one would enter an area of landscaping, that was used as a religions area to commune with nature, and create harmony between man and the world. Salt, water, and Fire are used in purification rituals. Water is almost always available to wash hands and rinse the mouth before entering the shrine. The Honden, or sanctuary, houses the Kami, and is the most exclusive part of the complex and is closed to the public. Priests enter to complete Shinto ceremonies and purification rituals. The worship hall was introduced later in Shinto shrine history, as an area to offer food and prayers. Later, areas were created for musical events and festivals.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Great Pyramid by Longino Nunez

General Description:

The Great pyramid, located west of Cairo, is the only standing remnant of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Built more than 4000 years ago, the great pyramid is comprised of over 2 and a half millions blocks of limestone, some weighing 70 tons each. The Structure stands 454 feet tall with a base that expands over 13 acres. The four sides slope upward at a fifty one degree angle and each outside wall spans 5 and half acres. Between each stone is an area one fifteenth of an inch thick with extremely strong cement holding it together. The pyramid was said to have been erected during the reign of Khufu. The great Pyramid also known as the great pyramid of Giza is the largest of three pyramids in the same location. There are many mysteries regarding the great pyramid that are yet to be solved. Would such an abstract structure be a mere tomb?

Architectural Design:

Unlink the other two structures the great pyramid appears to be uncompleted with a flat top where a stone cap should be. Another mystery is why the pyramid was even built. There has been speculation that it was a tomb or monument for a pharaoh like most other pyramids, and also theories of it as an astronomical observatory, a place for Egyptian rituals, a giant sundial, and many other things, some very strange. The list of who built the pyramids includes the Egyptians along with Atlantians, Sethites, and even aliens. The internal structure of the great pyramid of Giza is what makes it extremely unique and unlike all the others. Within the walls of the massive structure lay a massive cavity known as the grand Gallery which you pass as you ascend upward towards the “King’s Chamber”. The Purpose of this magnificent gallery still remains a mystery as well. Before years of weathering and other elements took its toll on the structure the pyramid was recorded by the Greek historian Herodotus as being covered in a highly polished limestone and that the joints were so fine you could barely see them, giving the pyramid the look of being comprised of one piece.

Symbolism and Sacred Objects:

Once exploration began many investigators uncovered some of the pyramids secrets. In 1637, Oxford astronomer John Grieves discovered a well shaft at the entrance of the “Queen’s chamber” Next Nathaniel Davison discovered another chamber directly above the “King’s chamber” in 1763. Following Davison, Napoleon vested much interest in the pyramid. However it was in 1837 when Colonel Howard Vyse brought the pyramid into modern scientific investigation. Vyse uncovered some of the original polished limestone coverings, and opened up the air shafts to the king’s chamber which allowed air flow in from outside and kept the room at a constant 68 degrees regardless of the temperature outside.

How it is used by Worshipers:

The study of the pyramids reached a new era in the second half of the nineteenth century with the start of “Pyramidology” Pyramidologists such as John Taylor, Piazzi Smith, and Joseph Seiss began to look at the structure as a divine treasury of Chronological, astronomical, mathematical, and biblical truths. Adam Rutherford one of the most famous pyramidologists believed in the prophetic timeline of the pyramid, and also predicted the second coming of Christ and the end of life. The argument that these people held was that the structure of the pyramid was much too complex and had significant details that most tombs would not have. They argued that it must have been a place of worship.

SOURCES: Introduction and overview of the Great Pyramid of Giza

The Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid, by C. Staniland Wake, [1882], at

Stonehenge by Alice Peden

I. General Description

The Stonehenge monument is a prehistoric circle of standing stones located in county Wiltshire (England), approximately 8 miles North of Salisbury. It went through several phases of construction, but the general consensus among most historians is that the monument as we know it was constructed in approximately 2000 B.C.E. Because of its age, debate still abounds about who created the monument. The most popular theory to date is that the Druids created it, but this has since been proven false on two counts; the Celtic society from which the Druids came didn’t emerge until approximately 300 B.C.E., and the Druids typically worshipped in forests rather than using stone structures.

Because of the uncertainty regarding its creators, the exact original purpose of Stonehenge also remains unclear, but it is likely that it was used as a ritual site and, given the placement of the stones, a device for following the movements of the sun and planets.

II. Architectural Design

Stonehenge as we know it today consists of enormous “sarsen” stones (each one approximately 24 feet tall) arranged in a circle that is 97 feet in diameter. Within that circle is an inner circle of “bluestones”, which surrounds a smaller half-circle of stones, which in turn surrounds an altar stone. The “heel” stone, which itself marks the summer solstice, stands separate from the circle. A large ditch encircles the entire arrangement, serving as an outer bank of sorts.

Surprisingly, the Stonehenge that we know today is actually one of several phases of creation of the monument. The first phase (the outer ditch) was constructed approximately 1000 years before placement of the iconic standing stones (which were themselves the result of the third phase – any visible evidence of the second phase did not withstand the passage of time).

What is particularly remarkable about Stonehenge is the nature of the stones themselves – the standing stones were not from the Salisbury area, but came instead from many, many miles away (ranging from 25 miles to almost 160 miles, depending on which phase of construction they came from). Builders dragged the stones from their points of origin to the site, shaped them, and then probably placed them using a combination of ropes and dirt ramps.

III. Harmony with Nature

Regardless of who created it, Stonehenge emerged in a time when people used both science and religion together in an attempt to understand the forces of nature affecting their world. The placement of the standing stones shows the movements of the sun and planets; on certain days, the sun shines through specific openings in an exact line to the center of the circle. In particular, Stonehenge accurately marks the midsummer solstice, which proved particularly important to the heavily agricultural societies of the day. Because other Neolithic monuments in the area align with Stonehenge, historians speculate that it may be part of some larger map or symbolic purpose (such as perceived healing properties or a symbolic passage from life to death).

IV. Symbolism and Sacred Objects

While the exact symbolism of Stonehenge itself is debatable, a theory concerning ancestor worship does exist about it as a part of some larger “map” made by the other monuments dotting the landscape along the Avon River. The overall effect depicts a journey from life to death as one travels along the river, with Stonehenge being the final domain of death where one would pay respects to the deceased (as the numerous burial mounds would suggest).

V. How Worshippers Use It

Because its original purpose and the identity of its original creators are more or less lost to the past, how Stonehenge was originally used for worship is rather unclear (because of all the burial mounds in and around the area, ancestor worship of some variety is one of the more compelling solutions).

However, despite the Druids’ lack of involvement in the monument, modern Druids have come to prize the monument as an important symbol anyway. The Secular Order of Druids assembles and performs ceremonies at Stonehenge every year as per ancient tradition – they and thousands others gather in particular to witness the sunrise of the summer solstice and sunset of the winter solstice (even though access to walk among the stones themselves is now strictly controlled for safety reasons).

VI. Sources

Alexander, Caroline. "If The Stones Could Speak: Searching For The Meaning of Stonehenge." National Geographic Magazine Online. June 2008. National Geographic, Web. 9 Nov 2009. .
Ashe, Geoffrey. "Stonehenge." Brittania History. 2007., LLC, Web. 10 Nov 2009. .
Lazzari, Margaret, and Dona Schleiser. Exploring Art: A Global, Thematic Approach. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005. 245-46.

The Kandariya Mahadeva By Ginger Nelson


The Kandariya Mahadeva is the largest and most ornate Hindu temple. The temple, located in Khajuraho, India, is believed to have been built between the years 1025 and 1050 AD. The temple is one of thirty temples on this site. It was built during the reign of King Vidyadhara during the Chandella dynasty.

This temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in his manifestation as Mahadeva. In this manifestation, Shiva maintains all living things.

The name Kandariya Mahadeva comes from the word for cave (kandara) and Mahadeva which is another name for Shiva. Today, this temple is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.


Kandariya Mahadeva is the largest temple at Khajuraho. It measures 30.5 meters in length and height and 20 meters in width. There is a large tower that marks the highest point. This tower is surrounded by 84 smaller replicas of itself.

The temple was built in what is known as the Northern Indian style of temple architecture.

The plan of the temple is a geometric drawing, known as a mandala. The mandala symbolizes the universe. There are four porches to the temple that point in the cardinal direction, one on each side.

This temple consists of an entrance porch, mandapa (hall), maha mandapa (large hall), vestibule and sanctum sanctorum enclosed by an ambulatory.


The east-facing temple was built from a multitude of sandstone blocks. The blocks were fitted together with no cement of any kind. It was built to resemble the gradually rising peaks of the Himalayan Mountains. There are no records in existence that show what the natural landscape was at the time of this temple being built. Currently, the temples of Khajuraho sit in a tourist-friendly, park-like setting with ornamental trees and mowed grasses.


Every facet of the exterior of the temple is covered with sandstone relief carvings in three bands. Hindu religion believes that divine union is reflected in carnal pleasure and many of the carvings found on the temple are openly erotic. There are many theories on the meaning of these carvings. Some believe that the figures were inspired by the Kama Sutra and were intended to be used as an instruction manual for love. Others argue that the figures were designed to entertain the gods. In doing so, their wrath would be diverted and the temples would be protected against natural calamities. Still another belief is that the geometric qualities of some of the images are a pictorial form of a mantra, also known as a yantra, and are for use in meditation.

Although these images garner much of the attention of tourists, they comprise only a small portion of the exterior. Other carvings on the exterior of the temple depict humans doing mundane everyday tasks such as putting on makeup, musicians, farmers, and potters.

The interior is spacious and has many other carvings and sculptures. However, there are no erotic figures or sexual art present among the 226 statues inside the temple.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Traci Newberry's Museum Visit

Alexandre Hogue painted Drouth Stricken Area in 1934 in America with oil on canvas.

 His intriguing use of line creates a simple view of drout and depression, but upon closer examination, the simplicity is surpassed by it detail. The lines of the painting seem to outline most figures, but enhance the idea of depravity by making the scene seem even deplete of expected texture. The lines of the windmill draw you eye upward, while the buzzard takes your eyes to the starving cow in a very triangular shape.

The figures are bold and grotesque. They are brilliantly outlined and slightly geometric. Most everything in the painting is placed in the foreground, perhaps to allude that the future may have something less dismal in store. The painting is two dimensional, but is created in a way to imply depth and volume. Houge uses overlapping, atmospheric perspective, and linear perspective in order to create depth.

The light from the sun is implied and not seen, but only cast by the subjects in the painting. Shadows are long, and depicted as if the sun was about to start setting; perhaps rising. The shadows placed in the work create another layer of drama, to add to the dramatic color and value changes. Hogue chose to pick in almost only two colors, different tones of blues and oranges. These are analogous colors, but the shades he chose, disguise the contrast. In turn, the painting appears warm and cold at the same time. Warm from the sun and the barren desert; cold from the hopelessness and starvation.

The actual texture of this painting was fairly smooth, and flat. However, Hogue implies texture in the sand, fence, and animals he painted. The sand's texture created by parallel lines, the cow by shadows and dramatic lines, and the fence with a constant pattern and line.

Drouth Stricken Area has a triangle shaped balance. The cow and the vulture are the bottom two points, with the top of the windmill at the peak. There is also a good bit of alternating shades and tints creating a feeling of static. I feel that even though the cow was not placed in center, there is a good amount of evidence placed on it due to the amount of detail and contrast it contains. The painting as a whole does not have one consistent rhythm, but contains many rhythms in order to create texture in the sand, in the windmill and in the fence. Drouth Stricken Area was painted in Oils on Canvas, and enabled the painter to create areas of very smooth color and contrast, placed next to bold lines and detail. The paining, I'm sure, no longer looks quite the same as when originally painted, but very close due to the proficiency of preservation techniques. All in all, this painting spoke to me, because in such simply ways, it was able to convey such disparity.

Alice Peden's Museum Visit

The Torment of Saint Anthony

I. Art Elements

Line ― Throughout this painting, outlines have been used to define the shapes of St. Anthony himself, the demons that attack him, and the landscape around them. In general, the lines seem to emphasize a vertical direction (perhaps because the attack depicted is taking place in midair). The lines of St. Anthony and the lines of the demons are different in such a way as to pertain to the character of each subject; St. Anthony is painted in smooth, flowing lines as if to emphasize his gentleness, his humanity; the demons are rendered in harsh, jagged lines, right down to the jagged clubs that some of them wield. The jagged lines of the demons almost seem to attack the viewer. Meanwhile, in the midst of the attack, St. Anthony gazes into the distance without expression even though the demons, judging the diagonal lines in some of them, are trying their best to pull him apart.

Shape ― The main shapes in the foreground of the painting are organic and vaguely humanoid, but in a more general sense (including the landscape as well as the subjects), there are mainly triangles pointing upward (perhaps to emphasize the vertical direction, as well as the jagged lines of the demons), and at least one mostly rectangular form (look closely at St. Anthony himself). The rectangular outline of St. Anthony could be to show uprightness, his resolute strength in the face of this attack. As though to further emphasize strength, St. Anthony is much larger than any one of the demons attacking him. Furthermore, he is beautiful while the demons, by contrast, are grotesquely inhuman (some of them even resemble animals in certain respects).

Space ― The main form (St. Anthony and the demons) takes up most of the picture, as it is what the viewer should be focusing the most on. As a result, there isn’t much empty or negative space. The picture is flat, almost even seeming to project backwards instead of forwards, as atmospheric perspective shows a gradual fading of color and size into the distance, and with some layering; the demons are before St. Anthony, who is in front of the landscape, and so on.

Light ― There is no depicted source of light in the painting – it is loosely implied instead. The shadows, depicted through color, are more or less true to life (the demons could have had starker shadows to them to further emphasize their evil, for example). While the shadows overall are relatively true to life, the demons do have more shadows than St. Anthony to some degree (to show their “darkness”).

Color ― The most dominant colors are blue (from the atmospheric perspective of the landscape/sky), and the combination of red and green (opposites on the color wheel, to highlight the discordant nature of the demons). The cooler, more subdued colors of the landscape and St. Anthony versus the bright, contrasting warmer colors of the demons (primarily the red) makes the demons stand out all the more as something wrong with the scene.

Texture ― The actual texture of the painting is relatively smooth, but the implied texture varies (the demons are supposed to be sharp and jagged, but the whole painting is not like this).

II. Art Principles

Balance ― There is actually a relative symmetry to the attack – the demons almost form a circle around St. Anthony. Also, they are depicted in bright colors while St. Anthony, by contrast, is depicted in more drab colors (black and almost white – his golden halo is the most colorful thing on him). In additional contrast, the demons are done in harsh, jagged, lines while St. Anthony is done in smoother, more flowing lines.

Emphasis ― The emphasis of the work is the attack itself (it takes up most of the painting), but the emphasis of the attack is St. Anthony at its center. The viewer’s eye is drawn to him, particularly to his face, as it is the lightest colored point in the picture.

Rhythm ― The most repeated pattern is that of straight, harsh, jagged points on the demons – their spines, their teeth, their horns, and so on. It adds some intensity to them, as if to make them seem even more unnatural and frightening. However, there are also the smoother lines of St. Anthony and the landscape around them to consider. The overall contrast most likely is to show just how much the demons do not belong in the scene.

III. Media and Technique

Painting ― The two-dimensional painting is a mix of oil and tempera paints. Oil paints can dry at different speeds (depending on how thick they are), but the fast-drying nature of the tempera probably forced Michelangelo to paint relatively quickly and allowed little time to make any changes. In spite of such pressure, it was possible to create all manner of different lines and textures (from the smooth lines of St. Anthony to the jagged lines, horns, and scales of the demons). At one time, the painting probably had a glossy finish (some oil paints had varnishes in them), but the painting was more recently cleaned of aging, yellowed varnish to reveal the richer colors and details underneath. Oil and tempera paints withstand age relatively well, but they do deteriorate after a while and, as such, museums keep paintings of such media in very delicate, controlled conditions to preserve them.