Study for a Baptism, 2002,
oil on canvas, 48 x 48.
Photo: Maimon Nasatir.
All images © John Nava,
2001-02, all right reserved.
Weaving File for Communion of Saints
Tapestry One, North Wall, 2001, digital file.
Weaving File for Communion of Saints Tapestry
One, North Wall" (detail), 2001, cotton and viscose.
When John Nava, renowned California figurative painter, was selected unanimously to create the tapestries for The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, he began what was unarguably the most demanding, intense, and reverential assignment of his life.
|Nava spent better than two years working non-stop on this project. He flew to the Flanders Tapestries Mill in Belgium as the deadline drew near. Once there, he directed the weaving of all 25 Communion of Saints panels plus The Baptism of The Lord and The Holy City. It was all completed in 45 days. What would have taken 20 years had it been hand-crafted in the past was completed in a matter of weeks through the application of modern technology.
Nava writes that he made a special effort to depict his figures realistically and "completely without irony." Stating that the best figurative painters of the 20th-century presented a "self-destructive, diseased and decadent" view of the world, he wanted his imagery to convey the opposite, "to be a message of hope, redemption and meaning." That he has done.
Since the "raison d'etre" for this project is the tapestries themselves, we visited The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels to see the end result of Nava's long and devoted creative process. When standing in the sanctuary surrounded by the tapestries, it is impossible not to be impressed on three levels: the quiet majesty of the imagery, the technical skill of the artist, and the grace of the message. But one questins the subdued color scheme (a pale, muted palette of mauve, pink, beige, brown, ivory and earth tones) when the tapestries cry out for, even beg for color. It is stated that "the tapestries were designed to be compatible with the interior architectural design with regard to color, texture, light, etc.," and that Nava worked within the construct of this plan. But why is the decor of The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels so low-key in the first place?
Throughout Europe and the Americas, cathedrals are radiant with the glow of stained glass windows, resplendent with gloriously hued tapestries, and vibrant from gilded altars and religious icons. We cannot help wondering why the joy and spirit of color was repressed, when the history of The City of The Angels resonates Latino culture, which was brought to the New World by the colorful countries of Spain, Portugal and Italy.