Visit the Sistine Chapel…..
I was in Rome recently and was anxious to revisit the Sistine Chapel. I had a “skip the line” tour (with Context Tours – excellent! I highly recommend them) so the wait was only about 30 minutes. The walk through the Vatican museums was wonderful but once we got even near the Sistine Chapel the mass of people started growing. By the time we entered the Chapel we were in a sea of people – stuffed! Elbow to elbow or in my case their elbow to my head. We could barely move – I am not exaggerating. I was so afraid of losing Patricia that we literally held onto each other. It was that close. Tring to elevate myself above the situation, I began staining my neck to view what I had been anticipating for so long. I was being drawn in to the paintings when a red plastic bag knocked into my face (it was empty so no harm done) but then the loud speaker came on admonishing us for talking because “THIS WAS A SACRED SPACE!” in several different languages, every 15 minutes. The circumstances were too much for me to overcome. I was moved along by the sea until I was out the other end, utterly exhausted and seriously disappointed.
I am not and have never been a fan of the Catholic Church but I found this experience to really show their colors. This chapel is truly a sacred space, with figures sculpted out of paint, the ceiling transformed by paint and most importantly infused with the complex extremes of the human condition – literally ecstasy to agony. But the experience is completely ruined because of greed – packing into the space as many people as could fit (like being crammed into a Japanese subways.) They could have taken a page from the Peruvians who severely limit the number of people that can visit Machu Picchu a day enabling the experience to be full and enriching. Besides which, it cannot be good for the paintings with all this carbon dioxide being pumped in the air by the sea of visitors.
It reminded me of a recent trip to Bejing and the Great Wall where the crowds walking on the wall were so dense you couldn’t see space between the people. The Great Wall, built in the 15th Century, was not designed to have thousands of people a day walking on it and the Sistine Chapel, built in the late 15th century, was not designed to be used as a commercial business.
Perhaps the real miracle of this experience is that, in spite of all this, I actually WAS deeply affected by the Sistine Chapel paintings! I didn’t realize it until I got back to my studio. Looking at my work with the recent experience with Michelangelo, I decided to make a radical change in my approach to shooting in the mirrors. It might be viewed by outsiders as an insignificant one – but to me it is monumental!
Ready for it?
Instead of focusing on the surface of the mirrors I am now starting to focus on the figures!