Monday, November 22, 2021



As we were watching the Giants lose another game tonight, my father reminded me that today, November 22nd, is the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.  That is true. That death doesn't mean as much to me as it does to him, as I wouldn't be born for a few more years, but I was aware of it for a number of reasons.  Just as memorable for me is that it is the birthday of someone who was my boss for over a decade.  But most of all, I think of St Cecilia on November 22, as it is her feast day.  A lot of people don't quite understand the concept of the feast day, and assume it's the saint's birthday.  It is, but not their birthday as a human, but their birthday in Heaven, meaning the day they reached there, or to put it another way, the day they died.  (or at least what is believed to be the day they died- with the early ones, we don't know how accurate these dates are) When I started my Everyman series, I decided to include the feast day as part of the design, choosing a type style that wasn't exactly traditional Gothic, but something that seemed crude and archaic, that would evoke the same idea.  I used that same typeface for all of them, a number that is probably somewhere around 80 now, but I am not sure and don't have access to the whole set or books right now.  

The series began in 1994, the follow-up to my infamous The Fourth of July series, with a print a day for a year. This one was considerably shorter (almost had to be as I knew I had a show to install in about a year), though it added an element of color, which wasn't part of the earlier series.  The volumes in the college library (Butler's Lives of the Saints) were broken down in 3 month sets, and further by feast day, thus part of the reason I wanted to include it.  I started with volume 3- July, August, September, but at the time I had no idea what I would be doing.  I wrote down interesting stories and assumed I would come up with a meaning and design idea later.  And I did.  What I came up with for the idea was that I would seek stories or objects that could relate to a typical contemporary individual.  The concept was that most saints were ordinary people, who mostly had jobs, or tasks they had to do to live.  Some saints had lives that were full of religious thought, but most didn't.  In fact, some were downright sinners, criminals, etc, before they found religion and changed their ways.  If they could become saints, then anyone could, thus my title, taken from the medieval morality play.  The idea was to link the sacred and the profane, the high and low.  To some extent it was successful.  The results have pleased religious people (they've been shown in galleries run by priests and nuns), but are also liked by people who are against religion, much to their surprise.  

For example, St Cecilia was martyred (according to the story told in the book) by sealing her in her own bathroom, and stoking the furnace that heated it with seven times the normal fuel. After 24 hours, the room was opened and she was still alive.  One thing about the book was that it never claimed any of the events were true, and in fact sometimes pointed out that the stories were taken directly from other stories or legends that were know at the time.  So in this case, I don't know if her surviving was divine intervention, or if this was just a bad plan.  So they went with an alternate plan, cut her head off with an ax, which never fails to get the desired result.  No one who is still alive knows what it is like to get their head cut off, but almost everyone has a bathroom, and can relate to that part of the story.  So my visual was a bathroom. As was my custom, I chose somewhat vintage versions of the relevant items (helped by a very weird book I found in the library), like that old style tub, and a sink and toilet drawn from those found in a restroom.  The color choices for tile were based on a bathroom in the house I grew up in, constructed in the 50's, when black and pink were a popular combination.  

When I started the series, I had been though volumes 3 & 4, and stated with the ones I wanted to do most, and St Cecilia was one of those early ones. Eventually I read volumes 1 & 2, and ended up doing about 60 prints in time for my MFA show.  That was the most ever shown at one time, but a dozen or more have appeared in several shows. and individual prints have appeared in many places and publications.  And once in a while I do another one.  This one was always a favorite, which is why I had it saved to this computer.  


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