Client: St. Mary Magdalen
Location: Grand Rapids, MI, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $25,000
University of Detroit Mercy
The project included design and fabrication of ecclesiastical elements intended to visually and spatially enrich the experience of celebrating masses, baptisms, and other liturgical events. The piece highlighted here is a large Baldacchino with specialty lighting showing the cosmos set compositionally with a Sanctuary Lamp.
Prominent through the pieces is a DF-designed wheat pattern that references the breath of the Spirit that binds together all the various worship activities of the parish. The idea behind the pieces and pattern was to show the spiritual impact of the mass celebration beyond the physical boundaries of the elements and the space. The Baldacchino recalls the tent that protected the Ark of the Covenant as it moved with the Israelites through the desert. Here the baldacchino is placed over the tabernacle. The patterning of the metal mesh resembles a field of wheat which the wind (the Holy Spirit) animates. In the dome of the baldacchino is an image of the night sky on the eve of dedication (June 8, 2014).
We worked as the project artist and fabricator with Progressive AE out of Grand Rapids, Fr. Gilbert Sunghera, an architectural professor and liturgical design consultant, from the University of Detroit Mercy. A research astronomer from the Vatican Observatory in Rome and an associate professor of Physics from University of Detroit Mercy were consulted to identify those constellations and planetary objects that would have had significance to the ancient observers. The locations of the planets designate the year, while the location of the constellations represents the approximate date for the night sky in Kentwood. You will find such constellation imagery in older churches throughout Europe, and more recently in the plaza to the Cathedral Church of Our Lady of the Angeles in Los Angeles. Around the edge of the constellation is the Latin inscription (Original Vulgate Translation) from the book of Daniels 3:63 O ye stars of heaven, bless the Lord: praise and exalt him above all forever. A medieval scholar was used to get the proper translation from the Vulgate.
This piece was part of the a larger commissioning of pieces (17 total) that Design Fugitives designed and fabricated for the parish.