I received some great questions this week regarding the Stone Angel photography show now hanging at Oakeside in Bloomfield NJ.
The questions centered around the symbolism present in the depiction of the angels. A friend who had attended the show noticed that a significant number of the angels had their hands clasped together and placed them to their right side. While clasped hands usually signals devotion, I wasn’t sure what the significance might be of the hands resting on the right side of the angel. I’ve done a small amount of research – ok mostly Wikipedia – on the right side, right hand of god, etc. and the entry for the right hand of God mentions that in the Bible to “be at the right side is to be identified as being in the special place of honor.” In many Christian faiths, Jesus is also represented as sitting at the right hand of God. In that vein, it is possible that the angels’ hands on the right side are in honor of these traditions.
There also was a question on the symbolism present in a specific piece in the show – #13 Angel Triad. This angel photograph was taken last year in West Orange NJ.
These three angels are part of an impressive monument in Rosedale Cemetery which was beautifully sculpted and then rendered in bronze. I was able to identify the different symbols used in the piece after a little bit of internet research. Here is what I found – the center angel is holding a lamp with a flame (an eternal flame) representing the immortality of the soul. The angel on the right side is holding a wheat strand and a cornucopia full of fruits and vegetables. Both items are indicative of the divine harvest. The third angel (completing the triad) situated on the left is holding a staff and what I believe to be lilies. I found that the staff is a sign of comfort to the mourning and the lilies symbolize purity.
The entire exchange on the symbolism present in these angels was fascinating and allowed me to dig even deeper into the beauty of these artworks.
If you haven’t had a chance to see the show yet, don’t worry because there is still time. The stone angel photographs will continue to be on display till the end of the month.
I started photographing these stone angels about three years ago. Another hobby of mine is genealogy and family history, which I began over ten years ago. While researching for one’s roots you are invariably led to a cemetery or two or three… As I have family buried in Essex County and surrounding counties, I have visited many of these cemeteries. Almost every time there were one or two angels that I was really struck by – either the intricacy of its carving or the expression on its face or even its overall composition. So in between walking the rows searching for and documenting the final resting places of my relatives, I would capture an angel here and an angel there. Before I knew it the collection was growing.
Once it started to develop and I had decided that I wanted to create a series of angels, I became more focused on how I wanted to represent them. Typically cemetery angels and cemetery monuments are shown amongst the many other monuments and stones surrounding them. I didn’t want that effect for this series . I made a concerted effort to capture each one on its own – recognizing it as an individual artistic piece. I felt this allowed the angels to be appreciated for what it was and allowed the viewer to focus on each angel’s unique attributes.
I also decided from a visual standpoint that black & white was the right choice for these pictures. Viewing the images you can easily see that black & white lends itself to stone monuments and specifically angels.
Over a three year period the angel collection continued to grow in proportion to my genealogy excursions. Eventually I decided that it was time to exhibit these images and share them with others. The first step was of course to review everything I shot and narrow them down to the best of the best. Pouring over each of the images I started to develop a new appreciation for them beyond just the artistry. I had to remind myself that they also served an important function for those who commissioned them and placed them at their relatives’ graves. They were there to watch over them and ensure they were Never Alone. This later realization is what inspired the title of the show.
The exhibit at Oakeside is now the culmination of those three years of searching for, photographing, living with and contemplating the nature of these Angels.
Yesterday’s opening reception for Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels was a great success!
Thanks to everyone who came out to the reception. All of your support is very much appreciated. The mansion was definitely full of life yesterday as everyone perused the Angel exhibit.
The opening reception may be over, but there is still plenty of time to see the show. The exhibit hangs at the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center until the end of August. If you can’t make the show you can check out the online gallery here: STONE ANGELS.
I received a lot of nice comments and had some great conversations on everything from what led me to the subject matter to questions on the use of angels in cemeteries.
In typical photographer fashion, I’m also including some pictures from the opening.
Today – August 1st – was the start of my firs solo photography show – Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels. It was a great day at the Oakes Mansion preparing, planning and hanging the angels. This beautiful turn-of-the-century Mansion is the perfect place for a photography show. If you have never been to the Mansion you definitely need to visit and attend one of the many cultural events hosted here throughout the year.
Thanks to great friends – Cindy Summers and Corinna Sowers-Adler – the angels went up very easily and look amazing.
From the first picture hung to the final one – it felt surreal to see all of MY pictures hanging on these walls. One of my dreams has always been to have my own solo art show – whether photographs or paintings. So this is truly a dream come true… a wish fulfilled.
I am very excited now to share this work with the world and to allow these angels to fly…
I am really excited to announce a dream come true… My first solo photography exhibit is going forward in August at the amazing and beautiful Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center in Bloomfield NJ. The show – Never Alone: Black & White Images of Stone Angels – will run at Oakeside from August 5-31 and be open to the public Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. Evening viewings are by appointment only.
Never Alone is the culmination of a three-year project I undertook to document the use of stone angels in cemeteries throughout New Jersey. I carefully selected each image for this debut show to demonstrate the beauty and craftsmanship that went into creating these funerary objects. Stone angels were often used in the beginning decades of the last century especially among the newly arriving immigrant populations from Europe.
This angel exhibit not only presents each angel as a work of art in its own right but also focuses on the vital role they play as guardians watching over lost loved ones and ensuring they are never alone.
The elegance of the Oakes Mansion’s turn-of-the-century architecture is the perfect environment for this show and I couldn’t be any more thrilled to have my first show here.
There is an opening reception on Sunday, August 11 from 2-4 p.m. which is open to the public.
I look forward to seeing everyone there to appreciate these wonderful works of art.
On Friday, April 12th the opening reception for the Grace Van Vorst Spring Photography Show 2013 was held. Two of my photographs – Mary and Baby Jesus and Prayer for Guidance – are on display and for sale until May 12th.
The show is being held at Grace Van Vorst Church in Jersey City and is open Monday-Friday, 9:30-1:00 and when Grace Church is opened. Enter at Grace Van Vorst Hall, 39 Erie Street, Jersey City. Credit Cards are accepted.