Robischon Gallery, Denver, CO
Claustrum is about interiority and the way we create a space in our minds that acts as both a paradise, a place of escape, and repose, as well as a site where we come face to face with our fears and failings: the site of consciousness. Monks employed these green spaces as a site of freedom within the confines of their highly structured existences – they could read and speak, dream and write within the stage of this interior garden (one that mimicked those of the outside world). Yet each medieval cloister garden was surrounded by a “gallery” of ornately sculptured capitals on columns which featured foliate and figurative forms that were instructive. They warned the monks of our flawed human natures and help guard them against those pitfalls and temptations.
I have attempted this same instruction for myself, recognizing my most intimate struggles and paying homage to those with each allegorical gesture in the form of animals. The animals represent (carry for us) these qualities, and yet for every strength they represent the meaning flips. It is something I perceived in the way these animals are employed in heraldic imagery and their attendant family mottos. These animals, while presenting themselves as moral champions conversely embody the falseness or hubris of any claim to character strength. In other words, we are all fallible, and that message is embedded in these images. Our strength lies in that reminder, in our humility and in our consciousness of that fact.
The garden acts as a metaphor for this larger arena of nature – human nature and how it plays out in the world. It is both private and public, here and elsewhere (as in notions of paradise) interior and exterior, real and constructed. It is an inherently paradoxical space and one I feel best addresses these questions. Where are we and where do we want to be? How do we create the space we want to inhabit?