By Tom Wachunas
“Mathematics is the language with which God wrote the Universe.” - Galileo
“Geometry is the knowledge of the eternally existent.” –Pythagoras
“Mighty is geometry; joined with art, resistless.” –Euripides
Exhibit: math.LOGOS.music – language of The Divine, work by Amy Schlabach, THROUGH NOVEMBER 3, at Little Art Gallery, located in the North Canton Library, 185 N. Main Street, North Canton, 330-499-4712 Ext. 312, http://www.ncantonlibrary.com/?q=little_art_gallery
Let’s get spiritual – and personal. I try not to use the word “powerful” too lightly when describing the impact that some works of art have on me. But in this case, Amy Schlabach’s vibrant paintings merit that term and then some. Here I mean ‘powerful’ to signify what I consider to be the single most edifying function and capacity of art: To transport both mind and heart to a specific spiritual place; to reflect, honor and otherwise successfully direct our attentions to the source of all human creativity - God.
Before reading any of the pieces’ titles, or Schlabach’s other written materials provided by the gallery, even the quickest glance at these radiant, iridescent paintings imparts an experience that is as much “religious” as it is purely aesthetic. It helps to know that the capitalized word LOGOS in the title of the show means WORD in Greek. And here, not just any word, but the word, in reference to Christ, as boldly revealed in the first verse of the gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Schlabach’s deep appreciation of (and college degree in) mathematics generated fervent awe of her Creator. Mathematics is a lens – or better yet, prism – through which she sees evidence of a Divine plan. Her acrylic paintings are meditative, harmonious fusions of geometric and organic shapes saturated with sumptuous color. These are abstract configurations that are, like much of mathematics itself, executed with impressive, formulaic exactitude. Yet for all of their hard edges and crisply defined shapes, they nonetheless pulse with a soft, painterly energy, evoking the undulating luminescence of stained glass windows in a church. It’s a visual quality greatly heightened by the generous addition - to her already regal palette - of powdered 24K gold, along with silver and copper.
There’s also a musicality about these compositions in the way Schlabach establishes varying rhythmic patterns of shapes and linearities within the picture plane, suggesting what one might call the Divine heartbeat of the universe, at once cosmic and profoundly intimate. In her statement, she cites her musical inspiration this way: “Behind the ethereal harmonies of music is the calculable beauty of mathematics. Numbers weave a dance through the overtones, timbre, pitch, and rhythms of music.”
What I find most enlivening about this body of work shouldn’t be a surprise to those of you who have been reading my posts with any regularity. In the context of the often ugly pluralism of ideas and forms we can encounter in postmodernist art, the real power and beauty of this exhibit is its single-minded, courageous declaration of faith in Biblical truth. Here is an eloquent reminder that mathematics isn’t so much a human invention per se as much as it is one of the many ways (gifts, actually) God uses to reveal himself to us.
But most important, the Word. Schlabach’s triptych, Godhead, is a gorgeous homage to the Trinity, with the Hebrew word for Eternal Father in the left panel and, signifying the Holy Spirit, a dove in the right panel. Hovering in the center, the Cross of Christ. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
I’ll sing to that.
PHOTOS, courtesy Elizabeth Blakemore (Little Art Gallery Curator), from top: The Godhead; Revelation 22:1,2 ; Archimedes’ Constant (y)