Making connections between the aesthetics and function of architecture with the expression of spiritual ethos is the basis for the Apollo’s Siheyuan series. While researching culturally specific projects a recurring element that routinely makes itself apparent to me is the power of spiritual connotation in the physical experience of everyday living. This series primarily consists of abstractions inspired by the architecture and physical culture of several of the world’s spiritual orders and practices. While I draw from the styles of structure and building, I will also be featuring the smaller scale, such as individual domestic items and elements that blend into public domains. The art illuminates that which I perceive to carry an abstracted spiritual purpose beyond function.
The title of this collection gives a name to express how I visualize the context of what the series will eventually include; it combines the symbolism of the Hellenic god of light, art, and oracles, Apollo; and the architectural term siheyuan, a classical era Chinese residence consisting of independent structures that surround a common courtyard or pavilion whose design was inspired by Confucian principles of spirit and nature. The positioning of these names together reflects my finding symbolism of inspiration and beauty in religious culture that go beyond the mundane and practical.
During research for the Qena Sint’isis project, specifically, I was faced with trying to decipher symbolism and contextual thought behind the features and functions of a culture that has lost much of its core identity and history. This was due to the onset of an intensely transformative period and the natural process of changes over time. Through the study of trace materials, documentation, and personal records, I found myself making parallels between the challenge of honoring a culture that now largely exists in a historical context and the challenge of facing the basic human dilemma of how to cope with questions about our existence. My interest in theology has always been a personal guide for me as I’ve had the great opportunity to explore religion and belief systems with an enormous amount of openness to many traditions and spiritually guided lifestyles. Not being raised in adherence to one specific faith, I’ve always been fascinated and often confused by the history of the world’s religions and how they interact with each other and with individual cultures over time.
What brings me to these ideas is my outsiders’ perspective of religious practices being united with culture in a practical way. In my view, specific belief systems offer sets of symbolism which serve a communal aesthetic of a specific cultural group. These communities of spiritual aesthetics may be as large as diaspora cultures or nation states, or as small as neighborhood congregations or families. Even the individual experience of spiritual dilemmas has a strong bearing on how religion is perceived, especially in contemporary life as religions have a far less prominent visibility. Even in more religious communities of adherents to a set of spiritual traditions, people are far less engaged with ceremonial aspects that reconnect individuals to group aesthetic and expression due to demands of modernizing economies and cultural identities becoming, apparently at least, more fluid. In my own view, it is the communal spiritual aesthetic that plays a large and yet innocuous role in the development of culture and art. Large because how we view and think about existential philosophy is greatly shaped by our upbringing, and innocuous because it subtly blurs into the domain of personal expression that cannot be compared from person to person regardless of shared experiences.
It is the way that we incorporate our spiritual identities and influences into how we physically live that motivates the vision of Apollo’s Siheyuan. This hypothetical place is where my own vision of these influences and how they inspire me comes to life, even if just in a dream. While I don’t intend to analyze, promote, or compare any religion or tradition over another, I do intend, in a sense, to paint with the colors that are the infinite ways spiritual philosophy continually inspires how we live and how we see.