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Monastery Studio at Saint Vincent, 1963-1968

View of my monastery studio from 1963 to 1968. Before the 1963 fire this area served as the tailor shop where monastic garments were made for the monks.

New City Series (1961-1968) & Westmoreland Museum Exhibition (1965) 

In 1965 the Westmoreland Museum of American Art,  known then as  the Westmoreland County Museum of American Art, presented an exhibition of my work including many New City paintings as shown below.

  

 

Above: Slides of New City panels dated 1965 or earlier. The lower right panel is seen in the installation shown  below.  Works are wood  panels primed with gesso and executed with crayon markings and acrylics.
Stephen Joy, who curated the show, arranged the exhibition entrance  wall as a large "New City" installation. He presented my Paris notebooks on lecterns reminiscent of those used for scripture readings.  

As a monk I  viewed life as a transformative journey to the fullness of life in the  "Promised Land", the heavenly place viewed as  the "New Jerusalem" or the "New City".   I attempted to imbed this vision in my artwork as noted in  this 1965 exhibition statement::

". . .My paintings are spontaneous emotion; they are also calculated precision; they search to resolve oppositions in a visual dialogue; they are born from the belief that we are growing to a great love that will resolve the ambiguous and deliver us to Peace."   quoted from the catalogue

THE WESTMORELAND COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
GREENSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA
      

APRIL 2 THROUGH MAY 2, 1965    CATALOGUE

Letter to Birmingham, 1963
 36" by 60"
 acrylic, crayon, gesso on wood.
 Saint Vincent Archabbey

Several works  relate to national events of the period such as the church bombing at Birmingham Alabama in 1963 (above). and the assassination of JFK (below). These works were statements of hope for conflict resolution at a time when the United Sates experienced deep unrest with protest over the Vietnam war, racial conflict and radical changes in social mores. These may also be viewed as part of the "New City Series"./

 
Homage to JFK, 1963, 4 ft by 4ft
wood panel with gesso and acrylic.
 
Kennedy Memorial, One Year. 1964, 22" by 22"
Water color and crayon on paper.
Location Unknown.
 

 

Crucifix: clay, wood, acrylic, 14" by 14"
Made in January, 1962, while in residence at
St. Michael's Parish, West 34th St., Manhattan.

This work embodies the ideas informing my art  in the 1960's.. It represents my spiritual journey at St. Vincent, a journey that deeply informed the course of my life.

 

Mural, "Elle passe, la figure de ce monde (The face of this world is passing)"
1966, ca. 20 ft by 7.5 ft
acrylic & crayon on white wall.

Home of John & Margaret Gavaler, Pittsburgh, PA.  This is one of several versions executed between 1966-68 in the Washington DC and Pittsburgh areas. Sites included exhibitions and private homes. This version is the only known extant version in November  2014.

   

John and Margaret Gavaler pose by the mural that served as background for family meals since June of 1966.
Mural, "Elle passe, la figure de ce monde (The face of this world is passing)"
1966, ca. 20 ft by 9 ft
acrylic & crayon
 

Home of  Elsa & Rolf Von Eckartsberg
Pittsburgh, PA

A  small oval object hanging from  the upper right corner displays  the image of an "eye" drawn in black & white. This was part of a hanging assmbly of objects arranged by Elsa.


   


Concrete Castings, St. Vincent Monastery

Concrete Castings in New Monastery (1966-1967). The monastery, devastated by fire in 1963, was rebuilt and dedicated in 1967. Tasso Katselas, the architect for this project, came up with the idea of capturing brush strokes in concrete. He suggested that I create molds by using hot irons to burn strokes into thick sheet of Styrofoam.  In close collaboration with the architect and the monastic community we  created about 30 steel reinforced concrete castings. These castings, imbedded in load bearing walls of the new monastery bear testimony to the creative mind of the architect  and a vibrant collaborating community of monks at St. Vincent in the 1960's.

Above: Brother 1966-1967. Reinforced concrete casting. 8 feet by 8 feet, Depth: c. 12". Load bearing wall, Archabbot's conference room, St. Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, PA, USA

 

Above left to right: (1) Brush strokes served as model, (2) Styrofoam mold with drawing of strokes, (3-4) Stages in shaping Styrofoam mold. Technique employed hot irons to simulate brush strokes in the mold. (5) finished casting after mold is removed, 1967. (Click on images for larger view) 

Above: Examples of smaller castings imbedded in walls inside the monastery at various sites. Texts and phrases were chosen by members of the community.


Psalms in Sound and Image, 1966-1968. 

In 1966  I  began  experimenting with electronics.  My first project  presented  electronically synchronized sound and image for a spiritual retreat in the fall of 1966.  This retreat, held at a mountain lodge near Uniontown Pennsylvania, evoked experiences that several  students described as "transforming".  The students, from St. Vincent College and Seton Hill College,  had Father Campion Gavaler  as their spiritual guide for the retreat..

This experimental work included a sound track by Lucia Dlugoszewski and slides composed from my own drawings and photos.   Equipment included  a  Wollensack  stereo tape deck, speakers, and  two Kodak slide carousels.  The music was recorded on one sound track and the other  was programmed with a Kodak  synchronizer to trigger the slides.  With this programming procedure sound and image were electronically synchronized..  Projection from floor to ceiling and amplified speakers provided  a memorable audio visual experience.


Slide prep from drawings


   Gallery presentation, 1967

Experiencing the power of  emerging new media I  set out to create a serious work consisting of four 15 minute units, "The Psalms in Sound and Image".  Sound tracks included original compositions by Daniel Lenz,  Rembert Weakland (OSB),  and Ignatius Purta (OSB).   Daniel Lenz  had been a student of  Rembert Weakland in his college years. 

These drawings, are shown here in a sequence suggestive of the original timing.

These slides are from the archives of the original drawings. Four 15 minute units included original sound tracks with slide sequences composed of drawings, words, and photo collages.

NOTE: This file is a GIF file containing a series of images. Some imaging software may not properly read the sequence.

These audio visual  psalms were created as 20th Century songs of praise and wonder of the experience of life. Collage photos along with drawings and brief texts flashed in sequences on two screens and timed with original sound tracks. These works, highly evocative,  were often  presented in the context of spiritual retreats.  The show was also shipped with its equipment for presentation in diverse contexts including a traveling gallery show with related drawings.

Above: Detail from a "doodle" used for the back of the program for the
 "Psalms".
Click for back of a program printed in blue.

Right: Trunk that was used for shipping the audio visual equipment. Roman painted it to have the spirit of a show. Click for larger image.


Tennessee Notebook as the Fifteenth Station

Jubilee was a liberal Catholic Journal that presented the cutting edge of theology, art, and literature of the church in the U.S. in the 1960's.  Its staff included vibrant Catholic thinkers including brilliant young poets like Ned O Gorman and Bob Lax. Bob Lax  had been a close friend to Thomas Merton whose writings and life had a deep influence on our lives.

For their 1968 Easter Issue the editors planned to address the theology of Resurrection. They invited me to create an art work for a Fifteenth Station on Resurrection for the  Way of the Cross.  The traditional "Way of the Cross" marks 14 stations for meditating on the sufferings of Jesus along the way to crucifixion.  This traditional devotion does not include Resurrection. The Jubilee editors wanted to add a "Fifteenth Station"  for "Resurrection" with   rebirth as a special feature.

Page from my "Tennessee Notebook" as published by Jubilee in 1968. These illustrations drew on experiences in my 1968 January lecture tour. The tour led me to contrasting social milieus in Virginia and Tennessee. It  provided the ground for making life changing decisions that were a kind of "rebirth" for myself..  For some time I had endured a spiritual "dark night" as I pondered a radical change in my life journey. During this tour I found myself springing free to embrace a  life beyond the cloister.  For me Jubilee's  "Fifteenth Station"  marked the transition that led me to an everyday working world and alternative sanctuaries. In the past 43 years this change helped me find a more mature relationship to nature, to myself and to others.

 Roman, 2011   Click for PDF file Jubilee illustrations

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