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Early Monastic Period 1950 - 1959
Some of Roman's work was lost in a 1963 fire that destroyed much of the monastery.
Untitled, c.1951, oil on canvas, 19" by 28". Roman made this painting before entering his Novitiate year (1952-53). This was a crucial time marking major life decisions. Follow the image links for a detail of the sitting figure.
Model for a courtyard mural executed in fresco at St. Vincent in 1954. Replaced with a version created with brazed copper in 1956. Images of the finished mural below. Click on image for larger image'
Angel Choirs (1954). This fresco, on a freestanding wall adjacent to a lily-pond with a fountain, is one feature of a larger courtyard project. The text along the top is quoted from the Pseudo-Dionysius treatise on The Celestial Hierarchy (Hierarchia coelestis). See Notes
Detail shows Roman viewing the work while crouched on a temporary scaffold bridging the pool. This project represents his earliest efforts to create visual forms of the "unseen". Later his interest in the "unseen" turned to visual form that could stand on its own without reference to reality or concepts "other" than the form itself.
This outdoor fresco did not fare well in the Pennsylvania winter. A second version with alternative experimental media proved unstable also. These failures led him to a final version employing heavy gauge copper wire with brazed joints (see below).
Courtyard View. This image shows the lily pond arrangement with Roman's mural and a statue of Thomas Acquinas created out of concrete by Cecil Dietrich who was in the same monastic novitiate with Roman. The mural on this image is an image of the model superimposed to show how the mural looked in its full context. The Lily pond image used here was taken after the original mural had been removed and before the copper mural replacement.
Detail, Angel choirs, oxidized copper with brazed joints (1957-58). This 3rd and final version for the courtyard mural included the angel text noted above. Use of heavy gauge copper lead to linear forms with three dimensional undulating lines.
In this version the traditional nine choirs are symbolized and organized following the treatise of the Pseudo-Dionysius. Nine figures are organized in three orders with three in each order. Click on the images for the groups and identities. See Notes
These figures were dismounted some years later. Several have been preserved and others may be lost.
Drawing of Boniface Wimmer, founder of St. Vincent Archabbey, 8.5" by 11", 1955. Black ink line drawing with overlay of scratch lines on red. The program cover for a 1955 play, Shadow of Glory, that chronicled high-lights of the life of Boniface Wimmer.
Technique: Line drawing in 2 layers. Layer 1 is a black & white pen and ink drawing. The text "Shadow of Glory" is also hand drawn in black. The red-orange overlay is a "scratch" drawing. A sheet of mylar coated with a solid color was scratched to reveal white lines of the paper field underneath. This was a line color separation technique for creating two zinc cut line plates, one for the black line work and one for the negative white lines in the color field.
Purgatory, glazed ceramic tile, 18" by 6". 1957. This work employed expressive brush strokes and the accidents of the burn in the kiln to achieve its effects. This may be one of the works that was lost in the fire.
Ceramic Mural, St. Vincent Library. This ceramic tile mural, measuring 22 feet by 11 feet, was designed, glazed and fired by the Roman at St Vincent before he went to New York for advanced studies. .He began preliminary work on the Library project in the 1958-59 academic year and completed firing all the tiles for the installation in 1960. The mural was installed in 1961 and the dedication date has been quoted in another source as 1962.
The Celestial Hierarchy (Hierarchia coelestis) by Dionysius the Areopagite (aka the Pseudo-Dionysius). This work has had a subtle influence on western spirituality as it probably played a role in shaping later writings on the "transcendent" such as The Cloud of Unknowing. It certainly influenced Roman's early attempts to create works of art that pointed beyond material objects and knowables.
In the Journal of Esoterica (V.II, 2000), Arthur Versluis made the following observation:
"What makes Dionysius so influential? In my view, there are two central aspects of Dionysius's work that we must consider. On the one hand, in Divine Names and Celestial Hierarchy, he emphasizes the power of symbolism to convey spiritual understanding, and in this his work can be seen as a cornerstone for what has come to be known as Western esotericism, for Dionysius's work speaks to the power of the imagination in perceiving transcendent reality through symbolism. On the other hand, in Mystical Theology, Dionysius emphasized the absolute transcendence that cannot be conveyed by any symbolism, but only through negation like that of the Prajnaparaminal in Buddhism. Thus in Dionysius's work we can clearly see both of the central currents that run throughout the history of Western esotericism, on the one hand the attraction to the power of imaginal symbolism that manifests in magic, on the other hand a path toward sheer transcendence that is to be found in the mysticism of Tauler, The Cloud of Unknowing, and such contemporary figures as Bernadette Roberts."
Quoted from the website: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/Archive/Dionysius.html
Celestial Hierarchy text available at: http://www.esoteric.msu.edu/VolumeII/CelestialHierarchy.html
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