THE MILAGROS FALSOS SERIES
ARTIST STATEMENT 2005
I was raised German Lutheran in southern Pennsylvania but began to question organized religion while I was still a teenager and subsequently dropped Christianity from my life. I attended a Jesuit university (Georgetown) and also lived in several Roman Catholic countries, including Italy and Spain, where my cynicism about Christianity grew. But I developed a fascination with the hoopla surrounding the religion itself. I loved the smell of the incense, the feel of the wooden rosaries, the tones of the chanted ceremonies in Catholic churches. Growing up Protestant, I had experienced none of these extreme sensations in my white-bread church. The Catholics had the great STUFF.
My career path eventually turned me toward art history and art conservation. As an authority on the care of contemporary art, I have frequently been called upon to venture forth my opinion on how a work of art is made. I found myself in an unusual position one day in the 1990s when a tabloid television crew presented me with several rose petals from Monterrey, Mexico, on which the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, or the face of a saint, could clearly be discerned. This was not a random pattern on a tortilla that might or might not be the face of Jesus! My study of the delicate and beautiful rose petals, in an attempt to uncover their mystery, led to this photo series of other rose petals of my own creation. I think that they are haunting in their gorgeousness, and that the mystery of their creation enhances that beauty.
Faith is a powerful thing. It can overcome logic and reason, and it can make black white. I do not debunk anyone else's beliefs, and I feel strongly that faith can transform matter. Whether or not that is the case with the rose petals in Mexico, I do not know.
For the past six months, while at the American Academy in Rome, I have visited churches city-wide in search of saints' relics with my sculptor partner, U.B. Morgan, who is working on a series of contemporary "reliquaries." This time has provided rich material, needless to say, for my fascination with such magical mystery objects. Given the luxury of half a year to focus on creative projects, we found a great deal of common ground, and U.B. has begun to incorporate my rose petals into his reliquaries as objects of possible veneration.