Experiencing an installation, which is typically a temporary endeavor by the artist, requires a different approach than viewing a finished object, sculpture or painting. In the former, the viewer may participate in the piece itself, become part of it perhaps. With the latter, the viewer observes the manifestation of a process of thought and physical refinement by an artist wanting to communicate an idea. The object is the culmination of that process. So, it is best to approach Anthony Becker’s installation as an experience, transitory and, hopefully, transformative.
The gallery space housing the installation is hung, full length, with two black paper canopies overhead, which virtually hide the ceiling. Both canopies are pierced with a cut out design, the simple motif of an eye, a solid circle crowned by fanned out lashes. This cut out, consistent in size, is clustered and sprinkled throughout both black canopies. At first glance, these paper canopy elements have a very celestial quality as the light from the ceiling fixtures, which are concealed, shines brightly through the cutouts making them star like. Constellations of these cutouts spin and sparkle overhead. As the light travels through the room, through this multitude of eye shaped openings, surprising apparitions appear on the walls and floor.
On the wall to the left, very crisp patterns of light, in the shape of the eye are scattered in exaggerated perspective and images of the linear designs carved into the Nazca Plains come to mind. Whether astronomical calendars or star charts or ceremonial labyrinths, the origin and purpose of these enormous, earthwork images in Peru is a mystery, although the fact remains that they can only be seen in their entirety by hovering high above the earth. Moving further down the wall, these crisp, regular patterns of light begin to transform and blur. They whirl and pulsate and erupt. Now they are wheels in the sky, reminiscent of the prophet Ezekiel’s confounding vision. “The wheels had the sparkling appearance of chrysolite, and all four of them looked the same: they were constructed as though one wheel were within another. They could move in any of the four directions they faced, without veering as they moved. The four of them had rims, and I saw that their rims were full of eyes all around.” Ezekiel 1:16-18 On the wall to the right, a large school of eyes, now on their sides, become phosphorescent, deep sea creatures propelled through dark waters by multitudes of delicate, dancing tentacles that earlier were eyelashes.
At the far end of the room a very large form hovers silently, filling the space from left to right, presiding over this panoply of wonderful visions created by light. This large element initially reads as a flower with an orange center, rose and purple outer “petals” folding and fanning out from the middle. There are six petals, or wings, that relate this suspended form to the information presented by the artist at the entrance to the installation describing Seraphim. Isaiah describes the Seraphim as he is summoned by God and given a vision of heaven. “Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew..” Isaiah 6:2 These angelic beings, which belong to the highest of the nine-tiered hierarchy, specifically have six wings. With two they conceal their face and eyes, with two they cover their feet and with two they fly. The object floating at the end of the room has six wings, all placed in the same, horizontal orientation. There is no indication of face or feet. Perhaps they are covered.
The word seraph is derived from the Hebrew root, sarap, meaning “to burn” and so these particular angels are associated with ardor, light and purity. Oddly, this installation has a very cool quality, rather than inspiring feelings of consuming heat, ardor or fire. Even the Seraph form, although created from warm colored fabric, is quietly restrained with covered feet and face, although closer inspection reveals a multitude of softly lit eyes gazing out from amidst the wings. “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8. Being in the middle of this installation is reminiscent of floating in space as glowing images pass beneath underfoot and surround the periphery. Perhaps it is the artist’s glimpse of the visions shared by Isaiah and Ezekiel through the eyes of the looming Seraphim.