The Angels - Part V - Commentaries

The Angels  Part V   Commentaries 
Photographs Inspired by the Art of Paul Klee &
The Writings of Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham

  The Angels Part V  Commentaries  

The Angels project was initiated when I reacquainted myself with the work of Swiss-German artist Paul Klee for another project.  When I saw Klee's Angel paintings and drawings I was prompted to go back to some books by Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham which I had read in 2011 for my project "An Imaginary Book."  (I have collected text excerpts on the theme of angels from their books in Part IV of this project).   The juxtaposition of Klee's Angel paintings and drawings to the writings of Corbin and Cheetham set off in me a strong desire to unite these two influences in a body of photographs of my own.  This fifth part of my project consists of commentaries on Klee's work and relationships I can identify to my own photographs.  

Commentaries on 
Paul Klee's Angels

In 2012 Zentrum Paul Klee published the book Paul Klee : The Angels which claims to contain all the angel works Klee produced over his lifetime.  The Klee scholars apparently were able to identify the angel works because of titles Klee used and from notebooks and other yearly records Klee kept for himself regarding his output of works.  If you like Klee's work in general you cannot but enjoy his angels, and the Klee scholars say they are the most popular works amongst his large and continually growing audience.

However, it seems to me, his angel paintings and drawings are for the most part more about human struggle and vulnerability, and not so much about Angelic presence.  There are some deeply moving angelic works identified as angels by title; but, for me, the works that Klee produced which invoke most powerfully the presence of the angelic world are not identified as such by title nor do they contain visual clues.  

Some of Klee's Angels actually address in various ways the spiritual world, but more often they reflect his all too human wit, irony, struggles and ambiguities.  I agree with Christine Hopfengart who writes:  In the Angels we recognize ourselves, since they both represent the "human, all too human" and satisfy an existential need for reflection on the hereafter, on life after death.  Their petty inadequacies bring heaven and earth closer together and turn them into congenial helpers. . . These angels are companions, not guides.

Most of Klee's more popular angel paintings and drawings were made only a few years before his death.  He had lived through war, suffered the threats of Hitler's regime, and was very ill in the last five years before his death, so it is understandable that he would express his feelings about life and death, the human condition, through his angels.  He often used humor or irony in his works to express his frustration, but despite his growing illness (systemic sclerosis) he remained very productive: for example in the year before his death, 1939, he produced 1,253 works!

Klee's use of language in his works themselves and in his titles are masterly in the way they provoke in his viewers a fertile imaginative entry into his works.  His titles often open doors into the unknown rather than supply limited or restrictive explanations.   

Klee's work at its best is full of mystery, fantasy and irrational imaginal places; they force us into face-to-face confrontations with the darkest and the brightest aspects of our human selves.  Indeed, they can be filled with a sense of awe and the sacred, what I have come to define as angelic presence.  His work has had a profound influence upon me over the years.  His creative genius has inspired me beyond saying, and I keep coming back to it time and time again (as I have for this project) because it opens me wider and wider to my own creative process.   


Paul Klee  1931  In Angel's Care on a Steep Path    Fig. 1 

Paul Klee  1939  Under Grand Protection   Fig. 2

The two drawings above, entitled In Angel's Care on a Steep Path (Fig.1)  and Under Grand Protection (Fig.2), remarkably, coincidentally seem to refer to my experience of the fall on the stairs with my grandson, which I have written about in great detail in Part III of this project.  If you haven't read my Personal Story here is the brief version:  I was taking my 14 month old grandson, River down a flight of stairs, backward, counting the stairs as we descended.  I somehow missed a step and fell down the "steep path" of the stairs to the bottom.  I had instinctually held River "under grandpa's protection" from the fall by holding him close to me.  Though River was frightened by the accident, he was not hurt; I received a concussion which led to several grace-filled encounters with the angelic world . . .  


Paul Klee  1934     Angel in the Making   Fig. 3

This 1931 abstract image Angel In the Making anticipates the large series of Angel pictures Klee would make beginning in 1935 and throughout the five years before his death in 1940.  The red cross on the gray-blue ground marks the Angel's point of origin, according to Klee scholar Michale Baumgartner.  Klee wrote in depth about his creative process, the symbols he used in his works, his philosophy, etc.  He wrote about the circle and the point, which are key issues in this image, and which recur frequently in his other works.  (See my project The Space Between which includes several of Klee's writings on the point and the circle).  The circle in this image could be the head of the "abstract figure" or it could be interpreted as the Midnight Sun of the Sufis which directly relates to the concept of Origin, and the point.
See text #50 in Part IV.


Paul Klee  1918  Angelus Decendens   Fig. 4  

Perhaps Klee's angels were popular with his followers precisely because they were for the most part not otherworldly or spiritually threatening, but rather more like human beings.  We tend to feel most comfortable with what we think we know, but truly speaking we need true teachers who will challenge and push us into unknown territory, even though we often want to avoid all this because of our fear (ironically) of loosing our independence.  Our unwillingness to grow keeps us stuck and insulated from what we can become.  Klee's art, at its best, however, does not let his viewers off the hook: it challenges us by taking us into difficult and sometimes wonderful though unknown territory.  This is the angelic function of  the best works of art; Klee's more popular angles simply confirm what we know.    

Paul Klee  1938  Archangel    Fig. 5 

I like the above 1938 Archangel painting very much.  Though it is not lacking in Klee's sense of humor and cartoonish/caligraphic stylisims--which can be disarming and distracting--the transhuman "face" in this nearly abstract image has a magisterial, slightly threatening but nonetheless sublime quality appropriate, it seems to me, to the Archangel.

Tom Cheetham writes here about the transhuman face of the Sublime:  There is something powerfully transhuman in [the] cosmic Face of the divine.  It is the Face of the sublime--the mysterium tremendum--and it is not without danger.  In the Islamic tradition, the Names of God fall into two grand categories, the Names of Majesty and the Names of Beauty.  The cosmic Face of the Angel is the Face of Majesty.  It is not inhuman, as is the demonic, but it is trans-human, and far beyond the scope of our understanding.  ~  The other Face of the Angel is more anthropomorphic: the Face of Beauty.  But it is not the figure of the Angel that is the object of anthropomorphosis--it is us.  Tom Cheetham: After Prophecy

The Archangel paining and its relation to the concept of majesty reminds me of something Corbin wrote about the problems associated with imaging the divine.  In the passage that follows Corbin compares how this problem is played out in the visions of the Archangel by Moses and the Prophet Mohammed.  After the Prophet swoons upon seeing the Archangel, Islamic Law would prohibit imaging the Divine.  Corbin writes:      

Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation and the Revelations, is the Angel of the theophanies that were given to the prophet Mohammed.  The Koran verses (53:3-4; 81:18-29) preserve the memory of the first grandiose visions when the Prophet, emerging from his tent, contemplated the majesty of the Angel whose outspread wings covered the whole horizon.  In certain traditions these sumptuous angelophanies even recalled by contrast the memory of the refusal suffered by Moses on Mount Sinai when he asked to be favored with a direct vision and the Lord answered: "Thou shalt not see me."  Mohammed also expresses the fervent desire to see the Angel in his real form.  Although warned, he insists.  The vision is not refused him, but he is thrown into a swoon by the beauty and majesty of the Angel in his superhuman form of Glory; henceforth a terrestrial human Form will be the epiphanic figure of the Angel.  And marking the contrast experienced by Moses, a tradition establishes the angelic "numinosum" in a sense that is perhaps paradoxical if we compare it with the current acceptation of the term.  Here it is far from being a tremendum, for it  is in his form of Majesty, which nevertheless causes the Prophet to swoon, that the Angel reveals to him the imperatives and prohibitions of the Law.    Henry Corbin:  Cyclic Time and Ismaili Gnosis

Paul Klee  1939  Upwards     Fig. 6  

Klee's titles are an integral part of his visual statement.  They charge and complicate the way we see his images; they often encourage and open us to revelation rather than telling us what the images mean.  Meaning is usually ambiguous or open ended in Klee's work, despite, or more likely because of the title-image juxtaposition.  His paintings and his titles together often brings us into our own creative process by allowing us to discover our own meaning of his work.

The title of Fig. 7 (above) is Upwards.   One can understand associating angels with "upwards" because of how we have been programed to think of angels as beings of light from the Orient of the North, or Heaven.  Still, the word "Upwards" in association with this image is challenging.  Am I seeing a form that points upward?  Does the angel cover it's head with its wings or arms?  If so why?  Is it hiding?  How does that gesture relate to "upwards"?  Is the figure looking up toward heaven?  Is it shielding its eyes from an overwhelming light?  Am I missing Klee's idea altogether?  

If a title can get the viewer to contemplate what they are seeing, it surly must make the viewing experience deeper, more complicated and rewarding.  This title in relationship to it's image does not give answers; it invites interpretations; and it certainly resonates with my personal "Fall Upwards" on the stairs.


Paul Klee  1939  Mephisto as Pallas  Fig. 7

I find many of Klee's pre-1935 works more numinous and transcendental than his late works, but the post 1935 angels were a very powerful forum for Klee to grapple with his own human and spiritual fears, foibles, frustrations and longings; Klee did not neglect the Fallen angel.  It was his angels--as I have written in my Part I Introduction--which returned me to the writings of Corbin and Cheetham, and it was their writings which then prepared me for this project and my experiences of Angelic presence: my "Fall Upwards" into grace and the intermediate imaginal world of the angels.  In this regard, Klee's angels seem to have served an angelic function for me.  See texts # 17, 23 and 33 in Part IV

The Red Circle Dot Sun Eyes

Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. 

My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.

Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.

3 quotes, by Paul Klee

Each of the six images by Klee below (Figs. 8 - 13) contain within it a red dot or circle which could represent a point of origin (Figs. 8 & 9), perhaps a sun (Fig. 10), or head (Figs. 11 & 12) , or two slightly fiery eyes in the last image (Fig. 13).  Klee used this formal motif frequently in his work.  Though he wrote extensively about all aspects of his creative process it is impossible-- nor would it be desirable--to know what he intended when he used this motif.  We viewers must come to terms with images in a way that is meaningful for ourselves.  Besides, artists are often the last to know what their work is really about, especially if they succeed in being "obedient instruments of a remote will."  Great art requires contemplation, for its meaning is in the eye of the heart of the beholder.

Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham have interesting things to say about the color red, and about eyes - as they pertain to the Sufi world of angels.  Below are a few quotes taken from Part IV of this project.  

     [Corbin writes:]  "Through the redemptive path of pure love, the consciousness of the [love's faithful] becomes that of the mystic who knows that he is the eye with which God contemplates himself; that he himself, in his being, is the witness by which God witnesses himself, the revelation by which the Hidden Treasure reveals itself to itself."
     This then is the Angel of the Face, the only God that we can ever know.  Not the deus abscondita beyond all Being, but the God who knows himself in and through us.
     [Corbin writes:]  "The Angel is the Face that our God takes for us, and each of us finds his God only when he recognizes that Face."   Tom Cheetham  The World Turned Inside Out

    In an address delivered five months before his death Henry Corbin reminded us that in the Old Testament, the angels are recognized by their eyes of fire.  In almost the last public words that he spoke, his challenge to us was that we open our eyes of fire.  It is through their gaze that we perceive the angelic function of beings.  Tom Cheetham  After Prophesy

     Najm Razi [Sufi master, b. 1256] writes:  "If the light rises in the Sky of the heart taking the form of one or of several light-giving moons, the two eyes are closed to this world and to the other.  If this light rises and, in the utterly pure inner man attains the brightness of the sun or of many suns, the mystic is no longer aware of this world nor of the other, he sees only his own Lord under the veil of the Spirit; then his heart is nothing but light, his subtle body is light, his material covering is light, his hearing, his sight, his hand, his exterior, his interior are nothing but light . . ."  Henry Corbin   The Man of Light

     Here one will recall certain visionary apperceptions of Najm Kobra: now the red sun standing out on a black background, now the constellations turning red against the background of an emerald Sky, dazzling to human vision.  We have learned from him that this red sun and these reddening orbs announce the presence of the Angel-Logos or of one of the angelic Intelligences.   . . .  angelophany is associated with the symbol of the "midnight sun," of luminous Night, because the first Intelligence, the Angel-Logos, is the initial and primordial theophany of the Deus absconditus.
     By passing to the "Gabriel of your being," the recognition of the Guide is authenticated, by the "witness in Heaven," the reddening sun against the background of divine Darkness.  For this recognition implies recognition of the Unknowable, which is to say metaphysical renunciation and mystical poverty.
     [It is] . . . black light . . . luminous night . . . the theophany of the absconditum . . . suprasensory light which the mystic perceives through his organ of light, his inner eye [the eye of the heart], as theophanies of the divine Names . . .   Henry Corbin   The Man of Light

Paul Klee  1931  Adventure Undergone   Fig. 8  

Paul Klee   1930     Ad-Marginem     Fig. 9

Paul Klee   1932     Ad-Parnassum     Fig. 10

Paul Klee    Oracle, 1922     Fig. 11

Paul Klee  1934     Angel in the Making   Fig. 12

Paul Klee   1922    Senecio   Fig. 13

Steven Foster   Garage Angels 2014   (Part III)      Fig. 14

I have included one of my Garage Angels here (see three others in Part III) because of it's anthropomorphism, especially its green "eyes" and of course it's red "midnight sun."  Klee used anthropomorphism in all aspects of his work, even his abstract paintings, such as in Figs. 11, "Oracle" and 12, "Angel In the Making."  I suspect the figurative aspect of the image provided Klee and his viewers a less intimidating way of identifying with the abstract imagery and thus encouraged the entering into the imaginal world of the pictures. 


Anthropomorphism helps one to see--as if looking into a mirror--one's self reflected in an image.  Klee's portrayal of the human dilemma in this way permitted the viewer to gradually come to terms with the work in their own projected, personified way.  Any work of art asks of us:  Who is looking . . . and at what?  The great 13th century Iranian Sufi, Semani, provided an enlightened answer: we are always looking at our own divine self.  In this regard, every work of art that has enough grace to serve an angelic function, is functioning as an "Oracle."  (Fig. 11)

    "God is the light of the Heavens and of the Earth" (Qur'an 24:35).  . . . what sees and what is seen are the divine Being himself.
     Semnani perceives in another verse (Qur'an 41:53) the very principle of the inward movement whereby every outer datum becomes an event pertaining to the soul, bringing historical, physical time back to inner, psychic time.  This is the final end toward which all mystic ways converge; it is the spiritual abode where the gaze of the one who contemplates the beauty of the Witness of contemplation in the mirror of the inner eye, the eye of the heart, is none other than the gaze of the Witness: "I am the mirror of thy face; through thine own eyes I look upon they countenance."  The Contemplated is the Contemplator and vice versa.  Corbin: The Man of Light

The Angelic Function
of Fish

Corbin says the Earth is an angel, and that every earthly thing has a heavenly counterpart that can serve its angelic function for us.  Klee made many fish paintings which at their best are mysterious, magical, and provide me with the powerful angelic function of unveiling, or revelation.  His Magic Fish and The Goldfish paintings are unusually mysterious in thier stillness and silence.  They take me to imaginary places, that is to say, somewhere "between this world and the Divine." 

Klee owned an aquarium filled with fish which he would show to his students from time to time.  He would shine a light on selected fish in order to point to and make more visible certain qualities which he wanted his students to see.  Klee's fish in fact are often presented in his paintings as if seen from below the surface of the water; of course water is commonly understood to represent the unconscious psyche, an invisible dimension of reality.   

Paul Klee  1925   Fish Magic     Fig. 15

Klee's Fish Magic, 1925  is childlike in style, and at the same time oddly mysterious in the way that it suspends time.  Everything is held immobile within its luminous dark space.  In the upper center of the image there is a clock that is surrounded by a white line that then goes off to the lower right and then leads one's attention to something like a red eye, or perhaps a "red sun" cradled next to a sliver of moon.  The line is like a rope which literally holds time suspended in pictorial space.  

I like how a Klee scholar writes about the image:  The fishes drift weightlessly through the composition . . . Differing pictorial realities are superimposed on each other: enchanted flowers and plants populate the composition, while magical luminaries shimmer mysteriously amid a shower of falling stars. . .  from Paul Klee: Life and Work  (Hatje Cantz) 

We know that fish are profoundly archetypal, they have been religious symbols in many traditions.  I have made many fish photographs myself, including several variations on the image, below (Fig. 16).   Again I must say it: we tend to become attracted to (or "find")  things in the world and images made by others because of what we already have within ourselves.  Things perceived as meaningful out in the world are reflecting what is already within our psyches and our imaginal worlds.  Thus we must contemplate images we recognize as important to us so that their hidden treasures can be integrated into a more conscious mode of our being.  We are what we see below the surfaces of things.

Steven Foster   Fish Angels, I   (Goldfish in a pond) 2014      Fig. 16


When we are deeply moved by an art object or have any kind of intense aesthetic experience, we often experience timelessness, the suspension of time.  We say "our breath was taken away" and we are held immobile in a state of eternal stillness.  When we see fish just below the surface of dark waters and they awaken us to our terror of the unknown, the beautiful, or their divine nature of things; or when perhaps in the depths of waters we get in touch with the depths of our own selves . . . then we are experiencing the angelic function of fish, and of water.  Tom Cheetham writes: 
     The imagination in us provides the necessary meeting place between this world and the Divine. . . . The Angel allows us to perceive all things as suspended between Heaven and Earth in the mundus imaginalis [the Imaginal World].  
     Rilke perceived all this with startling clarity and sensitivity. . .  We are here [as humans, on this earth] in order to be fully present and so, in Corbin's words, able to live "a life in sympathy with beings, capable of giving a transcendent dimension to their being, to their beauty . . ."  
     The angelic function of beings is to liberate us for transcendence. 
     Tom Cheetham: After Prophecy


Steven Foster   Terrifying Angel, symmetrical photograph  2014      Fig. 17

Steven Foster   Terrifying Angel, symmetrical photograph  2014      Fig. 18

Steven Foster   Terrifying Angel, symmetrical photograph  2014      Fig. 19

Steven Foster   Terrifying Angel, symmetrical photograph  "The Green Man"  2014      Fig. 20

Terrifying Angels

Rilke's First Elegy (its  first lines)
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence.  For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.  Every angel is terrifying.      
trans. from the German by  Stephen Mitchell

The four symmetrical Angel photographs above (Figs 17, 18, 19, 20)  and the one below (Fig. 21) are from Parts I and II of this project.  They invoke in me something of the terror Rilke speaks of in his first Elegy:

Fig. 21

The image above (the larger version is below, Fig 21) is for me more beautiful in its terror than the four larger images reproduced above.  The Xs in the middle of the image remind me of Klee's Angel In the Making.  (I have written about this image in Part III.)   

Fig. 17

I find Fig. 17  rather humorous in it's attempt to terrorize and overpower.  It is frightening at first, but perhaps it's trying too hard, too self-consciously to make itself believable to us.  Though it's terror is not completely believable, there is, nonetheless, something in its presence that should be respected: I am mesmerized by the way the luminous blue diamond, dissociatively suspended in the center of the image, has a still presence.  It captivates my attention and transports me to an imaginary place more still and quiet than the noisy, vibrational awkward impression its surrounding visual space first makes on me.

Fig. 18

The nocturnal strangeness of Fig. 18  has as well a Darth Vader kind of pathetically evil presence; it also reminds me of the ghost of Christmas Present which sufficiently terrified Scrooge.   Still, an otherworldly luminosity seems to lurk just below the surface of its source imagery; admittedly, the image enchants me and at the same time that it intimidates me.   

Fig. 19

Fig. 19 was constructed from an image I made of the brook in Vermont.  It's dark rocks and foamy waters at the edge of a waterfall form wing-like eyes that become an animal-like face.  When I feel too alone in the natural world, the energy of wild animals--which must surly exist within me--seems to emerge from all the surrounds me.  Everything is alive; everything is looking at me.  

Fig. 20

I am fascinated by the "Green Man" angel.  It's one of my favorite images: the Angel of the Earth, the "Verdant One." (see my Introduction to Part II)  There is something very direct, internal, primal, archetypal about the image.  The source image used for the construction of this symmetrical photograph was taken from deep down in the earth, in one of the hidden Underground Cities of Turkey;  I was looking up through one of the "city's" carved air vents which opens to the light of the sky above.   The openings become the "eyes" of the Angel which are looking over all things.  

Green is the suprasensory color of the Sufi's true Self, the color representing the mystic traveler's final state of the spiritual journey.  Each of my terrifying angels are illuminated from above and below by green orbs of light; they are intended to serve as reminders of the goal, and our Origin, which is always, already within us and which illuminates everything we see.

Steven Foster   Terrifying Angel, symmetrical photograph  2014      Fig. 21

Angel in the Making, Paul Klee 1934

"Angel in the Making: Homage to Paul Klee"   Acadia, Maine  9-26-2014

"Angel In the Making"

I had been contemplating Klee's 1934 painting Angel In the Making--both the image and its title.  I wanted to make a photograph in response to this painting that would also shed light on its title.  I gave up on the prospect, thinking it would be impossible.  Then, as so often happens once I let go of an idea, the image came to me spontaneously in the form of the snapshot immediately above.

My wife and I had taken a week long car trip driving along New England's coast to Acadia National Park.  We wanted to learn more about Mt. Cadillac so we joined a ranger's program, walking on top of the mountain--the highest point within 25 miles of the shoreline of the North American continent.  You can get a 360 degree view of the world from up there; needless to say you feel close to heaven on top of that mountain.  

I took a picture of the ranger while she was talking about the geological make up of the rocks in the mountain; she was holding up samples of the rocks which we were about to examine up close with magnifying glasses.  The snapshot was a spontaneous response I had to the way the light was filtering through those rock-filled plastic bags.   

As I contemplated this image I had the fantasy that angels are constantly being made--in every moment, as bursts of light--to serve each of us as guides, healers, protectors.  After all, according to Corbin every earthly thing has its angelic counterpart with an angelic function to perform.  The angels must serve us in often unknown ways:  I imagined that we could be staring an angel in the face while it was gifting us . . . and we'd be oblivious about it. 

My Angel In the Making snapshot relates formally to Klee's painting: his circle and X is echoed in my photograph's sun flare; the soft curves of Klee's abstract figure is echoed in the swirls of the clouds.  The red in the lens flare echoes the red that pervades all of Klee's image, which along with the round, head-like circle reminds us of the Sufi's red "midnight sun."  

It is said that Adam was sculpted of clay in God's own form and then brought to life (given spirit or soul) via God's Compassionate Breath.  I associate this idea to my Angel In the Making photograph in several ways: first, there is the Clay - Klee play on words (artists breath life into their visual forms); but more interestingly, there is the visual corollary of the dark rock specimens in the plastic ziplock bags held up in the sky, backlit by the flash of the angel in the making.  The dark forms of the rocks in the bags echo the dark human forms looking up at the ranger holding the bags.  Humorous, but nonetheless interesting.   

There is a lesson here that bears repeating (for I have said this many times elsewhere):  we tend to get so caught up with what's immediately in front of us that we miss the magic that is happening in the (transcendental) background, or the mystery that is hidden just below the surfaces of the things we are looking at.  

It's never too late to see the invisible, the Face of Beauty.  Klee's Credo was to make the invisible visible, and he worked at it, even through his last dying days.  We are constantly being gifted by our angels; our creative process gives us more than we can know; but we must contemplate the images we receive with the eyes of our heart so that we can at least begin to understand what our Celestial Twins are giving us.  

Tom Cheetham writes:  Nature itself is the primordial Revelation.  Thus, as Corbin often repeats, God can say, "I was a Hidden Treasure and I longed to be known, so I created the world."  The world itself is the original manifestation of the Face of Beauty.  The Qur'an says, "Wherever you turn the face of God is everywhere."      

 (Note: interestingly, I was writing this text in the morning of Wednesday, October 8, which was the second total lunar eclipse of 2014, named "Blood Moon"  because of its redness at the time of eclipse.  This is for me yet another interesting synchronistic event associated with my Angels project!)

Angelic Photographs

The five angelic photographs below (Figs. 22- 27) were selected for their visual similarities to some of Paul Klee's work.  I have produced several bodies of work inspired by other visual artists (and composers); once I become immersed in their imaginal-visual-conceptual world I start seeing through their eyes; I make images inspired by their images.  I actually encourage this approach to the creative process; I think it's a powerful way to understand another artist's work . . . and one's self at the same time, because as I have already said, what we find interesting or meaningful in an other's work in fact already exists within ourselves.  Their work has simply awakened in us, and helped us consciously recognize, certain unknown aspects of ourself.  Their work has served their angelic function by holding up a mirror to our face so we can know who we are, what we are becoming. 

The works below are included in this project for two reasons: their angelic presence, which is to say, their aura of mystery or divinity which I sense portrayed in the image; and because the image pays homage in some visual way to Klee and his work.  The word "portrayed" is relevant here because each of the images I have selected for this exercise is indeed a kind of "portrait"or caricature--something we see frequently in Klee's work.

If you know Klee's work as well as I do you probably will see immediately what I am trying to get at here.  On the other hand, it's not so important if you don't.  Most important is if an image serves it's angelic function, as a symbol or icon for you.  When images serve as containers of grace, if they radiate enough creative grace to open the heart of your being, the image is then functioning as a symbol; it is fulfilling its angelic function; it has the potential to open us into new insights about ourselves and our relationship with our archetypal (celestial) counterpart.    

Again, my angelic photographs reference the human figure or face, although in surprising or abstract ways.  Perhaps you will recognize something of yourself mirrored in these images.   

Please click on the images to enlarge

Symmetrical Angel Photograph    Fig. 22

Klee did many geometrical studies which I think of when I see my photograph above, Fig. 22.  This angel has a large, magisterial presence; and it is comfortable within its own frame.  It even seems to extend it's "arms" (or wings) invisibly beyond the borders of the image.  I particularly like the light, abstract horizon behind the figure-angel which suggests a vast background space.  

Symmetrical photograph:  "Angel Boxed In"    Fig. 23

Quite the opposite is true for the humorously desperate, squirmish little angel of Fig. 23 which is flapping its wings as if terrified by its predicament of enclosure.  It is too tightly boxed in, and want's out.  This angel is more afraid than threatening; still, when we are in the presence of another's desperation, we often feel it in ourselves and want to run away.

Angel Photograph "Angel Behind Lines"    Fig. 24

The Angel Fig. 24 is similarly held back or constrained, this time by lines which could be representing psychological limitations of untold origins.  The lines remind me of prison bars.  We live in our own self-imposed limited perspectives on things which hold us back from discovering who we truly are.  Corbin and Cheetham remind us over and over again that the angelic function of any thing in this earthly plane (including paintings, drawings and photographs) can help us transcend our limitations if we can view the object or image through the interior eyes of the heart.  The angelic function of a symbolic photograph is to help us see beyond appearances and transcend our earthly limitations.

Symmetrical Angel Photograph  "Mask"    Fig. 25

I am reminded of Klee's great pointillist paintings--which ended with Ad Parnassum, 1932 (Fig. 10 above)--when I look at the photograph above, Fig. 25.  Its a bit like a mask one might see worn at some primal initiation ceremony.  We are almost always wearing masks, projecting different personas, depending on the stressful situations we find ourselves in from one moment to the next.  Once one becomes initiated into the truth, however, the mask comes off, the eyes of the heart open, and according to Corbin and his mystics: one is no longer aware of this world nor of any other, [one] sees only his own Lord under the veil of the Spirit; then his heart is nothing but light, his subtle body is light, his material covering is light, his hearing, his sight, his hand, his exterior, his interior are nothing but light . . ."  Henry Corbin   The Man of Light

Symmetrical Angel Photograph  "Face with Two 'Red Sun' Eyes"    Fig. 26

Symmetrical Angel Photograph   " Angel with Green sun glasses"    Fig. 27

Klee's endless collection of cartoonish, humorous caricatures are present, it seems to me, in these last two images above, Figs. 26 & 27.  The bulbous character immediately above appears to be wearing green "sun glasses."  Though he might like to think he has accomplished the great task of the Sufi's spiritual journey simply because everything he sees appears to be green, he of course would be mightily deluding himself.  He is only seeing the light falling on the surfaces of things, and things seen in this way are not what they seem to be: reality is hidden inside appearances; inside the heart of one's being.  Klee understood this: indeed, in his best works he made visible what cannot be seen in any other way.


Visit Part VI 
to see more, recent   
Angel Photographs
Images made following my 
"Fall Upwards"

click here


This Part V of my Angels project was first posted ithe
 "Latest Addition" section of my Photography website's 
"Welcome Page" on October 13, 2014