The Angels, Part VI: More Recent Angel Photographs

The Angels  Part VI    More Recent Angel Photographs  
Photographs Inspired by the Art of Paul Klee  
The Writings of Henry Corbin and Tom Cheetham

 The Angels Part VI   

Textual Prelude

In Klee's work, the angel is connected both to his conception of himself  
as an artist and to aspects of his artistic theory and approach.
       He merges the figures of artist and angel into one 
 another and "in doing so reveals an under-
 standing of himself as 'intermediary'
and 'messenger'"--just as his art
closes the gap between
the visible and 
the invisible, 
figuration and abstraction.
G. Wedekind, from the book Paul Klee: The Angels


The photographs presented below were made between mid-August and mid-October, 2014--the two month period following my extraordinary experiences in Vermont which I have written about in Part III: A Personal Story.  

The photographs I made in Vermont in mid August were an experiment or "test" to see if I could make visible (as Paul Klee would say) the invisible, imaginal world of the angels.  Immediately following my fall and my angelic encounters I was perceiving, feeling Angelic presence very strongly in the Vermont landscape, in the nearby brook and its rocks.  Everything had become an Icon during this brief, grace filled time; the Face of the Angel was constantly before me:

     The Angel cannot be understood in anthropomorphic terms alone.  The Heavenly Twin is the personification of a process of perception and a way of feeling.  The cosmic function of angelophanies is to open our senses to the fullness of being beyond the confines of the material world of secular history.  
     Whenever we feel wonder at the beauty and mystery of the world, it is due to this aspect of the Angel.  The most creative scientists are awake to the world this way.  Many poets and artists live in the constant presence of the Angel. 
     Living in the tension between the human and the transcendent can be an agony.  This cosmic aspect of the Angelic presence is its transhuman Face.  Tom Cheetham :  After Prophecy

The photographs below continue the Vermont experiment: could I sustain the magical state of mind in which I photographed immediately after my Vermont "angelophanies"?  Could I make photographs back home, in NY State, or any other place, that contained and radiated angelic presence?  

At the same time, this recent work continues my exploration of Paul Klee's influence on my creative process.  Part I  &  Part V

The photographs are divided into four groups: 1) straight photographs made in Canandaigua, NY; 2) straight photographs made in Salem, Massachusetts; 3) straight photographs made in Acadia National Park, Maine; 4) symmetrical photographs constructed from images made in Acadia.  Each photograph is titled and includes some contextual information.   ~   Welcome to the conclusion of my six part project: The Angels. 


Straight Photographs
Canandaigua, NY

Click on all images, once, twice, to enlarge

Reflection, lamp in a frame,   NY    Angel Photographs, Part VI:   Image #1

Cloths dryer door, light rays    NY    Angel Photographs, Part VI:   Image #2

Papers on plastic covered sliding glass door   NY    Angel Photographs, Part VI:   Image #3

Commentaries:  Paul Klee's influence is quite apparent to me in Images #1, #2 and #3 above.  Klee was preoccupied with the "eye" as a visual and conceptual theme throughout his life; in fact his famous notebooks were published under the English title The Thinking Eye.  Images one and two are--metaphorically speaking--images of an "eye".

It is commonly understood that Angels are beings of light;  Henry Corbin wrote a book (The Man of Light) which explores the Sufi's spiritual journey and its stations of progress symbolized by different colors of light (see my project The Green Light of Sufi Travel.)  The first photograph depicts an illuminated lampshade which is being reflected in the glass of one my framed photographs.  The light from the lamp is illuminating the frame.  It is an image that suggests that perhaps perception is a process of projection.  

The mirror and the reflected image are major themes in Sufic philosophy:  in the Islamic esoteric tradition, everything on the earthly plane is considered a mirror reflection of the archetypal, heavenly, paradisal world.  From another perspective, the image may be shedding light on the idea that it is the eye itself (in Sufi terms, the eye of the heart) which is the actual source of what is being seen, projected onto the screen of conscious awareness.     

Image #2 repeats the theme of seeing light within an eye-like frame.  In this image light flares out into "angelic rays" which have a wing-light form.  (Note: we see this wing-like form recurring throughout the present collection of images: for example in image #4, below).

The mirrored, tonally opposite geometrical shapes in Image #3 suggest figurative elements: the two long shapes could be torsos, the smaller square shapes are like heads.  This kind of abstract figuration is Klee-like as well.  

I can imagine the two squares shapes as wings belonging to the longer figurative forms.  Clearly, this Angel project has got me seeing figures, eyes and wings in just about everything.  As a poet once said:  "Everything is alive, everything is looking at me!"  


Salem, Mass.
Straight Photographs

Side of old building, Salem    Angel Photographs, Part VI:    Image #4

Tombstones, old building, Salem    Angel Photographs, Part VI:    Image #5

Tombstone, Salem     Angel Photographs, Part VI:    Image #6

Tombstone, Salem graveyard    Angel Photographs, Part VI:    Image #7

Hall Lamp, Salem Hotel    Angel Photographs, Part VI:    Image #8

Commentaries:  My wife Gloria and I decided to take a road trip up to Acadia National Park, in Maine, and she wanted to stop along the way for a brief visit in Salem.  Of course Salem is world famous for its history of witches, and particularly the witch trials and hangings of 1692.  I decided we must stay in Salem's famous Hawthorne Hotel, which is in the heart of the historic area of town and claims to be haunted by ghosts.  

We arrived in Salem in late afternoon, September 22, 2014.   We checked into the Hotel, and then, since we had a few hours before we were to meet up with our tour group and guide for an evening stroll throughout the area, we decided to go out for a walk on our own.

We wandered into the Salem Witch Trials Memorial Park which is next to the oldest burial grounds in the city.  The light was rapidly fading and yet still sharp and angular when I made the four images above, #5, 6, 7, 8 and the snapshot, below. 

Walking in the Memorial was a bit intimidating: it was getting cold, there were strong bursts of blustery winds, and we found ourselves pretty much alone surrounded by 20 named and dated memorial stones dedicated to each of the people who were wrongly accused of witchcraft and violently executed after the famed trials of 1692.  The light was turning yellow-red in color, and dramatic streaks of light skimmed across some of the memorial stones transforming them into a living presence while everything else was sinking into dark brooding shadow.  

Standing in the shadows, in the far corner of the memorial, was an old bearded man who looked like he belonged to another era, perhaps a fisherman who had dressed to honor the dead.  His presence was strangely faint; he looked lonely; he wasn't asking for handouts.  I became a little frightened and wondered if he were really there, if perhaps I were seeing a ghost.  When we passed close by him as we looked at each of the memorial stones, I couldn't summon up the courage to look him in the eye.  I didn't want to attract his attention, and I didn't want to have to deal with some inexplicable vision.


I learned later that most of the 20 people memorialized in the park had been women accused of being witches.  All but one of the 20 were hung on Gallows Hill.  The exception was a man named Giles Corey; he was slowly pressed to death under a door plank.  His executioners placed heavy rocks, a few at a time, on the plank, over a three day period, until Corey finally expired.   


As we were slowly passing the 20 markers, one by one, reading the names and dates on the stones, Gloria noticed that the date on several of the memorials was September 22, 1692.  We had unknowingly come to visit the memorial on the anniversary date when eight of the 20 accused victims had been hung. (see the snapshot below)

September 22, 1692


As I learned more and more about Salem's history, it occurred to me that there was some confusion in my mind about what was motivating me to make the photographs.  Clearly some of my pictures were just to serve as snapshots, but was I still trying to visualize angelic presence? . . . or ghosts, the presence of tragic victims which was haunting the history of this place of puritan control, hysteria and violent deaths?  What is the relationship between angels, witches and ghosts?  

I didn't want to get into an intellectual dialogue with myself about what I was feeling; as usual, I simply allowed my intuition free rein and made photographs of whatever interested me in any way, for whatever the reason.  I worked spontaneously, trusting that my creative process would carry me through the feelings and fantasies I was experiencing to the images that needed to be made at the time.  

This way of working makes coming home and seeing the images that were made on a trip very exciting.   When I begin to edit and process elected images into their final form, my experience of the imagery is fresh and full with feelings of discovery.  The photographs are often surprising, like gifts.  


There was an old, dilapidated, probably abandoned (and possibly haunted) house next to the Old Burial Grounds which is just behind the Memorial. (see image #4 & 5)  When I took image #4 I saw only a fascinating display of light on the side of the building.  Later, after I had gotten home and processed the image, I noticed in the shadowy forms a face that appears to have it's mouth wide open--as if emitting a silent scream.   


During our evening guided walking tour of Salem's historic cites, our guide told several reportedly true stories, some hauntingly horrifying, and some funny.  When she learned we were staying in the Hawthorne Hotel she told our group some stories of hauntings that took place in the hotel.  One story had to do with a ghost who repeatedly would flush the toilet and run water from the faucet late at night. . . in the same one room.  Our guide told us she swore she would never again tell visitors staying at the hotel which floor and room that story takes place in.   But of course we coaxed her a little, and she finally broke down and told us the haunted room was on the third floor.  We were staying in room #310.  She tried to assure us that the haunting was in a different room on the third floor, but she did it in a playful way that left us wondering . . .

The tour's final stop was at the Witch Trials Memorial Park.  Our guide very touchingly honored the 20 who had died senselessly in 1692, and particularly the eight who had died on the anniversary date, September 22.  The little park was dark and empty; the old man with the beard was nowhere to be seen.  


That night, when Gloria got up to go to the bathroom in the early morning hours, she found the faucet running . . . slowly, but nonetheless running.  She woke me: "Had I been playing a  trick on her?"  I hadn't.  I would never waste water that way--not intentionally, at least.

In the morning we continued our trip up to Acadia, but just before we left the hotel I took Image #8.  The hall lamp was across from our 3rd floor elevator.  I recently noticed that the dark, decorative arching form of the cabinet, which partially hides the lamp, echoes similar forms present in all the other Salem images presented above.  I find that very interesting, but I'll let you come to you own conclusions about what it might mean . . .  


Acadia National Park
Straight Photographs

Rock formation, Schoodic Point, Acadia    Angel Photographs, Part VI:   Image #9

Acadia or Arcadia?  The Acadia photographs are about angelic presence more than they're about Acadia, the National Park in Maine.  The word "arcadia" means "any real or imaginary place offering peace and simplicity."  Since the angelic world is (according to Corbin and his mystics) an imaginary place between heaven and earth, between sensation and intellect; and since the imaginal world lies in the center of Reality and is the place of the visions of the prophets, the place of beings of light  . . . the question could be asked:  Where would one rather be: Acadia or Arcadia?  A park ranger told us that visitors frequently confuse the two.  

Commentaries  The image above #9 is similar to my symmetrical photographs; there is a face in the rock formation--there are eyes; a small wave is coming in to shore, catching the soft highlights of the early morning sun; there is no horizon line, the space above the wave extends beyond to infinity.  The image quiet, with a sense of the eternal, the primordial moment.  Such is the nature of the place named Schoodic Peninsula, one of the secret places hidden away in Acadia National Park.     

Rock, Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia    Angel Photographs, Part VI:   Image #10

Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia    Angel Photographs, Part VI    Image #11

Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia    Angel Photographs, Part VI    Image #12

Commentary  The three tide pool images above, #10, 11 and 12 were also made on the Schoodic Peninsula, which is about an hour's drive away from the primary park area known as Mt. Desert Island.  The peninsula has an untouched, primordial presence; it is a quiet, intimate, magical place despite the vastness of space just beyond it's shores.  It has been estimated that only about 10% of Acadia's visitors ever see this place because of its physical disconnectedness from the rest of the large park.  

I was particularly attracted to the tide pools on the peninsula.  I like the stillness of the water, and the stillness of the rocks, they are a relief from the constant churning of the ocean waters.  The pools reflect the light of the sky and offer a surprising space within the rocky shores; their round reflections, which unite heaven and earth, manifest a sense of the timelessness of all sacred spaces inhabited by angels.  

Old Tree,  Acadia National Park   Angel Photographs, Part VI   Image #13

Lamp Reflections, Abbe Museum, Acadia    Angel Photographs Part VI   Image #14

Teepee interior, Abbe Museum, Acadia    Angel Photographs Part VI   Image #15

Commentary  The two images above, # 14 and 15 were made at the Abbe Museum inside the Park.  There is also a new Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.  It is not easy to find the museum in the park; in fact it seems intentionally hidden away from the crowds.  I can imagine why: the museum honors and educates its few visitors to both the historic and present realities of the Wabanaki Indian Nations.  The story of the present Native Americans is heroic and hopeful; the story of their past is tragic, and should be known, though it should make most Americans and especially the English, French and the Catholic Church feel very ashamed.  90% of the original Wabanaki population was wiped out by the wars and diseases brought by the European strangers who invaded their land.  click here   

On our first try to find the museum within the Park, we got lost and ended up accidentally finding it's larger, newer facility in Bar Harbor.  I highly recommend visiting both museums; each is wonderful in its own way.  

The photograph, above, #15, was made from inside a Wabanaki teepee.  The image contains the "Face of the Angel" which Tom Cheetham writes about in his book on imagination, entitled After Prophecy:        

     Henry Corbin finds the necessity of a rupture--a rupture caused by an encounter with . . . the face of the Angel.  [Corbin writes] "The lofty constructions of conscious thought become blurred in the rays not of a twilight but rather of a dawn, from which figures always foreboded, awaited, and loved rise into view."
     The figures of which he speaks are the figures of the Angels--the Heavenly Twin. . .  To meet the Angel of the Face is to encounter transcendence personified and to be transformed by the experience.
     The meeting with the Angel is a release, an opening towards a life in sympathy with the world and its inhabitants.  It is an initiation into a form of life dedicated to the transmutation of idols into icons.
     The Angel summons us to our true self, which is not an object, not an ego, not any kind of thing, but an opening and a process of continual undoing.  Part IV

Aspens,  Acadia National Park    Angel Photographs Part VI   Image #16

Two Cats Cafe, Bar Harbor, Maine    Angel Photographs Part VI   Image #17

Two Angels, Jordan Pond Cafe, Acadia    Photographs Part VI   Image #18

Commentary  The image above, and the one below, perhaps are surprising when you consider the fact they were made during a vacation visit to Acadia National Park.  Being in the natural world of Acadia sharpened my awareness of the angelic presence in everything, not just the mountains and lakes and rocks and trees.  That's not to say making a meaningful photograph is easier in a beautiful place like Acadia; any photograph that functions as an icon, or symbol, depends on grace.  

I was sitting with Gloria in a cafe situated outside, not far from the edges of Jordan Pond, enjoying the views: the light on the water, the mountains in the distance; tired hikers were lying on the grassy hill nearby us.   We were enjoying our tea, coffee and the cafe's famous popovers . . .  when I looked down and saw the angelic light spectacle manifesting just before my eyes, only inches away.  

Image 19: I was sitting inside our Acadia Pines Motel room, just looking out the room's rear window which looks out over a small swimming pool, when I saw the image below: another "face" photograph.  The image reminds me of my earlier garage photographs which can be seen in Part III.  

Window view, Acadia Pines Motel    Angel Photographs Part VI   Image #19

*           *

Symmetrical Photographs
Acadia National Park

The Icon: A Sacred Window
     An icon is . . . not a "picture," and the "space" is not behind the plane of the panel.  It is a dialogical reality, and the lines of perspective converge on the person engaged in dialogue with the reality of the symbol displayed.

     The icon is a sacred window onto the invisible world.  The religious art of the West was about meaning.  The icon is about being.  Corbin was deeply attached to the iconic interpretation of the Imagination.

     It is up to us to see the world with the eyes of prayer, the eyes that regard the icon.  All things are images, and an image can be viewed as an icon only if we ourselves are transformed into imaginal persons--persons who can see imaginal realities.  Tom Cheetham:  All the World an Icon

Each of the symmetrical photographs below was constructed from a single image made in Acadia; one image is mirrored toward itself both horizontally and vertically to manifest a four-fold visual unity, a dialogical reality that for me approaches the mystery of the icon, a living visual symbol for what the Sufis' term The Unity of Being.

Confronting the majestic quality of these symmetrical images is for me much like coming face to face with a person who knows what she or he truly is; like coming face to face with the Angel of one's own being.  An icon serves the angelic function of returning us to our invisible, unknowable, Origin.  Indeed, such an experience necessarily transcends the limited power of words . . .  Icons transport us into the center of the Real, into the Imaginal World which exists between intellect and sensation.  

Corbin and Cheetham have challenged us with the awesome task of seeing all the world as an icon, as have so many saints and mystics before them.  May these symmetrical photographs, and the straight photographs above, and all the other photographs in The Angels project, help us to see the world with the "eyes of the heart."  

Henry Corbin wrote in his book Man of Light: 

What sees and what is seen are the divine Being himself.  ~  This is the final end toward which all mystic ways converge; . . . 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.  

Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph    Part VI    Image #20

Rocks, Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph      Part VI     Image #21

Rocks, tide streams, Sand Beech, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph     Part VI    Image #22

Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph    Part VI    Image #23

Tide pool, Schoodic Point, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph    Part VI    Image #24

Lake with early morning light, Acadia National Park     Symmetrical Angel Photograph    Part VI    Image #25


This Part VI of my Angels project was first posted ithe
 "Latest Addition" section of my Photography website's 
"Welcome Page" on October 22, 2014  


Welcome Page  to The Departing Landscape website which includes the complete hyperlinked listing of my online photography projects dating back to the 1960's, my resume, contact information, and more.