Imaging Pilgrimage: Representations of Sacred Space in Contemporary Art
by Kathryn Barush published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts 2021
In her book Imaging Pilgrimage, Kathryn Barush brings together the study of medieval representations of pilgrimage to a number of contemporary art that is created after a pilgrimage and intended to act as a catalyst for others to experience, grace, healing and contemplation. I am so honoured that she included my work with sacred altars and pilgrimage into this beautiful and enlightening book.
One of the chapters in the book is dedicated to 'South African artist Hettienne Grobler (Sri BhaktymayiMa), who creates shadowboxes of assemblages of souvenirs collected
from Lourdes, in dialogue with medieval art which is rooted in the same impulses
of memory, imagination, and devotion.
In addition to Marian imagery, Grobler also draws from Bhakti theology, and widening the aperture, her work forms an important case study to show that art that
engages two or more traditions can be used as a window into a dialogical
approach to comparative religion.'
The chapter is sub-divided into
'How and why an apparition was first 'made material''
'Mary, materiality, and message: a pilgrimage through art'
'Water, water everywhere! The Lourdes replica tradition
'Bhakti the essence of this love relationship that one experiences with the Divine.
I think one can describe bhakti as 'being absolutely madly in love.'
At first one is in love with God and the realizations that God is 'in love'
with you; then this expands and you start to see love in everything
and eventually you see the 'face of God' in everyone and everything.'
'For Grobler, 'love' is the foundation of her personal beliefs and the visual
expression it finds, and she acknowledges that this means that she can relate
to many religions and paths.
As with her other Marian art, Grobler's Black Madonna deck has been a deep dive
into this imagery and a prayerful experience. It has also been a way to explore
'how far back racism has been forcefully applied and internalised. One cannot really separate the Black Lives Matter ideology and the Black Madonna and I have at times felt such
awe that this deck is being created in these times'
Her social media posts with images of these works-in-progress have been interspersed
with essays on the Black Madonna as a way to celebrate Black Lives.
Although less overtly political, Grobler's project has every
potention to be a powerful tool for reflecting on, and advocating the
abolishment of, anti-Black racism through the Hindu and Catholic
theologies that her work engenders, via both her artistic process
and the iconological content.
Kathryn first approached me a few years ago and we have had 'conversations' online
and through email. This is an incredible book; Katryn has a wonderful way of using
language and she has opened my eyes to the incredible wealth of medieval texts and
research and her own incredible understanding and sensitivity to art as a vehicle of religion across all traditions. This in-depth work has underscored all that I experienced within myself. I regard
myself as 'one who walks between two worlds' and Kathryn is a kindred soul.
Dr Barush is Thomas E. Bertelsen Jr. Associate Professor of Art History and Religion