I stood between the columns of Canova's Tempio in Possagno, looking out over the Veneto countryside. It was a cool July evening just before sunset, when the light is fluid and perfect and everything looks like it’s taken from a Renaissance painting. The light shone a glorious golden hue on the columns and the sky arced overhead, brilliant and azure. It struck me that I was part of an incredibly beautiful scene.
It was far more than a visual experience. The energy of the place seeped into my bones and a sense of unlimited possibility and peace swept over me. I felt that I was part of something greater than myself.
Earlier that day I had spent hours alone in the Canova Museum, carefully studying and absorbing the energy of being surrounded by a lifetime of work created by the neoclassical sculptor Canova. His sculptures emanate a sense of correctness; I knew that I’d been guided there for some greater reason than to be a tourist in Italy gawking at the art.
Canova's Tempio was the focal point of the surrounding community. When it was built at the highest point of the town where Canova was born, the Tempio was a powerful representation of how the people of Possagno wanted to be portrayed. It spoke of the greatness of their culture. It conveyed pride and unity. It was a magnificent architectural sculpture that brought the community together, uplifting and transforming them, just as it uplifted and transformed me.
When I returned to New York, I vowed that I would bring the same transformational feeling to my next project, one that would serve and be the focal point for a community today, just as Canova’s had been.
So I got to work on the drawings to put the concept into a visual idea. I was inspired by the Renaissance concept of an entrance into a better world, the divine world, and communion with God. In those times, it was thought that one could only reach this glorious state of being in the afterlife.
I decided to take this traditional theme and shape it to fit our contemporary times. Rather than focusing on the afterlife, I decided to focus on this life and all the possibility it holds in each moment. In my drawings, the portal or doorway is on earth. Stepping through this doorway, you are still on earth. This is a way of stating that the divine can be found on earth, as I experienced in Italy when I realized that I was truly in heaven here and now, at this precise moment “now” in my life. My trip to Possagno helped me see that the perception of reality and possibilities is created by what I believe. What I see is driven by my beliefs.
In my drawings for the community project, a female figure stands on each side of an open portal. They are clothed, and their drapery travels over their bodies in a spiral movement, just like a DNA helix or the cochlear form that recurs everywhere in nature, from shells to galaxies. That spiral repeats in their gestures and anatomy, which are built from an upwardly moving spiral force, and travels visually through the body. So the figures are constructed, proportioned, and structured to mimic the incredibly brilliant way the universe is designed.
The gestures are chosen to represent how we can deal with our human condition. The poses and morphologyrepresent a higher level of consciousness. The body acts like an accordion compressing under the weight of gravity; the bodies are designed to show this compression. They are arced in a giant C curve. The arms press down on the heads, similar to an architectural caryatid of ancient times.
There is a resonance with the great lineage of sculpture through time, but these figures are thoroughly modern: they carry a serene awareness of their weight. The stand leg is firmly grounded in the present while the other foot is lifted to show the potential for change and movement. There is a balance between the weight that their existence creates, with the feeling of potentiality and luminosity that they carry. The brightest parts of the figure will be their hearts because their sternums face up towards the light.
These two sibyls, or prophets, gracefully hold the energy together like a vessel, directing the energy toward the middle of the portal. The size of the portal is also expansive in its relation to the figures, because it represents our human potential.
20 inch high figures started and in process.
SABIN HOWARD SCULPTURE
Sabin Howard sculptures are classical figures that feel thoroughly modern while recalling the mastery of the Renaissance and ancient Greece.