Cut Out Chapel
It’s been such a long time since I made this series, and I don’t wish to talk about it as an architecture project, but as a memory. The Matisse Cut-Outs show was in town, and my professor, the late Diane Lewis, insisted that we see the show, and do all our work in cut-outs. I spent hours upon hours layering bristol with painted acrylic shades of black, white, and grey, just to cut them out into squares and rectangles and arrange them with pins and tape on a gridded square of foamcore. It was the most insane way I have ever drawn. I loved it very extremely, and I have never looked at the representation of space quite the same.
I walked in late one day into a full-on rant Diane was having with herself about Ambivalence vs Ambiguity. I don’t know how long she had been going on for, but from the moment I walked in, the unplanned rant continued for about an hour, as the class stood around drafting desks and miscellaneous furniture and stools around her listening. I’ll never remember exactly what she spoke about for so long, but I know this now— Ambivalence is looking at a drawing whose careful, self-aware consideration in the making cause it able to be read two, three, or more compelling ways. Perhaps ways you never even planned for. Ambiguity is striving for ambivalence, but using vagueness, laziness if you will, an idea that if one can make something vague enough, then maybe someone will believe there is meaning in it.
For a whole slew of reasons I’ll not go into, this became a Tibetan Buddhist chapel. Not being religious myself, I cherish the rare moments I get to step into holy spaces. I cry nearly every time.
I found my local service, at a Chinatown YMCA a couple of blocks away on a Thursday, in a classroom with low ceilings led by a Lama who escaped Tibet thirty years ago, at the last moment he could, to bring his religion to a place he could practice it freely, downtown Manhattan, with a translator, at a YMCA, the smell of chlorine permeating the hallways, and a book club meeting across the hall. It was beautiful. I cried, and then I ate scallion pancakes shared after the service and spoke with the Lama through his translator. They invited me back with open arms. I never went back, and I wish I did.