Jo Going of Homer is used to taking her art -- and dance shoes -- with her when she travels. Going just returned from a trip to Italy where she did an artist-in-residency with an angelic theme.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky
The angelic impact of Jo Going’s recently completed artist-in-residency at the American Academy in Rome fills the Homer artist’s home.
On tabletops, on walls, seemingly hovering above Going’s shoulder, a multitude of brightly colored, intricately shaped forms dance in the brilliant sunlight that pours through the windows of her Skyline Drive home. The paper shapes reflect the forces that kept the artist company during her two-month residency and have followed her back to Alaska.
“I’ve been an artist-in-residence all over the world, and when I go to a different place, I never prefigure what I’m going to do. If I go with a preconceived notion, I put myself in a box before I get there,” Going said.
So, on her first day in Rome, Going walked from the academy, located on the city’s Gianicolo Hill, to St. Peter’s. Standing in the midst of the cathedral’s colonnade, which was created by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Going knew without a doubt the direction her work would take.
“My heart just lifted up into a sense of flight, and I was definitely aware of the presence of what is meant by ‘the angels,’” Going said.
Some of the creations that Jo brought back.
Photo by McKibben Jackinsky
“From my point of view, that’s a vibrational frequency. That is the essential spiritual core of all religions. I plugged right into it when I was looking at the colonnade and was lifted up to angelic realms and bingo! I knew that was what I was going to work on while I was there.”
Using Arches watercolor paper, watercolors and a sharp blade, Going let that angelic energy inspire one to three sculptures she created every day. Each of the freestanding creations measures 5 to 10 inches in height. One side of the paper has been painted with a mix of pastel and brilliant colors. In some places, sparkle has been added, and the unpainted side of the paper offers a white contrast.
Going introduced new dimensions by bending the paper, curving it to create complex shapes, the negative space becoming part of the design. Finally, there is the impact of sunlight as it interacts with Going’s paper angels to create constantly changing shadows.
“For me, each of these sculptures is a memory link with a specific experience,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling it the ‘Angels of Rome’ because they’re specifically what I found in Rome.”
Participating in the residency was a way for Going to expand contacts in the art world for herself, as well as other Alaska artists.
“Unfortunately, people have a strange notion about artists in Alaska, a kind of snobbery that nothing good can come out of Alaska,” she said, referring to the international art community. “So, something like this brings Alaska into the major leagues, that someone from Alaska was over there at the American Academy.
“It’s interesting how people look at people coming from Alaska. They think we’ll be very limited in artistic scope. They meet me, see my art and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that interesting.’ Then Alaska has a bigger
frame of reference in other minds. It helps bring Alaska onto the bigger stage. Something like this helps stir the big international pot.”
Even more important, Going said, is her expanded awareness of humanity’s paradoxes that resulted from her time there.
“In Rome Italy in general everything is right out there on the surface. It doesn’t try to hide its garbage. It doesn’t try to say, ‘This doesn’t happen.’
“All the worst possible things that humanity has come up with the Coliseum being one of them, a blatant marker of man’s inhumanity to man are right there, right beside some of the grandest spiritual architecture anywhere in the world,” she said. “What do we do with that paradox?
“I took it to a deeper realization that beyond the paradox is a spiritual core, proof positive that we are evolving. That was the most positive thing to come out of my visit there.”
Those that know of Going’s love for dance won’t be surprised to know the two months weren’t all about painting and visits to cathedrals.
“I did get to tango, by the way,” Going said. “Where I go, I take my dance shoes.”
McKibben Jackinsky is a reporter for the Homer News.
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