“Church” of the Universe

This idea was in part inspired by a period in art history, the Baroque era, which I keep coming back to for its moment in time and its intensity and drama. 

The original meaning of baroque meant, “irregular, contorted, grotesque” which gives you an idea of how the style might have been first perceived, but, of course, it came to represent the style born in the later years of the 16th century. Art in the Baroque era was largely influenced by what was happening with the Catholic Church at the time. Works were often very contrasty, bold in color and in gesture, possibly reflecting current tensions. 

I like to imagine the people at that time and the effect some of these paintings had on them. I imagine them as people far more familiar with how short, random and cruel life could be than we are today. I imagine them as being fearful and superstitious. But are we any more driven by rationality than we were then?

The Intensity of Now

I try to start my work with something personal, a feeling of some sort.

My take on a modern Baroque style seemed like a good fit for the complex set of emotions and thinking based on what I have been absorbing over the last few years. This madness that is reflected all around us: I am trying to decide has it always been there, and the internet has both assisted in bringing like-minded people together and made it much more visible.

Or is all this, like some suggest, a harbinger of things to come? Signs that things starting to spin out of control and could come crashing down in any number of ways. Climate change as being the most obvious and alarming example perhaps…

Either way, as I compare my own personal journey these last few years with the turbulence of what’s going on around us, the one thing that strikes me the most is how utterly disconnected we are as a whole from our reverence for life and the mysteries of the Universe around us. 

We are influenced by what we surround ourselves with and in my downtime, I like to listen to talks by scientists, and occasionally philosophers. But my favourite thing is to learn about the big ideas in physics.  So I am inclined to ponder the nature of our existence, consciousness, time, and so on in this world of chaos.

But the stark contrast between the overwhelming vastness of these great mysteries we probably don’t have the minds to fathom, and the mean pettiness I see around me creates a kind of …  I don’t know… a kind of despairing for humans.

The deep questions seem too big to ask for many of us.  We can’t seem to stay in (or in many cases even arrive at) this state of appreciation for what is around us and how we’ve become. We can only be mobilized by direct and immediate threats. There is still money to be made somehow, anxieties to be battled, people to swear at (if only from the privacy of your car), lawns to be mowed.  The day-to-day takes up so much time and energy. Our ADHD-inducing smartphones promise us relief. Thank god for our phones, or our own private little worlds that we can control.

More and more I wish there were a “church” of the Universe (for lack of a better word) where instead of worshipping some kind of deity, we would develop a conscious appreciation for the mystery all around us, the mystery of the Universe in which we live, for life, who we are and the body that houses us. I wish I had a community in doing this.

And for that period of time, while engaged in our Church of the Universe, we drop our egos at the door and remind ourselves of those mysteries of life and the Universe. We are small then, a speck in time and space.  Our troubles petty. Maybe surface those buried questions inside us: what meaning and purpose can we make of our lives?   I can’t help but wonder, with that regular reminder and experience of reverence, would our reactions still be the same to the world, would we still make the same choices?

I created the concept of these messengers reaching to the sky with this in the back of my mind. Yet through the execution of it, it became a truer and darker expression of how I actually think and feel than this idealized notion that we could all learn about black holes and string theory and then start being nicer to one another. Maybe you’ll see it.

But that’s just what I think. It is to you whatever you make it to be. I am just the conduit. 🙂

Notes on the Work

In the development of the concept, I wrote as I often do to discover the core of my feelings. I also researched into this period of art history, as well as angels in relation to both Christianity and Islam. I read somewhere angels were messengers from heaven which lead me to believe that even regular humans could be considered to be angels depending on the message.

This is a composite of self-portraits with a landscape shot of mine. The music came from some music I bought but it didn’t come with a creator’s name – if anyone recognizes it let me know. I then subtly animated them to give them some life in keeping with some of my other cinemagraphs. However, this is the first time I’ve added sound to one of these. I haven’t decided whether this works as well as I want it to, yet. While the music gives it the heightened, even over-the-top emotionality I was looking for, it may have crossed over to the film realm and so feel incomplete. I will have to move away from it and come back to it later.


Caravaggio who is one of the most well-known artists of the Baroque period. Here a couple of paintings that I might have spent more time looking at than others for the quality of the expressions.

Judith Beheading Holofernes, Caravaggio, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The Taking of Christ, Caravaggio (c.1602), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons