Saturday, September 17, 2011

Holy Houses Pt 1

I've been drawing a lot of churches lately. Not because I have any interest in what goes on inside them, but because I want to practice my perspective drawing, and a lot of these buildings are really interesting, challenging subjects to draw. When I went looking for them to draw, I was surprised to realize just how many churches there are in New York City. When my parents moved to North Carolina, the first thing I noticed right off the bat was that, down there, there's a church building about every five yards. Maybe it's because this city is so incredibly dense, the multitude of churches (and former churches - converted to other uses) is not as apparent. But there really are a shitload of them around, all over.

A lot of them are really simple, humble buildings (which I, non-believer though I am, believe suits the original conception of 'church' more closely than a grand cathedral), and some have some amount of architectural design applied to what is basically a simple, utilitarian structure. But there are so many with really interesting, complex shapes, planes, and forms to draw. A lot are too much so. There's a church in my neighborhood that I've thought of drawing, but it is so tremendously complex in its gothic complexity that it's hard to take it all in, but less draw it. I may just start sketching it piece by piece.

The Soldiers' Monument at Trinity Church, Lower Manhattan, on Broadway. When I was finishing this drawing, a group of about a dozen little Japanese school girls walked by, saw it, and started saying, "Woooowww! Woooowwww!! WOOOOWWWWW!!!!" Then they all pulled out their phones and cameras and started taking photos of the drawing.

Our Lady of Vilnius. SoHo, near the Holland Tunnel.

Tifereth Israel Town and Village Synagogue. Strangely enough, while there are also plenty of synagogues around, not a lot of them aren't particularly interesting architecturally. I drew this one in the East Village sitting on the sidewalk outside a Duane Reade. A woman saw me drawing and told me that she likes to sketch as well; that it's a calming, meditative, and therapeutic activity for her. I knew what she was talking about absolutely.

Third Church of Christ. Park Ave. Not sure why it's called the 'third' church. Wouldn't you want to call your church the first church of Christ? It reminds me of this diner in a small New Hampshire town where I used to work. It had a sign out front that read "Second Best Breakfast In Town!"

St. Cornelius Chapel, Governor's Island. There are all these unused buildings out there from when it was an active Coast Guard station with a permanent resident community . . . an empty theater, an abandoned little stripmall, a leftover Burger King, etc.

The Shrine Church of St. Anthony of Padua. West Village. The oldest existing parish founded for Italian immigrants in the U.S. As I drew this, two Franciscan Friars were sitting nearby, chilling out with their dog. One of them was on the phone trying to score tickets to some concert. Several times, people - younger people - stopped by to talk and ask about religion. The friars didn't seem too interested in engaging with them. I was under the impression that the Roman Catholic church had a real problem with an aging and declining membership in America, and I woulda thought that it was one of the main jobs of these friars to try to recruit new members and bring back lapsed ones, but perhaps I was mistaken. Or maybe they were just on a union break.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful work as always, Chris, and they are indeed beautiful buildings (though I second your indifference to their function). I think one of the reasons churches are harder to notice in New York is because you rarely get to step back and see them from a distance. We walk past them all the time, but we don't look up. Also, in New York a church steeple is unlikely to be the tallest peak around. I often walk past St. Cecilia's Parish, on 106th Street between Lexington and Park, and I'm always amazed by its artfulness. And by yours.