Borromini Series statement

linda schrank


While I was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome in 2008, I spent hours in my favorite Borromini churches, Santo Ivo della Sapienza and San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. At first I focused on doing watercolors and drawings of the interiors. But after a few visits I found myself in continuous movement, circling these spaces, looking always upward into their domes and lanterns.
      I realized that taking pictures would give me a new way of understanding what I was seeing. Although photography, much as I enjoy it, is not my usual way of making art, I found that it helped me comprehend these complex structures. When I looked upward through my camera lens, I felt a dizzying disorientation and became captive to the undulating, rhythmic patterns of the domes. I returned to these churches repeatedly, as often (given what tends to happen in Rome) as they would let me in.
      I had been exploring light and lightness in my paintings and so I became obsessed with the elusive, continuously changing dance of light in these Baroque churches. My camera became a tool used to play with light at varying times of the day and season, and it helped me to understand how totally different the light is in the two churches. In Sant Ivo, the entire dome is bathed in a white, even glow, while the dome of San Carlo is mysteriously illuminated, its imposing oval mass containing a wildly fluid and rich complexity of both forms and color.
      A painting project became an obsession with using photography as a way of penetrating two enigmatic spaces. Since that time, the camera has become a tool I use daily to help me understand what I'm seeing.