by Stephen Mead
Angels, in the mid-1980s, started to have a real resurgence. At least that’s how it seems to me, but perhaps I was too daft to notice that they’d never gone elsewhere in the first place. I’m not sure if having been raised Roman Catholic has anything to do with my interest in them, though I suppose it does. Still, they are quite prevalent in many religions, and it is that ecumenical appeal which is also a boon. That and the fact that they are naturally miraculous, naturally magical, and a wonderful source for fantasy. It is the idea of their omniscience, however, mixed with an endless merciful compassion that attracts me the most. As opposed to having superhuman powers, I imagine them as being powerfully humane. They are great invisible confidantes and supreme listeners. Their skin in that of litmus, their minds, that of telepaths. They are the detectors of nuance, the interpreters of subtlety and silence. Their sensitivity surrounds them as a nimbus, their very eyes; antennae. They are full of terrible knowledge but refrain from judging, being neutral with a higher wisdom, one of absolute loving and peace, a peace not apart from pain, for they believe all is a message of learning. They also have the capacity of great gut felt laughter, for as guardians they remain witnesses to every folly and foible. All angels are also intersex and get a real kick about the fuss mortals make over genitals. In my apartment, as in society, angels come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from pins to statues to even a hand welded brass candle holder. Yes, there are cherubs, but mostly the seraphim here are adults. Cherubs are too Bobbsey Twin-ish for me, plus it would be disconcerting to discover they can speak like walking encyclopedias. I prefer a more earthly concept as far as divine deities go, that they are just mainly full of common sense and good will. I mean, if a soul is feeling particularly wretched, a lecture is not as helpful as, say, giving enough rest to replenish the nerves needed to go to the grocery store. Of all the different iconic images I have of them in print form, be it cards depicting renaissance works or more modern takes, my favorite angel piece hangs in the hall right before my bedroom. It was given to me by a dear friend for my 40th birthday. It is a collage she’d been working on for quite a while, adding bits, taking away bits, putting bits back, letting time and patience weave what the end results would be. Such ability to not force a project strikes me as angelic in itself, and this great calm shows in the work. The entire sixteen by twenty inch canvas board is actually quite dense, layered with different off-white shades of parchment. All edges of these are torn but smoothed to a powdery paper mache. In a circular motion, various parts of a maroon rose, both petals and stem, float across the surface plane, while from the depths, three different sets of angels come to the foreground. It’s as if each is appearing through a shifting fog wall, making a separate entrance or giving a glimpse to private scenes. Some carry instruments and are conferring on the notes. Another group is huddled over a scroll, their wings in mid-twitch with a certain energetic concentration of thought. The last walks with a child who has a satchel and a wooden staff. Above them is a single star. Funny, suddenly the late Sister Wendy comes to mind, that radiant nun in full habit from 1990s BBC TV, Sister Wendy and her wonderful international museum tours bringing great works of art to her audience. In no way do I resemble Sister Wendy, being grace-fallen and deciding to hang around for the heck of it, but I hope there’s been some sense of a spiritual journey in these words nevertheless. Certainly when I look at my friend’s angel collage, that journey is the picture I see. “Angels of Difference” came about when I decided to write a book based on my surroundings. This work, “A Thousand Beautiful Things (A Life in Two Hallways and Four Small Rooms)”, has evolved in different ways over the years, becoming also about rooms which I used to live in but have vanished from my life. The whole is still a sort of eccentric way of revealing my interior life via interiors while being a pseudo how-to on combatting depression through dollar store decorating.
Stephen Mead is an Outsider multi-media artist and writer. Since the 1990s he’s been grateful to many editors for publishing his work in print zines and eventually online. He is also grateful to have managed to keep various day jobs for the Health Insurance. Currently he is resident artist/curator for The Chroma Museum, artistic renderings of LGBTQI historical figures, organizations and allies predominantly before Stonewall, The Chroma Museum