The term “oratorio” is derived from the Latin “orare”, meaning “to speak” or “to entreat” and can connote different things. Similarly, many parallels are contained in the conception and creation of this installation. An oratorio most often refers to a large-scale musical composition recalling a weighty event or concept. From Haydn’s classical "The Creation" oratorio to Paul McCartney’s loosely autobiographical "Liverpool Oratorio", the dramatic, lengthy narrative structure is closely related to opera.
Less commonly, oratorio refers to a space built for reflection and meditation, a prayer hall where communities or individuals can gather in a focused place of watching, waiting and listening. As part of the title for this piece, I chose the term to reference both an impassioned performance and a place of recollection.
The mirrored, double appearance of this painting was intended to again play with a divergent set of meanings and even locations: firstly, the Terminal 1 arrivals area for which it was commissioned and secondly, a site I imagined while riding Los Angeles public transit--the end of a distant black rainbow.
For me, the concept of a black rainbow conjures up notions of hopelessness, tarnish, and decay. Where the end of a rainbow promises prosperity--if only for an instant--this imaginary location offered something of a struggle. The notion leads me toward questions about our involvement with the natural landscape, which seems both beautiful and broken in its ever-changing state. As a settlement becomes a town and then a city, how do we define something like progress?
I am interested in the imprint of culture on nature and vice-versa, in the way we shape our natural and built environments for good or bad. Like a Rorschach inkblot, we transfer our best and worst onto the land, and it returns the favor. It seems that beauty and ultimately meaning, are lost or found in our own individual visions of the landscape and how we choose to engage in our environment.
"Oratorio for a Black Rainbow", a site-specific work for Los Angeles International Airport
Terminal 1, Ground Floor, November 10, 2010 - April 6, 2011
Commissioned by Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports
gouache, graphite, 18K gold leaf, oil, dry pigment, beeswax on canvas
left panel: 27'2" x 9'6" • right panel: 28'6" x 9'6"