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Re: motivations

Rothko Chapel on the campus of St. Thomas University in Houston.  I came to
Houston in 1971 from the sticks to be the minister of a very art-conscious
Presbyterian congregation there.  One of the members was an art professor
at Rice University.  I was art-naive, to say the least, so the professor
suggested I go to the Rothko at a low-light hour and plan to sit there for
at least 45 minutes.  The chapel is a small, one-room, octagonal building
with 14 huge, brooding Rothko paintings on the walls.  Benches are in the
center of the room for sitting.  The paintings are intended to be
experienced all at once, not one at a time as we usually do in museums.
When I went in my first impression was that this was a joke.  The large
boxy shapes didn't represent anything to me.  But I sat down and in a
little while the looming, the surfaces began to give way and the somber
shapes and colors began to do their work and I was almost overcome with the
power of them.  Discovering later that Rothko committed suicide shortly
after completing them added to the impact, recalling T.S. Eliot's line to
the effect that only in presence of death can we tell the truth.

Our congregation received permission to conduct Good Friday services there
for some years after that.

Sam Lanham
Sam Lanham (slanham@hctc.net)

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