This photograph of a blue door with a tin wall was a first for me. The faded blue door itself was little more than two pieces of painted plywood being held into place by a set of old rusty hinges. There is no telling how long this building has sat in disrepair. Even the latch where the lock once held the doors had and been long forgotten.
The door was being held shut by a thin beam of wood, showing a lot of weathering from the dry alpine desert conditions and the bushes were overgrown all around the place. Overall the door provided an interesting view into the history of this old dilapidated building
However, the most striking feature by far was the brightly colored tin wall panels attached to the decaying adobe exterior. It is the first time I ever saw decorative tin used on the outside of a building to such an extent. Normally, tin a decoration used inside of a building. Of course, this does not mean it’s never used outside, but I’ve never heard of it being used on the outside from ground to roof. Surely the use of it as a full outdoor wall covering is a very rare event.
In the 1800’s during the Victorian era, the use of decorative tin for ceiling tiles and other cosmetic features was very popular . Even today, it is often used as a decorative and easy to clean back-splash for a kitchen or wet bar area. So the using tin is not that unusual in the decorations found in some very old buildings.
I’ve seen decorative tin tiles lining roofs and even used as wall hangings on the outside of a building. They usually appear as stars or decorative shapes that give the building a distinct character.
Indeed, there are hundreds of designs and patina available for walls, separate wall framing and ceiling covers. They are still a favorite decoration used while restoring 19th and early 20th century homes and farmhouses. On the outside of a building though, you might see only a few decorative pieces displayed as a garden fixture or hanging on a barn door or wall but never in the measure as this photograph suggests.
So, even though it’s a mystery you walk away from this piece with two known facts. The owners really wanted to stand out in their community. I mean, look at that use of tin and of course the color! The second is that this door with it’s faded blue and white really give contrast to the bright red of the tile, making this a unique piece of art worthy of any wall.
In southwestern art there is a set, or palette, of colors that appear more than any other. These popular colors are part of the local culture and seen in the Spanish and Pueblo inspired architecture in the area. Whether you find blue, green, red, tan, white and brown they all follow the pattern of being a natural color. That is a color found in the natural environment.
In my mind, any southwestern architectural design must include the color blue. Namely, the brilliant sky blue you find on the doors and windows of the houses and business in the Taos and Santa Fé areas.
This light blue color not only distinguishes itself by creating a wonderful contrast between the tan and brown of the usual adobe, but in a sense draws your attention to the doors and windows and highlights the reds and whites of the colorful chili ristas and fragrant flowers that are so common in the local gardens.
Not only does the blue work as a wonderful artistic counter to the other rich colors of the Southwestern palette, but it has a religious and spiritual significance too.
In the Southern areas of the United States, especially located where the original Spanish existed, blue is the color chosen to paint the ceilings of the porches that typically surround the colonial houses. This is not by accident. There was a belief, now more of a prescribed tradition, that the blue ceiling would confuse any evil spirits from entering the house. The spirits would think the blue ceiling is the sky and become trapped on the porch without the ability to enter the house proper.
The same tradition occurs in areas of the southwest. Here, The doors, gates, and especially windows show off the brilliant bright blue paint. So when the evil spirits try to enter the house either of their own volition or by following someone, they become trapped in the window or door unable to enter the house proper.
Whether you believe such stories or not, the fact remains that between the crystal blue skies of the mountains and the bright and cheerful colors of the houses, the Southwest has a lot to offer for artistic inspiration.
So, I leave you with a famous doorway that has been the focus of many an artist due to its size, color and sheer beauty. Enjoy.
This week I decided to follow-up the door theme with a look at another very unusual church door. This double door was actually not in the church, but rather outside and obviously an entrance to a related church building next door. Honestly, I don’t know if the doors were the entrances to the local church group or rather an actual entrance to the priest’s dorms.
In any case, I hope you’ll agree that it is quite a work of art in it’s own right. The wood paneling is very impressive and obviously added to the doors after construction. We know this due to the lines of the individual panels are invisible behind the raised carvings of the priests and cross. Thus, it was not carved from a single piece but rather added to it after the manufacture of the doors themselves.
The white trim following the door frame really helps to enhance the red and brown in the stain of the wood on the doors. What is more fascinating though is the strange red splotch that appears at the top of the left door and leads across the cross to the friar on the other side. Could this have been a previous stain that was on the door and for some reason was not covered properly when a new stain became necessary?
Both Friars, are obviously Franciscan due to shaved heads, the style of robes that they are wearing, and the finally, the rope belts around their waist. Interestingly enough the friars are also holding a skull in one hand and the cross in another. While the iconography of the cross is fairly easy to imagine in a Franciscan motif, The reasons for the skulls however, take a little more research to uncover.
Indeed, this is where the marketing of the ideals of the church are present. The skulls represent mortal death and the focus that only through the cross, can death be avoided. It is a casual reminder of mortality. A clever way of saying, “You will die, but there is a way out.” It’s an example of the best spiritual marketing tagline; a great example for advertising to a populace who really didn’t speak your language well and didn’t or couldn’t read. Everyone understood what these skulls meant. Much in the same way that a stained window tells a story without the written word.
The idea of using a skull is from The Canticle of the Sun by Francis of Assisi. They represent Sister Death in the last lines of the Canticle.
“Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.”
Regardless of the hidden religious meanings, this example of a Spanish colonial style church door way is a window into not only the past of the region and town of Taos, but also a look at the cultural Spanish influences that occurred there as far back as the 1500’s.
That wooden door, the great entrance that my heart has clung to for so many years remains shut to me. It stands as a tall solid and immobile barrier to my freedom, and I may never learn of the reasons for it being so.
My entrapment is not a subjective countenance to the strong and unpliable wood. Nor is my spirit captured and enslaved by the sturdy and secure locks that bar the passage of so many a passersby wishing to enter this humble place of worship.
Nay, my present dark circumstances finds my meager soul locked behind this entrance. Looking for a way to escape this church forever. The irony is not lost on me. Even in the days of my life the church always tried every gimmick both fun and fearful in trying to get worshipers though those terrible doors. Little did I understand that once I got here I would never leave!
Truly, as a ghost, I know that there are far worse circumstances a soul could find itself in. Yet, a gilded prison is, at least to the prisoner’s point of view, remains nothing but a prison. Yes, that word best describes it. Prisoner. It conjures the right imagery to the mind. I am the lost and forgotten prisoner doomed to anguish behind these doors for all eternity. The thought breaks my heart and fills my being with such sadness.
When I was alive, I did not concern myself with the possibilities of souls in torment, or those religious pursuits of binding your soul to glorious heaven or suffering punishments in fiery hells. I had a life to live. The thoughts of dying before I was old and gray simply did not exist in any form for my intellect. People died around me, for sure, but the odds of it happening to me were remote at best. I thought I would always have time later on to worry about my death. These thoughts were best left for the priests and the elder people trying to undo years of unsanctimonious behavior.
Oh, don’t misunderstand my life choices. I did everything required of me. I attended church, gave alms, and even sang in the choir for a bit of time. Even my dying breath was in service to my fellow-man and the church. Yet, here I am. I’m stuck between worlds and unable to grasp what I need to do to move on.
How did I die? I spent my last mortal moments bringing water to some carpenters and painters working on the ceiling behind the altar. Even though I was 18 years old, I was still a petite sized girl and could only bring the water to the scaffolding, tie a rope around it, and let the workers hoist it into the air on a pulley. Once they finished refreshing themselves, they would lower the bucket and I’d place fruit or nuts for them to snack on and to repeat the process as needed.
It was a hot day and I was quite happy to help these men as they repaired the ceiling to the church. On one such trip with the water pail I must not have tied the rope as securely as I believed. As the fates would have it, the rope became untied awhile it was in the air at the very top of the pulley. I saw a worker grab for it, but the bucket fell straight down like a missile completely crushing my skull with a crimson mist spraying the work-tarps on the floor.
I awoke standing to one side watching my body lying in a puddle of my blood. My neck bent at an odd angle and my poor head had a ghastly concave wound. The village priest was performing last rites and the workers were either sullen or standing with shocked looks on their faces.
I attempted to get their attention and tell them that I was fine. But, they seemed to be unable to either hear me or see me and provided no interaction. I kept trying to speak, long after my they removed my body and the work was finally completed. I screamed and yelled at my funeral, but again no interactions occurred to bring a sense of peace to myself. Finally, I resigned myself to explore the boundaries of this strange fate.
It was during this period that I attempted to leave the church and found myself unable to do so. I can go to the door, but as I’m ethereal, I cannot seem to be able to grasp it or push it.
Lately, I’ve overheard various people complaining to the priest of cold spots in the sanctuary. There are also several rumors about a sobbing that is sometimes heard. People hear the sound of a young women sob and sometimes can smell the pleasant fragrance of roses, my favorite perfume. But they are unable to determine where it comes from. I must admit, these strange occurrences happen at the same time that the idea of staying here for eternity is more than I can bear and I become despondent and sad. I’m sure I’m the cause of these events. Yet, I really don’t understand how.
Decades have past now, the priest who tended to my body died years ago. No one who remembers my death is still alive. I have watched endless baptisms, weddings, and funerals performed behind that sorrowful entrance.
So, if you’re in the church and you feel a sudden chill, think you hear the mournful sobs of a girl, or smell the sweet aromatics of roses in springtime. It’s me. Waiting… waiting for a chance to leave through that very entrance you walked in through.
Spanish Door is a recent work depicting the entrance door to the chapel of a Catholic Mission. A door is a very popularly cultural item among most cultures in the world. In this case, the door represents a barrier to keep the mundane or profane from the divine. The door acts as a reminder to the church patron that the space behind this door is holy and proper respect and actions are necessary.
This is not a new concept. Every culture uses the metaphor of a door as a barrier to separate the here from the there. Doors break up the interior of a house. They give the limits or ending or one room from another, and determine where the new room begins.
When closed a door means to keep something inside the room it is protecting. Closed doors protect your privacy and even keep the atmospheric conditions, like the coolness of an air-conditioned or the warmth of a heated room from spreading to another. Examples of this include your freezer door and the door to the oven.
But, doors are not just physical entities that bar our passage or protect items under lock and key. They also serve as a basis for metaphors. Metaphoric doors are also important to your career.
An open door management policy allows for workers to express their thought or complaints to management with no fear of repercussions. While a meeting behind closed doors signifies that the subject being discussed is not sharable with the public and that the ordinary citizen’s input is not welcome.
When open, a door is an invitation to advance into what is occupying the next space. It’s an invitation to travel from here to there. When closed, a door is a barrier to knowing what is happening in that space. This is the concept of the Spanish Door. Only by entering through the portal can one understand or take part in the sacred space located behind it. It’s as if the builders of the door are saying “If you are not there, you will not take part in our group. ”