Going to Church with Mark Rothko

The city of Houston has some amazing art venues. They have a plethora of museums and other cultural organizations. While I was in town I had the pleasure of hearing a quartet from the Houston Symphony, celebrating its 100th anniversary.

So it should be no surprise that Houston is the home of the Rothko Chapel. You may have had the opportunity and pleasure of seeing Mark Rothko’s work in a magazine, on television, or a museum. Houstonians and visitors have the pleasure of visiting the Rothko Chapel. It’s a self-contained building housing a select group of Rothko’s amazing oversized artwork.

Upon entering the building you’re greeted by volunteers who give you some information on the venue. The sanctuary is spacious and the only furniture in the room are eight long benches and some meditation cushions on the floor. The room is meant for contemplation. It’s a space filled with the mysteries of the artwork and the communal experience of sitting before masterpieces from the art world.

Four of the paintings are deceiving one color and the other four are two colors. I say deceiving because although the work appears to be one color/two colors it’s actually a multitude of colors. How do you know that the piece is multi-colored and multi-layered? The secret is in the light.

The only light in the room comes through a skylight. I was in the chapel about 3pm. It was a sunny day with many clouds. Sitting in the chapel, experiencing the quiet and beauty of the art you notice the subtle changes in light as the clouds pass over the chapel. It’s in those moments that you see the subtle change in color and shading. You can experience and revel in the beauty of a multi-layered piece of art that changes right before your eyes. It gives you the opportunity to live change. It provides you with the gift of beauty rolled into the lessons for focus and inner exploration.

Rothko’s work gives us the opportunity to quiet the mind and open the heart. He provides us with the gift of visceral and visual beauty. When you sit before these masterpieces you can revel in the magnificence of the art and the magnificence of your soul. Communing with the art quiets the mind and the body. It provides entry to a place deep in your heart where you can explore the multi-layers within your own psyche and relate it to Rothko’s visual representation of that multi-layered life.

Are there places in your community that provide this experience? As members of this art and healing community, please share those sacred places in the comments section below!

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