Skip to content

Face to Face

by mana on May 23rd, 2014

Outside the town of Siauliai in Lithuania, there is a hill covered with crosses. No one knows precisely when the practice began but today the Hill of Crosses has over 100,000 crosses as well as other objects left by visitors over many years.

Vincent Dugast, "Croce III," 2008-2013

Vincent Dugast, “Croce III,” 2008-2013

People have flocked here for many different reasons. Early visitors were commemorating victims of Lithuania’s 1831 uprising against Tsarist Russia. Along with the Poles, the Lithuanians were driven to revolt when the Tsar ordered them to help suppress the revolution in France. As the number of relics has grown, so has their power. Today, the site is a destination for pilgrims seeking solace and even for couples simply getting married. Lithuania has a folk tradition of cross building and many of the crosses are elaborately carved and decorated.

Vincent Dugast has visited the hill several times. His series titled Siauliai shows how the aggregation of so much religious folk art creates a new world. The numberless crosses lose their distinctive character and become what he calls a quasi tumulus with its own aesthetic feel. At the same time, the crosses are sacred objects of comfort and inspiration to those who come to this place to find hope in the face of challenges.

Vincent Dugast, "Procession,"  2013

Vincent Dugast, “Procession,” 2013

“Procession“ shows a newlywed couple descending the stairs with a Madonna looking over them. The Bride’s dress and veil are a brilliant white in contrast to the faded mass of religious symbols. Their hopes for the future fill them right now. It is easy to imagine that they have come here to ask a blessing on their marriage. Yet as shown in Dugast’s image, they seem to be moving through a strange and alien landscape. He has created a simulacrum, a distancing from objective reality to produce an image that stands on its own.

A different kind of faith shows itself in Juan Torre, a Spanish photographer. Torre refuses to abandon his passion for photography despite suffering from Behcet’s syndrome, a disease which has caused him to lose 94% of his vision. Using a powerful lens, he continues to take pictures but in fact his blindness has transformed his art. He is now creating images that you can touch. With computer processing and 3-D printing, he depicts local scenes in entirely new way. His message to people is that when there is a serious problem, it can be overcome. You just have to accept the new reality and approach life differently.

Torre exemplifies the possibilities of following one’s dreams even in the face of enormous handicaps. But even in less extreme circumstances following your path in life requires hard work and commitment.

The beautiful song, “Ma Liberté” by Georges Moustaki expresses the hardships and sacrifices to keep your freedom. He addresses Liberty as a demanding mistress who requires him to change countries, lose his friends, and give up everything for her.

The raven in Sophie Lambert’s painting “le Corbeau” is likewise struggling towards freedom. He is beset on all sides by the forces of nature. His own blackness is almost lost in the black storm clouds. Yet we sense his unconquerable determination to rise above the tempest.

Sophie Lambert, "Le Corbeau"

Sophie Lambert, “Le Corbeau”

Like the bird, we humans can weather adversity and rise to great heights as long as we are steadfast and true to our goals. When an inner purpose moves us, we can discover new realities as Juan Torre did when his blindness showed him a new way to see the world.

From → Musings

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.