‘Sacred Sisters’ act at PSU De Long Gallery
Eight accomplished women who devoted their lives to God are the subjects of “Sacred Sisters, a Collaborative: Holly Trostle Brigham and Marilyn Nelson.” Paintings by figurative visual artist Holly Trostle Brigham, accompanied by poems authored by award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson, are on display in Penn State University Lehigh Valley’s Ronald K. De Long Gallery through April 29.
Trostle Brigham, a former Lehigh Valley resident, renders her subjects in bold and highly-detailed watercolor paintings using her own features to represent the faces of each nun. She includes images of historically-researched clothing, dolls, musical instruments and other objects in each piece to visually tell the women’s stories.
Since relics have been considered important in Catholicism, Trostle Brigham included framed “relics” that she created, which are displayed adjacent to each painting.
The “relics” relate to each of the eight nuns, for example, a quill pen for Sor Juana de la Cruz (1651-1695); a piece of malachite which would be ground into green pigment for artist Plautilla Neli, a 16th-century Florentine nun, and a Japanese bamboo brush for Otagaki Regetsu (1791-1875) a Buddhist ceramicist, calligrapher and poet.
Hildegard of Bingen is described by Trostle Brigham as a “12th-century German Benedictine abbess and nun, a mystic, composer, playwright and founder of scientific natural history in Germany.” Bingen brought Trostle Brigham and Nelson together to foster their collaboration of art and words.
Trostle Brigham’s mixed media installation, “Hildegard’s Box,” is composed of two watercolor paintings mounted on top of an antique ornate wooden box that had possibly come from an old church.
Nelson gives voice to the eight “Sisters” with poems phrased as prayers following extensive research into the lives of each of the extraordinary women, such as this excerpt from her poem about Bingen:
“I thank thee for the gift of Living Light
That touched flame to a young novice’s mind
And made me understand what stands in books.
I thank thee for the ways in my visions show,
Enkindling Fire, Creator-Sustainer ... ”