Text and Photographs by Daniel Krieger
Anne Patterson is a Brooklyn-based artist who creates large-scale installations for giant spaces. And when it comes to size, there’s one type of place that is unparalleled.
“You can’t find a better space than a cathedral,” she told WSR in an interview on Tuesday afternoon. “To be given a space like this to create a piece — it’s unbelievable!”
Patterson was standing beneath her most recent work, Divine Pathways, a textile installation at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, where the exhibit will open this Thursday, October 12th. “Of everything I’ve ever done, it’s the largest in terms of the height, the footprint, the whole thing,” she said.
Above her, over one thousand 75-foot strips of blue, red, green, and gold ribbons were cascading down from a large aluminum frame suspended near the ceiling. And upon each ribbon, way up at the top, the prayers of various community members from the city and the Episcopal Diocese of New York were written.
“I envision the ribbons as a series of light pathways connecting heaven and earth,” she said. “The pathways carry our hopes, dreams, and prayers skyward and in turn grace streams down to us.” In total, about 800 people anonymously contributed over 1,200 prayers. Some wrote directly onto the ribbons at recent events at the cathedral, while others sent them in and Patterson and her team transcribed them.
“They’re so beautiful, and they gave me so much faith in humanity, and our city,” said Patterson, who was so moved by the prayers that she teared up while talking about them. Reading them, she was struck by “the love and peace and huge compassion for people who are suffering” that revealed how caring and kind people can be. “Everyone really wants the same things,” she went on. “It’s a lot of energy, a lot of good vibes.”
The commission came about when Patterson, who has done a lot of theater set design, caught the attention of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, which awarded her artist-in-residence in 2013. She did her first cathedral installation there, Graced with Light, which was similar to Divine Pathways. “That vaulted me in a whole new direction,” she said, “which has been a total blast, doing large-scale installations.”
She did another installation at a cathedral in Cincinnati, and Saint John the Divine has been talking to her over the past decade about doing a version of that work for them. Finally, she created one “in response to the space,” she said, inspired by the color scheme of Christ in Glory, the large stained glass window above the high altar (on the furthermost wall from the entrance). The gold and the red and blues and greens on the sides are in conversation with the ribbons. And to add a bit of extra sparkle to the dimly lit space, some of the gold ribbons are a shiny metallic fabric from Mumbai used for Indian weddings.
Patterson hopes that Divine Pathways will help people see the cathedral’s interior in a new way, highlighting the spectacular colors of the stained glass and giving them a greater sense of its soaring height by guiding their eyes upward.
The best time to see it is on a sunny day in the afternoon, she said, when the sunlight filtering through the southern exposed stained glass windows illuminates the ribbons. And while you’re there, Patterson suggests using the Divine Pathways to transmit your own goals.
“You get this feeling when you’re under here that these are going off to infinity,” she said, “so you can set an intention and your intention can go up to whatever you believe in or wherever you want it to go.”
The exhibit will run from October 12th until June 2024, with an opening reception to celebrate this monumental work on Thursday evening, October 12th, from 6pm to 8 pm. It’s open to the public and you can RSVP here.
Click here to learn about the following upcoming Divine Pathway events: Extra-Hours Photography, which gives special access to take pictures of the installation; Mindfulness Mondays, 60 minutes of yoga and meditation beneath the installation; and Self-Guided Tour & Triforium Climb, which affords a view of the installation from a balcony area.
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