On October 12, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine unveiled its newest large-scale art installation: Divine Pathways, a site-specific textile work by artist Anne Patterson. Patterson’s artistic practice draws from her synesthetic sense of color and light and designer’s understanding of space. She could have asked for no better canvas than the grand expanse of the Cathedral, where the translucent shades of stained glass windows intersect with arching gothic stone.
Divine Pathways was created in concert with communities and organizations from across the Morningside Heights neighborhood, New York City and the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The artist invited community members to literally write themselves into the work by writing their hopes, dreams and prayers onto the ribbons. Though individual prayers are anonymous and beyond the viewer’s sight, their collective presence creates an experience that is both intimate and immense, celebrating the collaborative process and community itself.
The choice of colors in this installation are directly connected to a beautiful stained glass window entitled Christ in Glory that sits behind the Cathedral’s high altar. As Anne Patterson
describes it, “The connection between my art and the window is quite special. I visited the Cathedral many times trying to determine the best colors for this new work. Early on in my design process I decided to work with gold, red and blue fabric.”
In this early stage in the process of creating the work that would become Divine Pathways, the Cathedral was still largely shrouded in scaffolding: a fire in 2019 resulted in several years’ worth of restoration and cleaning, coinciding with additional restoration work on the mammoth Guastavino tile dome that sits above the Cathedral’s crossing. Despite the scaffolding, which obscured much of the east end of the Nave, Patterson continued forging ahead with color choices for her artwork.
“I did a series of sketches and selected a variety of gold, blue, and red fabrics. The more work I did with these colors the more I became convinced it was the correct choice,” Anne Patterson said. “The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is a massive stone structure and creating a heart of gold for this piece feels apt. I hoped that a gold center would visually represent the symbolic light visitors sense when they look upward toward the vaulting.
On a return visit to St. John the Divine for a Sunday service I was astounded to see the scaffolding had been removed and a stained-glass window—Christ in Glory—uncovered. What a surprise and confirmation of my process to see light streaming through a mosaic of gold, red and blue: the exact same colors in the exact same layout that I had envisioned for this installation.”
After months of preparation, the fully revealed Divine Pathways now hangs above the Nave, interacting with light and the presence of visitors throughout the Cathedral. In the words of The Very Reverend Patrick Malloy, Dean of the Cathedral, “Anne Patterson’s Divine Pathways is not just an installation within the Cathedral. It will become part of the Cathedral’s soaring.”
Throughout the duration of the installation, a series of gatherings, including concerts, talks, and meditation evenings, will be held below Divine Pathways. On Mondays, join the Cathedral for 60 minutes of gentle yoga and mindfulness meditation led by instructors from Harlem Yoga Studio. Divine Pathways provides a meditative focal point, surrounded by the Cathedral’s impressive architecture. At other times during the week, visitors are invited to get an exclusive view of the installation from the Cathedral’s triforium, a within-the-walls walkway located five stories above the Cathedral’s ground floor. From photography buffs to classical music aficionados, to those seeking a place of quiet reflection within Divine Pathways’ fields of glorious color, all those who visit the Cathedral during the exhibition will find an extra spark of joy and beauty awaiting them.
Art exhibitions have long been part of the Cathedral’s cultural offerings. Art has always had a place in churches: the eye and imagination presenting and interpreting beauty is an act of devotion. Past exhibitions include Gabriel Garcia Roman: Queer Icons in 2023; Aljoscha: The Miraculous Draught in 2020; and The Value of Sanctuary: Building a House Without Walls in
Divine Pathways is made possible through generous funding from the Marin Community Foundation; Panta Rhea Foundation; Roy A. Hunt Foundation; Susan Rudin; The Chicago Community Foundation; The Helen Clay Frick Foundation; The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.; Tides Foundation; Agnes Gund; and We Oppose Violence Everywhere Now.
Divine Pathways will be on view through June 2024. To learn more, visit stjohndivine.org/pathways.