The artistic traditions of image replication and pattern repetition date back hundreds of years, and have been utilized by a variety of cultures and styles. These means of manipulating imagery have had periods of revival within art historical movements throughout history. In the 1950s in the United States there was Pop Art, in Morocco there is traditional hand-cut tile, and in Hindu and Buddhist art practice there is the mandala.
Repetition, both in the use of image replication in visual art and in spiritual practice via prayer and meditation and worship, can offer several benefits to their observers and practitioners. By repeating an image, either as a pattern or as a re-imagining of the image into a new context, the viewer is drawn to the image as a whole by the artist’s emphasis on the subject. In meditative practice, through the repeated concentration on an idea or truth, practitioners can not only iterate the concept, but also take greater ownership of the truth in their minds and hearts.
“I shut my eyes in order to see.”
As human beings, it can often be difficult to understand or learn something new. Developing good habits, mastering a new skill, or turning away from a false idea toward a true belief, generally requires discipline in repeating the new thing. Practically speaking, this can be experienced as drills. Spiritually speaking, this can be in prayer and meditation.
Anita Breitenberg’s work utilizes a similar kind of repetition and meditation. By repeating elements in each piece, the artist draws in the viewer’s attention both to the repeated elements within each picture plane, as well as the cohesiveness of the complete image. Consider these works in light of the use of repeated motifs, the mandala as a representation of the universe, and the practice of meditation through repetition of truth.
Anita Breitenberg has illustrated scripture for four decades. While serving with the UN in Bosnia in the mid-nineties, she developed a concern for individuals from different cultures, and sought to find an artistic style appropriate to convey her spiritual journey to an audience with limited exposure to contemporary Christian images. The form of a mandala, representing the universe, was chosen an appropriate structure for spiritual contemplation for a new audience. As a result, the works give an appearance of dream interpretations while stylistically incorporating kaleidoscopes and stained glass windows, respectively representing change and holiness. They are a composite of images old and new, broken and whole, destroyed and restored, and replace diminished and distained with delighted and desired. The artist’s works have been exhibited in Europe and throughout the United States, including Museum of Biblical Art in Manhattan, Yale University and Washington National Cathedral. They are also included in the permanent collections of Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas, Catholic University and Convergence Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Her art was reviewed in the New York Times and appeared on Commonweal Magazines cover. Brietenberg seeks to broaden the appeal of contemporary Christian art to a wider and diversified audience and present it in a radical and provoking manner.