As you enter Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, two things uplift you. The first is the vast circular design in the floor, laid out as a circular Labyrinth. The second are rays of coloured light cascading as if through a forest down from the vaulted roof of the nave.
The Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral was introduced by the Rev Dr. Lauren Artress in 1994. Following a visit to Chartres Cathedral where she felt the spiritual power of the medieval stone labyrinth there, a tapestry labyrinth was created at Grace Cathedral. Although only available to the public twice a month, it was so popular that it wore out and the limestone Labyrinth was laid in 2007. There is also a second labyrinth outside the Cathedral opened in 1995 as the centrepiece of the meditation garden.
The Labyrinth is an ancient pattern which has only one path and it no end. It is a powerful tool for spiritual renewal and mediation; it is also a stunning aesthetic addition to the Cathedral.
The rays of coloured light are the work of Anne Patterson who was artist in residence in 2013, commissioned to create site-specific works using visual art and music. In this beautiful installation, Graced With Light, Anne Patterson created “ a series of light pathways, connecting heaven and earth, manifest as ribbons. The ribbons carry our prayers, dreams and wishes skyward, and, in turn, grace streams down the ribbons to us.” Almost 20 miles of coloured ribbons was hand-assembled by Anne Patterson and memebrs of the congregation.
“I hear color. I see sound. The synthesis of the visual and the auditory allows for a personal connection as my paintings, design, and direction immerse the audience sensorially. Within my frames, the brushstrokes depict scenes of reality – the changing seasons, waves, rippling water – but more importantly, their abstraction is my way of inhabiting the realm of personal interpretation rather than realism. My set design and direction also encourage the audience to connect and discover, deepening their experience. I strive for my work to denote concrete times and locales, references which allow the audience to connect on a basic level. By combining these realistic visuals with color, lighting, projection, and sound, I hope to further develop that connection, to allow the work’s visual and auditory synthesis to provoke a response which will deepen the meaning of the aria or soliloquy. My goal is to encourage sensory exploration – to hear and feel the crash of the waves, to see the music playing before your eyes – and to have the audience experience art in a new, deeper way.” Anne Patterson.
“It’s been this incredible thing we’ve lived with,” said the Very Rev Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral. “It absolutely fills the space in the best way, taking colors from the stained glass literally. And it just lifts people’s spirits.”
Entering the Cathedral is a unique experience; Anne Patterson’s installation will only be here for a limited time, though it has been so popular that it has been extended through 2014. Grace Cathedral is to be congratulated on its artist in residence initiative and on the bold installations – the Labyrinth and “Graced with Light” where art and architecture combine to create something unique and beautiful.