Lyn Westfall: Full Well She Is
"Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, The horse and his rider he has thrown in to the sea" (Miriam's song - Exodus 15.21)
Biblical themes and depictions from the lives of saints have long served as subject matter in the history of Western art. Since the advent of Christianity and the Church's commanding role in world affairs, saints, their lives, and deeds have been the wellspring of inspiration for numerous artists. In recent times as society has become more secular, religious imagery and works of art has been in decline, or reinterpreted through philosophic or psychoanalytic means. The 20th century has been witness to one overall rejection of religious subject matter in favour of art that is much more personal and idiosyncratic in nature.
For Caledon artist, Lyn Westfall, the expression of spirituality is central to her work. In her recent series of paintings, she has selected for the most part, female religious figures, including saints and women from the Old Testament who have impressed the artist with their strength and dedication to God. Westfall's interpretation of this subject matter transcends the traditional approach, marrying a feminist sensibility with a personal spirituality enlarged by her experiences as a former nun (1960-1972). In her paintings, Westfall pays homage to the accomplishments of feminine leaders such as St. Joan of Arc and celebrates the joyousness of worship through music, embodied in St. Cecilia, or Miriam and the dancing maidens of the Old Testament. The result is a group of vibrant and contemporary works.
The artist strong sense of design and use of intense color glazes are integral to the paintings. By layering Hebrew and Latin texts over the images, Westfall produces a look similar to the of illuminated manuscripts. Symmetry of composition and a radiant palette evoke the stained glass of cathedral windows in St. Joan of Arc, where the haunting figure of St. Joan (abandoned by Charles VII and tortured by the English), amid the smoke of her execution pyre, stands in front of a great rose window. Underlying these allusions are often personal references, like the inclusion of a photographic image of Westfall as a child with her mother, in St. Anne, 1993, a work that honors the mother of the Virgin Mary and the symbol of perfect motherhood.
In her works on paper, Westfall's use of Hebrew text is much more reductive in manner. Unlike her paintings on canvas which are filled with colorful imagery, these works employ text almost exclusively. They resemble fragments of biblical texts, purely monochromatic, with only the dripping medium tying them to the canvas paintings.
Like all complex works of art, Westfall's paintings and derive their strength from a number of sources - an awareness of both modern and historical art practices and on iconography readable on many levels. By interpreting female figures who embodied the traits of strength, loyalty and faith through contemporary stylistic means, Westfall is able to intergrate the underlying ethos of the art of previous centuries with that of today.
David Somers, Curator - Judy Daley, Curatorial Assistant Hamas