June 8th – September 1st 2023
Lyndon House Arts Center
Woodward Gallery is proud to announce Margaret Morrison’s new solo exhibition, Paradigm Shift, at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens, GA this Summer. Margaret Morrison’s paintings investigate Caravaggio’s use of theatrical light. This narrative series of ten large oil paintings on canvas describes various stages of faith-based, spiritual enlightenment from awakening to transcendence. Morrison has been represented by Woodward Gallery since 1995.
In 2017, Professor Margaret Morrison proposed a Faculty Research Grant to the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Willson Center for the project, Contemporary Examination of Caravaggio’s Dramatic Staging and Lighting – A Collaboration between Painting and Theatre. This project resulted in a series of paintings investigating Caravaggio’s use of theatrical light. Morrison and her collaborator, Professor Anthony Marotta of the UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies, explored various methods of stage choreography for the purpose of photographing and collecting reference images.
“As a fifth-generation Mormon,” Morrison recalls, “I grew up on faith-promoting stories of my ancestors who left everything behind to build a new Zion in the wilderness of the American West. This faithful narrative of Mormonism’s founding was unblemished, spiritually uplifting, and literally a part of my DNA. If any aspect of our history or practice gave me consternation, I placed it on my metaphorical shelf to be dealt with later.”
Professors Anthony Marotta and Margaret Morrison discussed how to include the theater students in their Caravaggio theater project and, in response, Morrison created a script for Marotta and his students. This resulted in a stage performance, directed by Marotta and documented by photographer, Gabrielle Rosenthal. The resulting collaboration provided Margaret Morrison with exceptional reference material for a body of artwork entitled, Paradigm Shift. This suite of ten large oil paintings on canvas describes various stages of enlightenment from awakening to transcendence— a faith-based, spiritual experience that Margaret Morrison had been through, personally.
“In the early 2000s,” says Morrison, “an enormous treasure trove of historical documents, letters, and journals from Mormon history flooded the internet. The Church could no longer be the gatekeeper, withholding the unsavory and salacious moments in its history. As I voraciously read everything that I could get my hands on, it became apparent that the tidy “faithful narrative” that I had been raised to believe in did not exist. In actuality, it was raw, messy, and filled with sexual intrigue. My “shelf” was instantly shattered into a million pieces. I was devastated and angry. In the past, there had been such comfort in the notion of a perfect church. Where was that to be found now? How was I to process this flood of distressing and unsettling information? Should I divorce myself from my faith tradition like so many others were doing? I was plunged into the most painful experience of my life and it was exhausting physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
Morrison continues, “Slowly, very slowly, I began to pull away from my anger and disillusionment to make room for a new paradigm. I explored the idea that a “perfect” church could not possibly exist, that the leaders that I had grown up revering as near perfect were flawed and exhibited the very same weaknesses common to all humankind. With this new-found cathartic insight, I no longer felt the pressure to outwardly conform. Instead, I turned inward and rekindled a deeper, more personal spirituality. I sifted through the ruins of my faith tradition and found the pieces that resonated with me. As I rebuilt, I began to experience deeper spiritual connections, a true sense of transcendence in my search for the Divine.”
“My Paradigm Shift Series springs from the devastating sense of loss I felt when my belief in the “faith-promoting” history of Mormonism imploded, forcing me to build a new, and infinitely deeper spiritual foundation,” Morrison concludes. “The narrative in each painting traces the arc of my journey from naïve believer, passing through cataclysmic destruction and terrible sadness, finally arriving at the reclamation of my inner peace and a closer connection to God.”
Margaret Morrison’s Paradigm Shift, at the Lyndon House Arts Center, will be open to the public, free of charge, from June 8th through September 1st, 2023. A special Artist Event will be held on August 24th, at 6pm. Exhibitions are on view during regular gallery hours Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult. The exhibition can also be viewed in the online ARTSY Viewing Room, and in the digital catalogue on our website.