A few years ago Target, or B-cubed — er — Bed Bath and Beyond, or somewhere was having a blue-plate special clearance sale on “artwork”. Among the dreck they were getting rid of were schlocky shiny prints laminated onto masonite which was then mounted on top of shadow-boxes. At a couple of dollars a crack, I bought a boxful of them. To make the basic structure for the reliquary I took two 12″ square boxes and prised the masonite thingy off the top. They were approximately one-and-a-half inches deep. I skim coated the outside backs with Golden’s Fiber Paste to give it a faux plastery look (and cover up the holes where I’d taken off the sawtooth hanging device belonging to the original “artwork”).
My artwork for The Holy Face was a small textile piece I did some time ago, G-d of Thunder. I scanned the actual piece into Photoshop, did some enlarging and cropping and got The Holy Face. I then printed that out onto silk crepe for the main face; bleached it out Photoshoppily and printed it onto very thin silk hobotai for the veil; and printed it out, slightly elongated, onto silk broadcloth for the face behind the scrim in the left-hand panel.
I used the slightly spooky, stylised yet primitive, shape that appears as the “frame” for several of the self-proclaimed authentic sudaria. There are at least three “authentic” sudaria; the theory being that Veronica then folded her veil into thirds, whereupon the damp image seeped through to two more layers.
I cut the shape from a piece of 12″x 12″ matboard, and then, for the right hand panel, exploded the shape to almost fill the square, barely containing the image(s) within. I used temporary spray-basting to keep a wonderful (non-metallic) gold-coloured matelasse type of fabric steady while I stitched it to the matboard along the cutout shape’s edge.
Then I carefully cut the fabric away, leaving enough to slash and fold to the back, and glue down to finish the opening.
For the left-hand panel I then stretched a piece of gold organza tightly across the opening. In the actual sudaria The Holy Face is almost unrecognisable — a blur of ochre-ish colour. In my version the organza provides the blurring. and, I have no idea why the image won’t load properly (have tried 3 times) but if you’re curious you can click on it and it should come up “my hand through the blurring”. Oy.
For the right-hand panel applied the gold matelasse the same way and then carefully stitched the “veil” to the back side of it, making sure it draped the way I wanted it to , over the right side of The Holy Face, so it would nearly spill out of the frame when it was installed.
The next step was embellishing The Holy Face with thorns and drops of blood. I had mounted it on a fairly stiff, thick interfacing for stitching. It was an interesting experience. I have no stomach for watching cruelty — there are books I haven’t read and movies I haven’t watched, despite how good they might be, because I can’t deal with descriptions of torture. (I can and have watched surgery. That’s different. It’s not the amount of blood and guts, it’s the motive.) I was stitching the “thorns” (with a very groovy yarn) from the back! — the yarn is in the sewing machine bobbin — so, an abstract experience where I was focussed on hoping the yarn would stitch smoothly. And yet. I found I was tensing up with visceral repugnance because the thorns were torture, they were getting close to his eyes. Okay, I got a grip and detached, and finished. But.
Oy. Then the drops of blood. I tried ribbon floss. I thought of other things. Then I remembered some beads. I had some nice coral beads and like the way they looked for this. I don’t normally do beading and… now I know why. Apologies to anyone who does enjoy sewing beads, but I found myself thinking, only three more… only 2 more… only… DONE! I was very very happy that only six seemed to be enough.
Before I assembled the whole thing I gilded and painted the shadow boxes (remember them?). Spray painted their edges gold and then knocked that back with burnt umber, used Golden acrylics in various combinations to loosely interpret the wallpaper motifs in the Master of Flemalle’s St.Veronica to decorate the outside. I then glued The Holy Face on the bottom of the right-hand shadow box and the slightly elongated print of the Face on the bottom of the left-hand box. I vveerrryyy carefully mounted the two frames over the shadow boxes, in the rabit where the original masonite had rested. For the glueing bits of this I was very, very happy with the way Weldbond PVA adhesive worked. It’s great stuff.
Once everything was set, I screwed on two tiny hinges and a latch.
Once again I apologise for any weird page layout issues… It was going well until about half-way down the page.