Photos: Stanford Clouds (11-4-2010)

Photographs on Stanford Campus
Thursday, November 4, 2010

By Peter Y. Chou

Preface: Professor Henry P. Maguire from Johns Hopkins University gave a series of lectures and seminars on "Abstraction and Naturalism in Byzantine Art" at Stanford (November 1, 3, 4, 2010). After his November 3 seminar on "Representations of Animals in Imperial Art", I was inspired by cirrus clouds over the Stanford Oval and Serra Street. I composed a web page of photos and haikus in "Clouds in the Shape of Feather, Owl, & Platonic Lambda, Soul of the Universe". Professor Maguire's seminar on November 4 was on "Metaphors of the Virgin in Byzantine Literature and Art" at the Art Gallery Building (12-1 pm). While waiting for Bus #22 at El Camino & Showers (11:22 am), I saw a giant white cloud with long tail (photo) and wrote this haiku— "Is this cloud Hanuman / the Monkey God or Dren / hybrid clone from Splice? Professor Maguire showed several interesting images of the Virgin in Byzantine mosaics, among them— Angeloktistos and Christ the Lamb, San Clemente Apse. Wrote this haiku— "Virgin as fountain, / vegetation, thread, yarn, / and the Mother of Life." Afterwards, I thanked Prof. Maguire for his lectures, telling him that I didn't understand why Byzantines showed heaven as monochromatic and earth as colorful. Then I realized it's similar to Newton's prismNewton shines white beam / of light in prism to make / rainbow of colors. Another analogy is Plato's One and Many (Noumenon & Phenomena). I told Prof. Maguire that when I spent six weeks at the University of Paris (Summer 1979) doing research on protein folding, I visited Notre Dame de Paris and Chartres. My graduate student Charles Beck (WPI) recommended me to read Henry James's Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1904). I learned that during the Middle Ages, prayers to the Trinity (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) were not effective, so people prayed to the Virgin, and it worked. That's why cathedrals were built in Europe at that time honoring the Virgin Mary— Notre Dame de Paris, Notre Dame Cathedrals at Chartres, Amiens, Reims. I wondered at this major shift in Christian theology, and asked Prof. Maguire whether the Virgin was prominent in Byzantine churches. He assured me that images of the Virgin Mary appeared often during the Byzantine era and didn't increase more during Medieval times. Since I'm not in Bissera's Byzantine Art class, I asked Prof. Maguire to send me the paper discussed in his seminar, and he agreed to do so. I felt nourished conversing with Prof. Maguire and left the Art Gallery (1:35 pm) for Stanford Art Library. However, the clouds over Stanford Oval and Serra Mall were even more spectacular than the previous day. I spent 20 minutes taking photos of clouds in the shapes of a hawk, shark, whale, owl, snake, dragon, and a flaming river. One group of clouds resembled the Abstract Byzantine Art on Professor Maguire's Byzantine Art Poster. I've placed them side by side for comparison in the last row below— it's somewhat uncanny that the "Sky Artist" is painting clouds in the abstract Byzantine style while Professor Maguire is lecturing on this theme below at Stanford this week.

"Hanuman" Cloud, El Camino & Showers

"Dren" Cloud, El Camino & Showers

"Hawk" Cloud over Stanford Oval

"Hawk" Cloud & Palm Trees, Serra Mall

"Hawk" Cloud & Palms (Closeup)

"Byzantine Art" Cloud, Serra Mall

"Abstract Byzantine Art" Cloud

"Shark" Cloud, Serra Mall

"Whale" Cloud, Serra Mall

"Owl" Cloud over Hoover Tower

"Shark" Cloud over Serra Mall

"Hawk" Cloud over Stanford Oval

"Owl" Cloud over Stanford Art Gallery

Clouds over Art Gallery

Flaming Clouds, Art Gallery

Flaming Snake Cloud

Clouds over Lausen Archway

Curling Ghost Cloud, Green Library

"Dragon Cloud" with Pearl

Flaming River Cloud (Photo 2)

"Abstract Byzantine Art" Cloud

Abstract Byzantine Art

Abstract Byzantine Art

Maguire Byzantine Art Poster

— Peter Y. Chou, Photographed at Stanford, November 4, 2010

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