More ramblings about angels in art…
This weekend, I had the great pleasure of riding with Windfalcon to visit the birds of prey wildlife center at Georgia Southern University. Besides getting some wonderful reference shots of these graceful creatures, I found myself thinking on the meaning of wings. With angels on my mind lately for several projects I’m working on, I’ve been pondering the reason why so many artists and poets decided to meld these feathery appendages with the human form throughout the ages.
What is it about the inclusion of wings that has marked these beings as divine? Perhaps the ability to fly , an unprecedented thing for early man, makes them boundless? Perhaps the untouchable beauty of watching a bird in flight inspired these artists to try and recapture that awe within the human figure? If ancient man was so fascinated by the impossible prospect of flight that they reflected this need upon angels, why, then, does modern man still find it so fascinating? We have long been capable of flight thanks to the Wright brothers, and yet, most angels are still drawn with wings.
What might an angel look like in modern imagery if we try to reflect what we are incapable of achieving in the depiction of their form, just as ancient man did in adding wings? Instead of a fiery sword, would an archangel carry an AK-47? A dragonscale bulletproof bodysuit over a set of Roman plate mail? These days, instead of wings, most angels in modern movies and books seem to wear long black trench coats and sashay dramatically with long, gorgeous locks of hair. Even more, these seemingly pure creatures have become sensual and human in a way that has added an edgy fascination for many.
Whatever the reason, I can personally see why early man might have chosen to give a human the grace of a bird, just from peeking into that world of birds of prey and watching these lightweight hunters float soundlessly on the air, or fly so fast they barely leave an imprint in my vision. Birds really are wondrous creatures…a pity we mainly ignore them because we’re simply too used to them being around us.
I suppose we should thank/blame Windfalcon for this post. She bit me with her bird fever. If anyone’s interested, I’ll be posting up some of the reference footage I shot while at the raptor center at my YouTube page sometime soon once I get permission to do so.
Until next post, enjoy this contemporary take on a classical archangel.
For myself, I think aircraft flight just doesn’t cut it because it’s too disconnected from myself. I’ve been rewatching a lot of Ghibli films lately, so tons of flight visuals going on, and I find the ones that really click with me the most are the ones closest to me. Howl’s demon form doesn’t mean much to me, but the thrill of leaping off a cliff with Nausicaa’s glider… now that’s something I could yearn for. It’s immensely alien, thrilling, and immediate, where it’s just you out there riding the wind.
I think it’s that longing to be at home in a foreign element, the same as some people are captivated by sea creatures and the immense prospect of being alone on the water, and how the salamander has seen a lot of artistic representation (to say nothing of dragons) as a creature at home within fire. We’re very earth-bound creatures, and I think we seek to occupy other spaces as part of that desire to transcend.. be more, do more, achieve more. I’m just rambling now.. but hopefully that makes sense.
Hayley, I really like the idea of humans transcending their earth-bound spaces. I’ve never really thought about it in terms of anything but flying before but it really makes sense in regards to other elements and abilities.
Aaah watching Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth” series right now only fuels this type of pondering for me.