Rothko Chapel

Inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas. Paintings by Mark Rothko, 1964-67
Inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas. Paintings by Mark Rothko, 1964-67

I learned about this place in one of my college art history classes. I’ve never been there, and honestly, I don’t desire to be there. I’d like to stare at the paintings, but in an art museum format, not a chapel format. I would not like to worship at the Rothko chapel because I do not think God would approve of me worshiping Him in a place where someone else might come to worship a different god. I might be wrong about that, but in any case, I would be uncomfortable there.

The paintings themselves, fourteen large black-forms by the American abstract artist, Mark Rothko–they are not easily dismissed from my mind. All black, but not flat black. A background color shows through, creating different blacks. And they are big enough to lose oneself in. If I were to stare into one, would it draw me inward, like closing my eyelids and concentrating on the blackness in front of my eyes? Or would it draw my thoughts away, perhaps to a higher spiritual level, or to a memory that can only be recalled in the quiet, blank times of rest, or maybe it relaxes the visual senses enough so the other senses are more attuned. I don’t know the answer. But in the absence of visual stimulation, something else must come to the fore, which leads me to believe that Rothko’s paintings are not about what we see with our eyes. They are about what happens when we see them with our eyes.

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2 thoughts on “Rothko Chapel”

  1. There’s a Rothko at the Milwaukee Museum of Art. A bench has been placed at a comfortable distance before it and I like to sit for a few minutes and look at it when I visit. You’ve made the point succinctly in your last two sentences, I think. “It’s about what happens when we see them with our eyes.”

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