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Divine Architecture: Artists reveal the deeper meaning beneath the structures of the natural world.
Video produced by Citizen Film as part of The Liberating Lens multimedia exhibition. Dialogue from Alfred Stieglitz’ Letter to Hart Crane, 10 December, 1923.

Alfred Stieglitz
Equivalent, 1925, printed 1927. Gelatin silver print. 4 3/4 in. x 3 3/4 in. Collection SFMOMA, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Gift of Georgia O’Keeffe.
Skies Above
Relatively late in life, Alfred Stieglitz began photographing clouds. He wanted his photos of clouds to say something essential about the nature of photography by conveying the emotion he felt while looking through the viewfinder.

Alfred Stieglitz
In a 1923 letter, Stieglitz wrote to Hart Crane:

I’m most curious to see what the ‘Clouds’ will do to you. About six people have seen them—Men, Women, Girls & young fellows, artists & laymen—all are affected greatly & forget photography entirely. Several people feel I have photographed God…The camera is really a wonder instrument—if you give it its chance.



Submit Your Photos:Contribute to The Liberating Lens multimedia exhibition, produced by the University of Michigan’s Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies in association with Citizen Film. Learn moreOpens link in a new window.

Mt. Sinai
Franz Marc
Gebirge (Mountains) [formerly Landschaft (Landscape)], 1911-12. Oil on canvas. 51 1/2 in. x 39 3/4 in. Collection SFMOMA, Gift of the Women’s Board and Friends of the Museum. Photo: Ben Blackwell.
Shiprock
Creative Commons photograph.
Mt. Sinai
Wikimedia Commons photograph.
Gebirge
Gebirge
Shiprock
Shiprock
Mt. Sinai
Mt. Sinai
On Mountaintop
Across religious traditions, the mountain has stood as a symbol of spiritual mystery and power. From the thundering divine voice atop Mount Sinai in the Bible, to the Native American spirits animating the mesas of New Mexico, mountains have inspired countless artistic and spiritual reflections.
Mountains
In 1911, Franz Marc and Vasily Kandinsky founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), an influential German expressionist movement that championed abstraction as an alternate artistic theology. In Marc’s painting Gebirge (Mountains), our eye is led up the mountain toward the sun, visually suggesting that an inspired abstraction can guide one up the path to spiritual clarity.
Shiprock
Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of the Southwest evoke a landscape that seems both silent and animated by spirits—qualities that parallel the spiritual beliefs of many Native Americans. O’Keeffe was drawn to the stark beauty of the land around Shiprock, not far from her home in New Mexico. The Navajo call the area “Winged Rock,” and it figures prominently in Navajo mythology as a giant bird that carried their ancestors to this location.
Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai is the place where the Jewish people entered into a covenant with God and where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Paradoxically, Jewish tradition doesn’t identify a physical location for the holy mountain. Most references to, and representations of, the mountain come from the Christian tradition, especially after the sixth century, when a monastery was founded at the foot of a mountain in what is now Egypt.
Helen Lundeberg
Helen Lundeberg
Oracle, 1966. Acrylic on canvas. 60 in. x 60 1/8 in. x 2 3/8 in. Collection SFMOMA, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund purchase. © The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation. Photo: Ben Blackwell.
From Inside
Religious traditions often present a holy voice speaking “from above,” perhaps from a mountaintop or from the sky. In the modern, more secular era, many artists and theologians describe the divine voice as a subtler one, closer perhaps to “the still, small voice” that the prophet Elijah strained to hear in the biblical Book of Kings. Helen Lundeberg’s mysterious painting Oracle—a Greek word meaning either a prophet or the physical shrine where a divine voice emanates—evokes a host of natural forms.
What forms does Oracle most evoke for you?

See how others have answered.

Water
Cave
Shell
Throat
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