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We see these different historical influences developed to an even greater narrative complexity in Blessing of the Animals. This tapestry depicts the annual blessing of the animals at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Maffei’s depiction of this event, like the extended portraits of her family members in “The New York Times Series” is filtered through her experience and memory. This 79″ x 57″ tapestry presents a frontal view of the church with the roof removed, a perspective we saw used in the depiction of an apartment in Two Men. Streaming along the edges of the building are hundreds of people and pets. The crowd is a patchwork of colored shapes, a sea that dissolves into pattern, reminiscent of her earlier movie theater. The choir sings in the nave of the church and a banner of antiphonal music stretches across the top of the image, as though the voices have risen through the space of the cathedral. Maffei presents, in this tapestry, not only a sequence of spatial perspectives, but also a chronological sequence, starting with the congregation of people and pets outside the cathedral, their entry into the church, their participation in the service and the singing of the choir.

Susan Martin Maffei, NY Times – Travel, 87" x 42", 1996

Continuous narratives, in which events that occur at different times are condensed into one image are common in Medieval European tapestry and are often organized through architectural features, as Maffei does here. For example, the tapestry of Herkinbald’s Miraculous Communion shows the use of columns to organize the different parts of the story. The combination of the incredibly dense crowd, which merges into an overall flat pattern of color and the black and white, architecturally detailed rendering of the church, shown in a frontal, cut away and bird’s eye view shows the diverse approaches that Maffei integrates into her distinctive style. Various perspectives and representational styles are combined to offer us the fullest experience of the narrative.

Susan Martin Maffei, "Blessing of the Animals" 79" x 59", 1999.

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