Countless people email asking about the awe-inspiring ribbons that hang from the ceiling of Grace Cathedral. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Anne Patterson—the world-renown artist behind this beautiful instillation.
You are an artist in residence at Grace Cathedral. What exactly is that and how were you chosen for such an honor?
The Reverend Jane Shaw who is the Dean at Grace came up with the idea of an artist in residence at the cathedral. Art has always been an important part of the Cathedral but never before had there been this specific position. Dean Shaw recognizes how important the arts are to a spiritual practice and created this position to bring the arts into the cathedral in an official capacity. Jane and I were introduced through a mutual friend who had seen a production I had designed and directed for the San Francisco Symphony. At our first meeting in my studio in NYC we really hit it off. I realized immediately what an amazing opportunity was been presented to me and went into high gear to make my year as artist in residence something very special.
How did you get the idea for the ribbons?
Right from the start I knew I wanted to create an installation that was interactive and moved people deeply.
I spent a lot of time watching people enter the cathedral. Almost every visitor looks up – if not right away, then eventually. I wanted to reference the height of the space and recognize and intensify our connection to that which we are all looking up towards – that which I call spirit. I had worked with satin ribbons in the theater before and knew the magic they could inspire if lit properly. And I can not underestimate the power of intention. I was determined to create something beautiful that moved people. That was my intention. Then I tried to put my fears aside – all the stupid stories we tell ourselves about not being good enough – and I tried to stay open to ideas and inspiration. I discuss more of this below.
Music played an important role in the creation of this installation. Can you explain how the music inspired you and how you choose the musician?
I have synesthesia which means I see color and shape when I hear music. Joshua Roman, the cellist who performed the first concert that inaugurated the opening of Graced With Light – The Ribbon Project was rehearsing in the cathedral when I was sketching up my initial ideas for the installation. There was something about the way his notes traveled through the space that brought to mind strands of light traveling heavenward. Joshua named the piece he composed for the opening “Riding Light”. I am a very collaborative artist and get some of my best ideas talking and sharing with other artists. Abby McKee, Grace’s Director of Cultural Events and I chose the two musicians, Joshua Roman and Paul Haas. We considered many musicians but these amazing talents were the two who spoke to us most strongly. Paul Haas had gone to The Cathedral School so he was the perfect fit for a piece composed for the men and boy’s choir.
What is the significance of red and blue ribbons?
The blue ribbons were installed first and represent our higher power. The red ribbons were installed in late June and include written prayers, dreams and wishes. They represent the human dimension of the installation. The white panels which were hung up in October represent the spirit.
The installation will be removed in the coming months. What is the thinking behind this? I know many visitors to the cathedral are sad to know they will be coming down.
Dean Shaw explained it this way, “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to see it go away but, you know, everything has its life.” However I am creating a piece of art using some of the ribbons from the installation. This new piece will have a permanent home in the cathedral.
You frequently attend Yoga on the Labyrinth when you are in San Francisco. How do you see yoga and meditation influencing your artwork?
I have been meditating and working on the idea of myself as a channel. A vessel for inspiration and creativity to flow through. I’ve been rereading Shakti Gawain’s “Living in the Light”. For me it is a very simple yet profound book. One of her premises is that what we put out into the world is exactly what is given back to us. I find that through both meditation and yoga I can keep my own channel open and manifest the things I want for myself, the people I love and the world around me. Both yoga and meditation are very important to me as an artist. Not only are both very restorative and centering for me but yoga and meditation also help me to sift through the busyness of my life and recognize where I want to put my energies and creativity. I also love the community aspect of yoga. The Yoga on the Labyrinth is profound in that regard. All these wonderful people manifesting health, joy and peace together. I feel so honored that my ribbons get to a part of that exchange. When the ribbons start dancing as the yoga heats up it is a magical moment.
Learn more about Anne Patterson at her WEBSITE
or by reading her recent interview in the San Francisco Chronicle.