Houston is typically associated with oil – not art, with commerce – not contemplation. But they came together in the Rothko Chapel. It was oil money that enabled this unique sanctuary for meditation. And a whole set of museums in Houston.
Houston art patrons Dominique Schlumberger de Menil and John de Menil built the chapel in 1964 and commissioned noted modern artist Mark Rothko (1903-1970) to “create a sacred place” with his paintings. Dominique was heir to the Schlumberger oil-equipment fortune. And John, a banker, became president of two Schlumberger branches.
The Rothko Chapel, located in the museum district in Houston, is a fairly small place. Rectangular on the outside, octagonal on the inside, its eight walls are home to 14 huge Rothko paintings. They’re somber – black and barely perceptible purple. No one knows exactly what he was thinking or why he chose those colors. (The de Menils gave him artistic control).
Some reactions noted in the Chapel’s brochure: The Wall Street Journal in 2011 called the Chapel “an interior of spiritual and artistic subtlety.” Dominique de Menil herself said [somewhat cryptically], “It is a place where a great artist, turned toward the Absolute, had the courage to paint almost nothing – and did it masterfully.”
According to Thuy Tran, the Chapel’s director of advancement and communications, Rothko, late in his career, had evolved into an artist embodying the concept “less is more.” His goal was to “create an experience for the viewer.”
Visiting the Chapel requires you to be more than just a viewer. It’s not a place just to quickly walk through and glance at the paintings. Being there requires you to engage. All this black…. Is it intended for you to contemplate the great abyss? To meditate on the subtleties of the universe? To recognize the darkness of life and emerge into the Houston sunshine committed to bringing light into the world?
Contemplating the massive black canvases with their hints of royal purple requires your participation – attending with your mind, heart, and soul. And that takes courage.
Maybe the Rothko Chapel is not for the faint of heart. After all, it’s billed as an “interfaith sanctuary that champions human rights and nurtures reverence through the integration of art and spirituality.”
To this end, the Chapel offers presentations, films, dialogues, and concerts throughout the year to “elevate the spirit.” When/if you’re in Houston, it’s definitely worth a visit.
Copyright by Bojinka Bishop. March 30, 2104. Photos of the Chapel courtesy of Thuy Tran and the Rothko Chapel.
- Family treasures – Solve a mystery in a museum Remember that quirky cup you drank cocoa from in your childhood? You just might find one like it in a museum. Those doorstops, chairs, vases, teapots, lamps, and bowls sitting casually in your parents’ or grandparents’ homes, those mundane everyday objects, just might be valuable. Do-it-yourself “Antiques Roadshow” One way...
- Celebrate spring, walk an art garden (or cemetery) Art in the outdoors – fresh air, green grass, blossoming trees, sculptures of people, horses, birds, family medallions, mythical gods and goddesses, and an endless array of imaginative creatures await you. Where?...
- It’s all about art… and community “Art is something people can disagree about in a way that brings them together,” Pat Miller said. She should know. Miller has been working in community arts for 30 years and has brought lots of people and organizations together as community volunteer....
FlyingHighSolo.comCelebrating special people, good ideas, and useful actions
Keep on top of what's new – subscribe to Flying High Solo! You'll get a brief email alerting you to new articles. (Your email is safe -- we will not share it with anyone).
What readers are saying
"amazing variety of topics"
"an intelligent, strong, creative, eclectic approach .... that we don't get a chance to read everyday"
"very cool and intelligent"
Bella DePaulo's blog for Psychology Today, "the truth about singlism..." News, analysis, facts, and stories about being single in America
Enjoy these stories? Contribute
Your support can help keep the articles coming. Please donate to help cover web and interview expenses. Thank you for your support!
$5, $10, or ____.
Either send a check to:
Flying High Solo.com
P.O. Box 221712
Denver, CO 80222
Or use PayPal