Lewis deSoto
Empire of Eternity (proposal), 2000
Jacquard tapestry

This project is entitled, “The Empire of Eternity.” The words are connected to an essay by Dr. King, “Transformed Nonconformist.” In this essay, Dr. King speaks about the pressure to conform borne on us by society. He suggests that those of conviction strike a different path than those of conformity. He places this as a struggle between worlds; true Christians are citizens of two worlds, the world of time (society, laws, a human lifetime) and eternity (morality, human history, God and the kingdom of love). He says, “Living in the colony of time, we are ultimately responsible to the empire of eternity.” The central image I use an unpublished photograph by Ivan Massar, documenting the 1965 March between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. In this image, the Dr. and Mrs. King are pictured walking with a large crowd of people on a street. In this image, the figure of Dr. King is replaced with a silhouette of stars. This image of the stars is also echoed in the ceiling panels. This creates a link between the “colony of time” as he calls it, and the “empire of eternity”. The image of this historic march is rendered as a tapestry, in keeping with the pictorial traditions of gothic decorative arts. The Jacard loom, created to mechanize the creation of tapestries was the first working computer, using punched cards to program the looms to create patterns and images. The image has been digitized using a palette based on the thread colors used in the loom, created the illusion of a photograph rendered in 24 thread colors per inch. The tapestry would be created in three seven foot wide panels and hung together from hidden metal brackets attached to the wall in the South Hall Lobby. Directly in front of this image on the floor is a maze. The maze is another typical feature of gothic cathedral architecture. While the maze or labyrinth has served many purposes in many cultures, in medieval Europe they symbolized the path to Christian salvation. The design of the maze used here is from the Hilton Cathedral in Abingdonshire, England and is approximately 30’ in diameter. The image of this maze is a direct connection to the image of the march pictured in the tapestry. It suggests that all of us are walking a maze of occurrences, its twists and turns determined by our actions and the time in which we live. The maze invites the community to follow it, to serve on a meditative march. When one arrives at the center, one finds the quote, Living in the colony of time, we are ultimately responsible to the empire of eternity. – Lewis deSoto