Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Iliescu, Sanda - VM - Laura Merricks

Sanda Iliescu: Angel Crying, with Hope


by Laura Merricks

In I Thessalonians 4:13 the Apostle Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope.” While Paul speaks of physical death in particular, grieving with hope in the face of any loss is a daily struggle for those who live in a broken and weedy world yet work to hold onto the promise of wholeness we have in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We should grieve the loss of a loved one, a job, or a dream disappointed. But we can also, in the same moment, look in hope to a God who loves us and grieves with us.

This angel is one in a series by Sanda Iliescu. She writes about her angels: "These angels were not anticipated: I did not make a conscious decision to draw angels. The subject simply grew from certain feelings one day. I felt very low. I felt like crying. Somehow, as an act of defiance—a sort of resistance if you will—I picked up a pen and drew a figure crying. Perhaps this was a sort of self-portrait, but a self-portrait that did not really look like me. In fact, I did not know whether this was a man or woman or child. But, as I drew, I felt a sense of compassion for this unknown person. After drawing the tears, I began wanting to give this figure (this child or man or woman crying) something to hold on to—something that was not entirely hopeless. So, without really knowing why, I had a desire to draw wings. And so, the figure crying became an angel.”

Hope as an act of defiance isn’t always immediately met with the realization of that hope. Rather, small shards of barely perceptible light are often the answer, as Iliescu’s angel’s experience shows. We do not know how long the angel has been in this posture of weeping and hoping, but those cries have been efficacious; the sky is reaching or bowing down in response. The sun, a recurring image in Iliescu’s work, also seems to rise up to meet the angel's pleading, perhaps representing a new day when hope is more fully realized. And the iconic simplicity of the drawing invites everyone, of every age, to join this angel in honest grieving and honest hope."


Sanda Iliescu: Angel Crying, with Hope, 2019, ink wash on paper, 25.4 x 20.3 cm.

Sanda Ilescu was born in Romania. She received her BSE in Civil Engineering and her Masters in Architecture from Princeton University. She is a well-known and beloved professor of art and architecture at University of Virginia (Charlottesville, USA), winning the National Beginning Design Faculty award in 2017. She has exhibited her art globally and has received many prestigious awards including the Rome Prize, a McDowell fellowship, and the Distinguished Artist Award of the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. Her writings on art and design, includes the book The Hand and the Soul: Aesthetics and Ethics in Architecture and Art and the forthcoming Looking Deeply: Essays on Art, Architecture, and Design as well as countless articles such as  “The Garden as Collage,” “Beyond Cut-And-Paste,” and “Art and Community: Making Public Art on a University Campus.” With her students she has created many public art projects, responding to current campus and world issues of discrimination and violence. See Les Yeux du Monde, Ilescu’s Charlottesville art gallery.

Laura Merricks is a photographer, writer, editor, and mother of three living in Charlottesville, Virginia (USA) where she volunteers with a local nonprofit community development organization and admires the work of local artists like Iliescu.

ArtWay Visual Meditation 5 January 2020