Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Wings of Desire"

"There are angels walking among us . . ."

I collect angel artwork. I'm fascinated by how many cultures have angels images and how those images both vary and are similar. For example, I took the picture above from a bowl in the Greek/Roman collection at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art in last month.

A few years ago, I bought some angel items that were in a collection of a young woman's estate, which included a large wooden folk art angel, a ceramic plaque with two musical angels and a modern ceramic wall flower holder. The angel with trumpet ornament is a Christmas decoration.

Other figures in my collection include a large folk art angel at top, a realistic Spanish statue of S. Raphael, a beautifully painted small hanging Russian angel, a silver/gold candle holder, plate with angel and three kings, and a modern folk angel. Above all is a framed Christmas card.

There are several movies with angels, including It's a Wonderful Life and Heaven Can Wait. In The Bishop's Wife (1947), angel Cary Grant falls in love with mortal Loretta Young.

A similar theme is developed in one of my favorite films,

The Wings of Desire (1987). [The film was remade in 1998 as City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan.]

In Wings of Desire, the main character Damiel is an angel who wants to become human and experience love. My favorite scene of the film is when Damiel and the angel Cassiel walk into the public library and observes the readers sitting with their guardian angels whispering to them. I began thinking of libraries in a totally different way.

In literature, there's Elizabeth Knox's The Vintner's Luck which develops a similar theme as the above. in 1809 Frenchman Sobran Jodeau encounters an angel named Xas who Sobran determines is his guardian angel. For the rest of Sobran's life, the two develop a homo-erotic earthly relationship that goes way beyond the relationship Sobran and the reader expect.

Two graphic novels about angels come to mind.

The first, in two parts, is Yslaire's From Cloud 99: Memories Part One and Memories Part Two. In Yslaire's work, 99-year-old psychologist Eva Stern gets a series of emails from an anonymous sender with pictures documenting events in her life and the world of the 20th century and showing an angel in space who looks like her lost brother. With an assistant, she tries to decipher the messages, which seem to say that her brother is an angel--and eternal.

The second graphic novel, Murder Mysteries, is by writer Neil Gaiman and artist P. Craig Russell. A bum joins a stranger on a bench and begins telling him a story of how he is actually the angel of vengeance and how he solved the first murder of an angel. Why he is telling the story is another mystery.

Above is the angel from my Everyman paper doll set, done in the style of Albrecht Durer.

Below are more of my angel collection: first is a Balinese angel which I acquired at a garage sale. At right is a modern wooden folk African angel.

First is a 1980 Hallmark Christmas angel with lute, designed by Donna Lee; a 1997 Hallmark African-American angel with goblet; a Fontanini standing angel; large Fontanini wall angel with lute.

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