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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Galleries >> Gallery Two: Travel Incongruities > Divine Dance, Sanctuary of Atotonilco, Atotonilco, Mexico, 2005
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Divine Dance, Sanctuary of Atotonilco, Atotonilco, Mexico, 2005

Angels, demons, saints and martyrs intermingle here to create what some call ďThe Sistine Chapel of The Americas.Ē Thousands of pilgrims travel to this shrine each year to participate in religious exercises. Almost every wall and ceiling of this historic church, which was built in 1740, offers a riotous outpouring of Mexican religious folk art. Seen through contemporary eyes, the entire structure is a study in incongruity. This particular figure, which is attached to the wall by a rod, seems to be levitating when photographed from directly below. This low vantage point also calls attention to the grinning friar at right, who seems to be waving farewell. What we have here is a scene that is best described as a Dance of the Divine. The subjects are incongruous to begin with, and Iíve made them more so by where I chose to stand with camera and what Iíve included or rejected within my frame.

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Phil Douglis06-May-2018 21:38
I agree -- this is an example of incongruous religious iconography that surpasses any other's that I've photographed. Yet we must keep in mind that this art was created in 1740, and intended to communicate religious ideas to essentially uneducated, impoverished, superstitious, and fearful people. For us it may seem to be incongruous fiction, but to them it was an extension of their own beliefs, and perceived as the very hand of God at work. It must have been an unforgettable experience for them to worship in such a place as this.
Merri 06-May-2018 08:33
This is probably the strangest collection of religious iconography I have ever seen. I can't get over that floating saint(?), angel(?) which does indeed pop out of the photo. And the smiling, waiving friar? What _is_ he doing? Kneeling? Standing (on very short legs)? Folk art (and I think this qualifies as such) seems to me to be incongruent by the very nature of its existence. I like how this is further enhanced with the camera.
Phil Douglis09-Jul-2006 05:12
And all of these things you see happening here, Emi, are incongruous events -- the levitating deity, the smirking friar, the coming battle for control, are stuff we don't normally expect to see played out in the aisles of a church. Keep on learning.
Guest 09-Jul-2006 02:11
Its pretty scarey - all the human images here are 2-D images on the wall, but only the levitating one is 3-D and seems like falling. I can imagine especially when you stood under that levitating figure, it was more scarey. Plus the lighting of the church would probably help this feeling grow.

You see the grinning friar at the right is waving farewell, but to me, he seems like a forcus to control the 3-D falling figure. While the falling figure try to get down and land, there comes the friar(a contrast and opposite force)who wants to control the figure and raising him/her up to the sky.

Phil Douglis19-Jun-2006 22:22
It scared me, too, Brian. That is probably why I made this image. I found the entire chapel disorienting and other-worldly, and tried to express that feeling in this image. Thanks for the comment.
Guest 19-Jun-2006 21:57
This is an incredible image... the floating figure is so strange (incongruous) that I find it disturbing. I guess it's a fear of the unknown - the incongruous nature of the floating figure is so powerful that it actually invokes an unconscious fear in me.

Phil Douglis12-Nov-2005 02:26
I find it interesting that you relate more to the angel and the boat as the context here, while I was concentrating on the friar waving goodbye. Now that you mention it, the man being carried to skies on the angel's boat makes it an entirely different expression. Still incongruous, but now about a journey instead of a farewell.
Guest 12-Nov-2005 02:17
It is extreemly incongruous... a pitie that you have said in the text what I was thinking about that picture before reading it!!! :(
Just let me add one little thing, it may seem to that istead of levitating, the figure is taken to the skys un the boat that the angel is holding below.
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