Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

The Windows of Dzyan: Andrew Kosorok’s Theosophical Scrapbook


Dawn Breaks by Andrew Kosorok

Peruse the aisles of any home décor shop and you’ll find an abundance of glassware — decorative, lovely objects meant to serve various purposes. Knowing I would be reviewing the work of Andrew Kosorok, glass artist, MFA student and teacher at Brigham Young University, I asked myself, “What is the difference between the objets d’art at the local mall and actual glass fine art?” I found my answer in Kosorok’s new series of glass works, on display this month at the Special Collections Library at BYU. The objects found at the local curio shops are meant to liven a décor, hold a flower, or beautify an empty shelf. Kosorok’s work may be called beautiful, but they serve a higher purpose. They are visual, physical entities that, through the artist’s philosophic, metaphysical and historical explorations of the spiritual essences of cultures spanning thousands of years, enable a contemplative experience.

Kosorok’s philosophic inquiries into varying spiritual cultures, manifestations of gods, saints, martyrs, deities, visions of heaven and hell are unraveled by a careful, in-depth look into his work and his approach to the medium of glass. Through excruciatingly complicated symbolism, Kosorok’s work probes and unlocks the essence of various cultures. Glass is the medium Kosorok is expert with and the vehicle for his metaphysical metaphors, which take as much time to plan as they do to create- thousands of years of culture, a thousand hours to render.

The Four Crowned Martyrs by Andrew Kosorok

Kosorok’s creations are as beautiful as they are meaningful. His focus is on Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, aboriginal, Native American and ancient American cultures and their beliefs and ideology. Like objects of devotion, his works aim toward enlightenment and veneration in a contemporary, postmodern sense. His intellectual and metaphysical approach is manifest in the complex symbolism which elicits every facet contained in each of his pieces. There are no arbitrary forms but concentrated meaning, layer upon layer that elucidate the culture and the unique spirituality of each that ignite an informative discourse into such metaphysical realms. His pieces are unique to each doctrine, giving the feeling that an individual sculptor had done each. This alludes to Kosorok’s own philosophy and his erudite understanding of his subjects; these and his love of the medium are the driving forces behind his work that enable him to achieve a symbiosis of content and form in his creations.

“Dawn Breaks” is a virtual “Dome of the Rock.” Highly geometric, each unit alludes to a spiritual symbol of Islam, using numerical systems and symbology exclusive to Islamic art and architecture. An example is the use of the number 113, which not only is apparent in the cutting method of the sacred shrine housed within the edifice, a cubed structure, but references section 113 of the Koran, a prayer against ignorance. Inside this form is imprisoned an almost imperceptible headless demon of ignorance, a metaphor and a testament to knowledge which is awe inspiring in form and content.

Daibutsu in Lotus Blossom

Form and content are much a part of Kosorok’s work, such as the figure of “Daibutsu in Lotus Blossom” wherein Buddhist philosophy is given life in the open petals of this 16 sectioned flower. A portrait cut in glass of the Daibutsu at Nara, Japan, is rendered throughout the composition in major, while each petal either represents one of the eight avatars associated with each compass point or one of the eight celestial orders of beings with allegiance to Buddha, derived from Japanese texts, are represented in the minor. These are celestial guards of Buddha, beautifully crafted in a delicate flower of divinity, simple in grace yet complex in articulation and meaning.

An equally complex figurative segment of the series is a nine piece configuration titled “Four Crowned Martyrs.”|2| Each of the pieces is an ingenuously constructed medieval-type reliquary, devotional objects relegated to each martyr. In the construction of the “reliquaries,” Kosorok etched and colored in glass the individual faces of each martyr, and then spliced each in fifteen squares and then reassembled them into one unit. This unity alludes to their common cause and common suffering. As fitting, each reliquary contains a relic unique to each martyr, a tool of their sanctity as patrons of sculpture.

The most monumental of the works which will be seen in the show is called “Seven Deadly Sins.” It consists of thirteen panels of glass aligned on a large metal frame, each carved with aboriginal or Native American symbols reflecting the subject of Dante guided by Virgil through the depths of Inferno, a passage from “The Divine Comedy.” It is a metaphorical journey into the abyss, a medieval subject told contemporaneously, as might be illuminated in stained glass of medieval cathedrals. Much of the significance of this episode is relevant today: visions of the afterlife, and Kosorok uses glass to create what was once believed literally. However he uses a different semiotic than the medieval through his aboriginal and Native American iconography.

“Avarice” by Andrew Kosorok

A more small-scale yet in no way less meaningful approach is taken in the work “Codex Vitreum — Book of Glass,” which inquires into Mayan metaphysical culture of deity prior to the Spanish Conversion. It is a construction of glass panels placed together in an accordion method. Each panel is a passage from the Mayan Almanac, the four that remained after the arrival of the Spaniards. The almanac dictates the manner by which the god Itzamna is to be worshipped on any given day of the year. Kosorok’s “Codex” reveals the story of the original creation and illustrates various iconography of the God as dictated by the four extant books. Kosorok’s concern for historical detail and understanding led him to consult an expert in Mayan linguistics to create the title of the book using original Mayan Text, reading “Book of glass/made and built by/a man from the Kosorok family.”

Codex Vitreum — Book of Glass

Such work as Andrew Kosorok’s will never be used to ornate bookshelves or to serve to be used as a table setting, but are studies in metaphysics captured in glass. They are works that serve a specific purpose to be appreciated for what they are — erudite examinations of metaphysical aspects of numerous cultures unraveled in fine articulation of the medium. Medieval Christian observers learned of their creed through icons, the Muslim worshipper through symbolic architecture, the ancient through sculpture and text. These ideologies, long forgotten, are rendered for today’s viewer in an historical documentation in glass. Said Kosorok: “These are different approaches to holy societies to live in harmony with a divine will.”

Windows of Dzyan: A Theosophical Scrapbook will be at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Room 1130 Harold B. Lee Library BYU April 7-May 5

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