“Les Colombes” soars in New York church

Thousands of white paper origami doves suspended from the ceiling at the Church of the Heavenly Rest. (Photo/Pamela A. Lewis)

By Pamela A. Lewis

From Jerusalem to Munich, Salisbury and London, and most recently Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, the art installation “Les Colombes” (“Doves”) has been journeying around the globe since 2007. Now in its first East Coast venue, the extraordinary display is on view at the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York through August 18.

Michael Pendry, an artist, set designer and actor, created “Les Colombes.” At Heavenly Rest, the installation was created in partnership with Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, an organization that provides college education, life skills, and reentry support to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women.

Photo/Pamela A. Lewis

Thousands of white origami doves were folded by members of Hudson Link, New York City schoolchildren, Heavenly Rest parishioners and people around the world. The work is intended to bring attention to the issue of mass incarceration in the United States, and also explore what “release” means to individuals in prison or recently released. Those who folded the doves wrote messages of peace, resilience and hope, and their thoughts on the concept of “release.

With its lofty, Gothic-inspired dimensions, the 150-year-old Heavenly Rest’s high-vaulted ceiling is the perfect backdrop against which the paper doves “fly” (suspended by almost invisible cables) above the nave in an entrancing serpentine formation. “The doves create an atmosphere of calmness, gentleness and virtue as they fly through the air in an arrangement which appears to be a loose flock of birds. Folded by so many people, the doves in their unity stand for the right to peace and freedom for all people,” Pendry said.

“Les Colombes” is the culmination of the first year of programming under the new arts initiative at Heavenly Rest that has included group, solo, and collaborative exhibitions, as well as educational and spiritual programming focused on those shows.

For more information, contact Lucas Thorpe, program organizer, at lthorpe@heavenlyrest.org.

Pamela A. Lewis writes about topics of faith. She attends Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City.