Felix Coeli Porta


fresco on frescoed wall

Titled after a phrase found in choral music, Felix Coeli Porta (joyful portal to the heavens) is a site-specific fresco at Museo de la Ciudad, Queretaro, Mexico. Situated in one of the museum’s open courtyards the painting occupies the upper corner of an existing fresco; a fading remnant of a decorative doorway on a wall of the former Capuchin convent. Made in the traditional fresco technique of painting on wet lime plaster, it depicts a small portal to the night sky. An imagined space inspired by byzantine stellar representations and NASA photography, this gesture responds to the layers of the wall and its surrounding architecture while creating a more detailed image of the stars, rare in fresco because of the narrow window of time allowed for painting.

The site’s history reveals itself physically through several manifestations of doorways: the three-dimensional arches of the open courtyard, a stone doorway that was at one time passable but is now walled, and the remnant of the painted doorway – a spiritual metaphor for passage and threshold. These variations are echoed in Felix Coeli Porta as layers are removed and built up again with reverence for the tradition of fresco and the long history of mural painting in Mexico in all its manifestations over the centuries, a tradition that has always been site specific, whether in relation to sacred spaces and architecture or to cultural/political conditions. Felix Coeli Porta proposes a portal into this small piece of night sky, a glimpse upon the ultimate and constant portal, one that connects past and future, our way inward and outward.

With special thanks to Maria Guadalupe Sanchez Olvera, specialist in painting restoration, for advice and technical partnership, and to the Alberta College of Art & Design for financial support.