The Alterpiece

A Masterwork Triptych by Mark Rucker

Hear the Story Behind this Masterwork

Part 1

Introduction

In the 1980s, I set out to create a modern version of a medieval triptych, a three part painting. I completed two canvases of the three, but barely got started on the central panel. It was not until 2021 that I was able to coalesce the ideas and forces that would manifest the piece.

-Mark Rucker

In 2022, I finished it.

The Alterpiece by Mark Rucker

Part 2

Triptych History

The Eisenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald

The triptych involves three paintings placed in a folding frame, which presents different aspects of a story when opened or closed.

Triptych art became popular in Europe in the late 14th century and blossomed in the 15th century with Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece appearing in 1516.

Art was used as an ancient form of emotional and visual control.

Christian churches have historically used art, paintings, and sculptures to maintain and promote the history of Christ’s suffering to their parishioners. In many traditional Christian churches, anguish and pain are the visual messages one sees when first entering. Although this model is brutal, it can be an effective form of emotional control.

Source: Smarthistory

One of the medieval church’s many missions was a medical one.

The Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald was designed as a healing tool to provide aid and comfort to those suffering from the bubonic plague and St. Anthony’s fire.

The triptych was left closed for most of the year, then, for healing purposes, would be ceremonially opened on specific dates within the liturgical calendar.

Part 3

Grünewald’s work as inspiration for The Alterpiece

Grünewald’s imagery dealt with the past – stories on which the church was built – and connected it with the work of The Order of St. Anthony and the medical technology of the time.

With that in mind, both masterworks are about technology – the the technology that measures life and death in a clinical setting. And the technology with which the state kills its citizens.

There’s a raw, gruesome horror in Matthias Grünewald’s paintings of Christ and the crucifixion… almost primitive in their stark spareness.

Mark Rucker’s ‘The Alterpiece’ transports the crucifixion into modern times.

Part 4

Observations

This piece has a function as yet unknown. There are those who have seen it as transformative. Some have hinted at healing properties. Others have flatly rejected it as blasphemous.

4a

Common themes

Punishment and vengeance. Fear and cruelty. Street justice… and murder by the state. Both works deal with these issues.

Both pieces are virtual cartoons… with exaggerated limbs, exaggerated perspectives and exaggerated facial expressions… carrying the story to a dangerous and unfamiliar place… where the transfer of healing energy can occur.

4b

Eye movement

Art is always in the eye of the beholder. Notice how the Central Disk, the televangelist, and the coroner are all on the same sight level. This tells a story as the two separate paintings sit side-by-side together.

Notice how the eye always goes back to the Central Disk when the work is open. The Central Disc represents faith and salvation… which implies the power of healing.

4c

Closed versus Open

Concealed vs Revealed

When closed, this piece tells a story of societal misery and man’s inhumanity to man. When open, the message becomes light, salvation and release. Two different stories.

4d

Look at the Details

The viewing room is sterile. The medical room is sterile. Emotions vary on each face… as each person is doing a different job. Notice that the camera woman comes from Channel 666.

On the left, the prisoner in the execution chair has electrified metal straps above his hands that will burn through his clothes and create marks on his wrists much like the stigmata of Christ.

On the right, look at the dead victim on the autopsy table. Notice there is a bleeding gash just below the rib cage on the left, much like Christ’s wounding on the cross.

4e

Perspective

Notice on the left that the execution scene offers a straight-on view of events… and is clearly located in the earthly realm as the power of the state executes this man.

The right panel has a view from above. There is a post-mortem going on. This view let’s us know that the spirit of the victim has left his body. A spiritual transition is taking place.

Part 5

The Masterwork Structure

The Alterpiece by Mark Rucker

Carefully Crafted

This Masterwork Triptych was created using natural wood, canvas, oil paint and steel. This massive piece is over six feet tall and six feet wide… an imposing 203cm x 193cm.

Carefully Crafted

This Masterwork Triptych was created using natural wood, linen canvas and steel. This massive piece is over six feet tall and six feet wide… an impressive 203cm x 193cm.

 

The Central Disc

The disc is framed by an inset circle of white ash. The disc is placed at an average eye level height of 63 inches (160 cm) from the floor. The disc is made of steel. The image on it is baked enamel.

Central Disc - The Alterpiece by Mark Rucker

The central disc

The disc is framed by an inset circle of white ash. The disc is placed at an average eye level height of 63 inches (160 cm) from the floor. The disc is made of steel. The image on it is baked enamel.

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