Rylan Steele & Nora Wendl

Ave Maria

Such is the rhetoric of paradise. A longing that cannot be uttered.

The natural tendency of all things is to cease to exist. Here, I have tried to carve another


out of acres of disorder and silence.

To resist the world is to admit that there is an unbreaking
absence at the heart of life. Here, I have tried to find a way to
surround it, to put a roof over it. To extend the eaves in a line
that mirrors the earth’s own horizon, that brings some sense of
scale to the infinite. I could fill each room with furniture, could
patch together the wires that might signal in on a suspended
flat-screen monitor the events of some remote adventure, have
the electrician number the artificial lumens that flood each
surface, but it is the absence that you would recognize first, and
you would know it by many names.

It is difficult to locate God.


we have not yet gone far enough.
God does exist, but is confined elsewhere.
we lack the requisite apparatus for detecting Him.

I am talking about building a place in which God is present.
I am talking about aligning earthly materials.
I am talking about God’s appearance in this space.
I am talking about the reason for song.
I am talking about trying to predict through which openings God enters.
I am talking about through which openings we return to him.
I am asking, in how many temples can God exist at once?

God’s money wants impossible things. God’s money wants to
turn a swamp into a town, to stave off the onslaught of Florida:

the humidity and moisture and plants and animals that do not
relent, whose only purpose is an unholy devouring.

The water is especially difficult. One must structure the ground
to be able to hold a building. There are many possibilities—
filling the ground with sand, making raft foundations or driving
piles deep into the earth.

I suppose there are reasons that Eden never had any buildings.
Once Adam and Eve realized in their nakedness that they

needed to be protected, they were driven out. They sought the
sanctuary of concrete and a cacophony of water-impervious

They shivered, though it was warm.

Rylan Steele & Nora Wendl

Nora Wendl is Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of New Mexico and Associate Professor of Architecture at Portland State University. Her compositions upon architecture and its histories have resulted in numerous exhibitions, performances, and publications. She is co-editor of Contemporary Art About Architecture (Ashgate, 2013), with Isabelle Loring Wallace and author of the concrete poetry collection Glass Document (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016). In collaboration with photographer Rylan Steele, she was recognized as a finalist for the 2015 Lange-Taylor Prize by the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. She is widely published in numerous journals, including 306090, Architecture and Culture: Journal of the Architectural Humanities Research Association, Flyway, Forty-Five, Journal of Architectural Education, Offramp, On Site: Review, Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, and Thresholds. Over the past decade, she has presented, performed and exhibited her poems and artifacts at numerous national and international venues including, most recently, the Biennale Sessions at La Biennale di Venezia.

Rylan Steele

Rylan Steele is Associate Professor of Photography at Columbus State University. He has multiple degrees in photography including: an A.S. from the Southeastern Center for Photographic Studies, a BFA from Florida International University and a MFA from the University of Georgia. His work, which is focused on adaptations of interior work environments and the history and use of Florida’s master planned communities, has been featured in numerous regional and national exhibition spaces. In 2015, he was a finalist for both the Hudgens Prize and, with Nora Wendl, the Lange- Taylor Prize at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies.

About the Project

Ave Maria is forthcoming from Savannah-based Aint-Bad Editions in July 2016. This book brings together Rylan Steele's photographs of Ave Maria, Florida--a Catholic intentional community founded by Tom Monaghan, founder and former CEO of Domino's Pizza--and poems by Nora Wendl in response to those photographs. The italicized lines in the poems are quotes derived from the following disparate external sources, including (substantially) the texts that Monaghan acknowledges were most influential to him in the decision to divest himself of his personal wealth, and in the planning and production of Ave Maria. John Szarkowski, “Mirrors and Windows,” in American Photography Since 1960 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978), Lewis Mumford, The Story of Utopias (New York: The Viking Press, 1922), Dolores Hayden, Seven American Utopias (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1976), C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952), and the King James Bible. Direct quotes from John Monaghan, also italicized, were sourced from Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and other popular news sources.