Category Archives: Contemplation

Paradox: Self-Promotion and Humility

If artists do not promote themselves no one else will. In fact no one else will even know that his or her work exists. Yet for a follower of Jesus, the example is humility, and oh yes, Jesus always promoted himself. What? Or did he?

Jesus often told people who he was and why he had come. He taught people about his Father. In fact his main focus was on the Father’s love for people.

Jesus did not promote himself for selfish reasons. I have to admit that Jesus revealed whom he was in ways that made him unpopular. Where am I going with this? I am not sure.

As an artist I need to sell my work. My work is often not easily accessible and needs to be explained. To explain I need a platform. To get a platform I need to promote myself and my work.

I find myself wondering what Jesus would have been like in his decade or so of working in the carpenter shop. I know the workmanship would have been superb. His dealing would have been honest. The work would have been on time and under budget. But, how would he make sales?

Perhaps the world as he knew it then has changed dramatically. (He continues to know it as he is still with us through his resurrection.) In the village, there may have been a carpenter’s guild. People would have known him and his work well because of word of mouth and the reputation of Joseph’s work. The work probably came to him. Jesus, I imagine, would have worked humbly without promoting his work or himself. In fact, his work, by its nature may have been self-effacing, yet he is the Creator of the whole world.

As a carpenter in a village he would have created functional items from time-tested designs. He did not work then as a wood artist or sculptor. What is the difference between making functional items and creating original work that is experimental, ephemeral, conceptual, thought provoking or just plain beautiful? I do not know the answer.

My work is more like the latter. In a tough economy people buy what they need to function in daily life: plates, cups, and bowls. Their focus is on survival. In these days of fake news, and especially real news, paying the bills is paramount.

Galleries suffer in down times yet art is deep and creative in a culture under duress. I think of the Dada movement of WWII. Art was made that deliberately made no sense – and it helped the artists to keep their sanity when their work was declared an affront to the state and they were deported or left.

Actually it was an affront to the state. That is why it was created. The state had gone wild. Artists had the courage to reflect this.

Anyway, that art did not sell then but now is literally worth millions. The German artist Kurt Schwitters, known as the father of modern collage, created small collages out of whatever crossed his path as he lived in a prisoner of war camp in Scotland. Work that would now be worth millions was thrown in the garbage by the guards. I saw a small collage he made one year in the Vancouver Art Gallery, 8 x 10, browned with age, bits of ordinary paper. I ask, how could this be worth millions?

It brings me back to the big questions, what is art, what is the artist, who is the viewer, what makes someone buy art? Is art worth dying for? I ask here for your answers, tell me.

 

LifeStrife

“Life/Strife” Mixed Media Collage DS

 

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Life of a Princess

We think of our own floods and fires and family challenges yet even the life of a princess can be difficult. Perhaps loved leaders have the most difficult lives of all.

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a tragic car accident in Paris. Uncertainty and intrigue were woven through her life and continue about her untimely death.

She was photogenic and articulate, perhaps an introvert thrown into the limelight. She chose to be a princess but had no idea of what it would cost: everything. Yet her sons and her humanitarian work remain.

Diana lives on also in our minds. She became a part of our daily lives. We both celebrated and swooned with her through the ups and downs of her life. We vicariously joined in her courageous work and in her painful break up. Her dresses, jewelry and latest hairstyle formed an opinion in us. We remember where we were when we watched her wedding on TV and where we were when we saw that infamous Paris tunnel over and over again.

We have lived high and low along with her. We cried and prayed for the boys. We are as proud as Diana would have been at how they have turned out.

Blessings to you dear William and Harry as you remember your beloved mother.

http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/tributes-laid-at-kensington-palace-for-diana-anniversary-1.3569664

 

John 16:33 

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 

 

Wisdom of the Rose Trellis

 

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“Rose Trellis” iPhoto DS 2017

There was a time when the family bloomed full red roses with green leaves. Yes, there were thorns but they were hidden (albeit sharply felt here and there). The scent of the rose trellis sparked instant praise. It was never as perfect as envisioned but it was good, very good.

At some point a deconstruction process took over. Deaths devastated, divorces divided, misunderstandings abounded and confusion set in. Thorns were easily visible tearing all who went too near. Even surface beauty was interrupted with too many dead branches and dry leaves. Blight had attacked with its polka dots of black and aphids crawled in white. Drought had yellowed the surrounding landscape.

Gee it was ugly.

It was thought that the deaths should be forgotten, pruned out for new growth to form – but they held the live branches tall, and gave them strength to hold to the trellis. It was decided to leave these wild elders – ignored yes, but not forgotten memories. The fertilizer of counseling was applied here and there to undisciplined stems.

Soon buds appeared of cranberry, crimson and carmine, attached to vivid green shoots. A tall vine shot up beyond the highest part of the trellis arch. Graduations and new births graced the family. Forgiveness had been planted. Rains came.

Through it all the trellis made of prayer held it all together – dead, alive and bedraggled parts. Tangles are still there. Somewhere it was written that confusion precedes change. A construction site can look chaotic yet the site supervisor knows and implements the building plan. By faith I say that it must also be so with the family. Perhaps again others will enjoy its innate beauty and be stilled by its scent.  Selah.

“After you have suffered a little while … then the promise…” Book of First Peter

“A trellis is a support system for a vine or plant that enables it to grow upward and bear fruit… a vine must have a trellis to support and guide its growth or it will slump to the ground.” God in My Everything, Ken Shigematsu

Lanterns and a List Poem

Harmony Arts Festival

“Harmony Arts Festival 2017” iPhoto, DS

 

Things that Give me Peace

A poem of early morning prayers complete

A bedside exercise remembered

Opening the door for a cool breath

Coffee strong with microwaved milk

Viewing email over the forested mountains

Cedars with cones swaying

Multi-layered birdsong

The first kiss

Caesar salad with prawns

Forbidden reading while eating

A painted idea

An invitation to meet

Coloured lanterns by the sea

A talk with just you and me

Watching Crown on TV

Local gallery hopping

Purging abundant art files

Divesting the studio of heaps

A gathering of thinkers

A party of prayers

A class expected

A sleeping child

Research in progress

Writing as process

Words on a page

Violet celadon crimson

Poems published

Paintings juried in

Music rising inside and

Escaping as joy.

 

DS August 2017

https://harmonyarts.ca/

 

 

 

Experiences of Art Series – Sheryl M.

Bio:

Raised in a Christian home and on a spiritual journey since then

Psychotherapist and spiritual accompanist

Working on PhD in new field of Theopoetics

Caribbean-Canadian ethnicity

Moved from Toronto

Lives in lakefront home in remote B.C. wildfire country

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“Wise Elder” by Len Butcher

The Art: in Sheryl’s own words:

This oil painting by Len Butcher is about 30+ years old, the Toronto artist an old acquaintance of my youngest brother. I am not sure if he is still living, but our family made his acquaintance many years ago when he married my brother’s elementary school teacher. I always liked the painting. After my father passed away, I reclaimed it from my parents’ home basement, brought it back to B.C. with me, and had it mounted and framed to complement my antique oak dining furniture. Since marrying, my husband has also claimed it as his favourite, and we enjoy it daily as it is positioned, suspended above our current dining space, above our lakefront window.

The painting reminds us of a posture of humble gratitude to God for our daily sustenance. No matter how simple it may seem to us during times of our life when what we possess represents a categorical contrast to the things that are often proclaimed as the necessities for living. This wise elder signifies one who takes time to sit down and carefully prepare his bread and butter, and to ground himself in the living bread which comes from the Divine.

 

This is the view from Sheryl’s remote ‘café’ – her own dining room where she has the painting hanging. She and her husband of 8 years are reminded of their blessings especially during their Friday afternoon coffee dates.

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“View from ‘Lakefront Cafe'” by Sheryl M.

This interview was done on Skype, though I wish I had actually visited the ‘Lakefront café’.

In the Fire

In a few days the show is finished. It has been running for a couple of weeks now. Will the painting still be hanging on the wall? Every exhibition begins in the joy of being chosen, of work valued by a jury. Each ending brings the ecstasy of sales or the agony of disappointment. It has been a cycle repeated over 70 times in the last two decades of my life.

My work usually has an autobiographical element: something from inside memory or imagination or a thing observed outside around my life. Over the years, instead of toughening up, I find that I have been tempered like precious metal in the fire. I like to sell but will enjoy having a piece back in my private collection of artworks again. What will it be when I drive to the Seymour Art Gallery next week?

“The genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tried by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom, having not seen, you love; and in whom, though you do not see Him now, you believe and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”  Book of First Peter

There was an opening art party on a hot summer evening and tonight an interim dance party held in the gallery with the art ready to wrap up. These paintings are a fundraiser for the gallery. Again I get a chance to be generous or an opportunity to hold the piece for a while longer. All of it is good; all gift from above. What a lifestyle I get to lead: so much art and so many parties.

“I will open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it.”  Book of Malachi

In the Fire at Seymour Art Gallery

‘”In the Fire” at Seymour Art Gallery” DS 2017

Artist Statement, DS

Unlike the ancient accompanied

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace,

The woman is roughly collaged into the furnace alone.

She appears to be rising but incomplete.

Red but surrounded by green,

She, unlike Thomas of old, must

Believe she will be saved without seeing.

Unlike the men, she, like Joan of Arc,

Burns but only for a little while.

She is sustained in the pain.

This is my life too.

 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.  Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe. Thomas said, “My Master! My God!” Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

Book of John

 

Back in the Studio

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“Morning has Broken”  iPhone Photo DS

It has been a long winter and spring. Snow, snow, snow and cold, it is so unlike Vancouver. Survival mode had kicked in and chores, errands, duties, and disciplined study had taken over. Painting had been only cerebral. Images sometimes came and went unheeded. Planning for shows has absorbed me all spring. I determined to spend more than a few minutes in the studio this sunny day.

A leisurely breakfast with my loved one, a slow shower, then some e-mails were read. When I had completed my ablutions, I found my painting clothes in the bottom of the closet. In them I felt free. In their messiness I was a worker – a worker bee (my name Deborah means honeybee). Yes, I am ready for MY work, the work that is me.

This would be a contemplative day – albeit more on the ‘labora’ side of ‘ora and labora’ (pray and work) of the ancient monks. It had been so long since I had touched a couple of unfinished paintings I prayed specifically that God would help me. I did not want to deconstruct what I had built up so far.

A step outside into the fresh fragrant morning, I breathed, as if I was now truly alive. Rhododendrons bloomed red, hot pink, fuchsia, purple. The studio unlocked, I searched for pots of paint in the colours I had envisioned. One was dried up but the lids unscrewed easily enough. I noticed a small hole in the screen window with the mountain view.

I knocked over a red Folger’s coffee can of brushes from high on my shelf. They fell on and behind a stack of completed paintings. This is how I get my exercise today.

The studio used to be a hot tub building. It has plumbing but not a sink. The hose is right outside the door, so convenient for me to fill a water bucket.

The bucket reminds me of my childhood. When I visited my grandmother in N. B. water was pulled up by a metal bucket from a well. This ancient practice is added to the painting history back as far as the caves. Like a monk, I gather water, paints, and pray. This day I feel grounded and most like myself. I am truly me when I paint, the one I was made to be before I was born. Today I paint the telegraph cross that has lain dormant in my imagination for years.  I do not wonder at all if it will sell.