Category Archives: Contemplation

Grocery Shopping with Seagulls

Treetops

“Treetops” Phone Photo DS

A seagull’s cry delighted me as I exited the grocery store. Perhaps it had found some food too. I felt a surge of gratitude that prefixed a breath of the wet winter soft air. It set me on a reverie of other shopping times from years past: as a mother with crying children, as a worker with a broken foot, as a painter prepping for an art show reception.

I had been feeling down, tired, overwhelmed with thoughts about:

A health blip

A new normal in my relationship

A family conflict

An empty gas tank

A paper-stacked dining table

What little things can change our moods. Just an hour ago, praying with friends, I was looking forward to my next workshop, my upcoming art show.

I can leave getting gas until tomorrow, I thought, caring for self as advised. I was hungry, had bags to carry, food to put away and an afternoon ahead of paperwork. In front of the Rav IV windshield sharp pinecones dropped on the debris messed road from windy trees high above.

Home again a newspaper was retrieved with a climb. My face was enlivened by the mild air. I stopped and breathed again. I remembered who I was and the collaged life I had been given. Suddenly the half empty glass of my soul was filling up again. I have always loved seagulls since my childhood summers spent in a caravan at the Scottish seaside.

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Art Can Imitate Life

InstallviewHolyCups

Installation View “Holy Cups” DS

At some point during the week between Christmas and New Year I find myself reviewing the year and setting priorities.  Both the studio and the prayer are quiet, sporadic, ad hoc, and unfocused.  Self care is taking its turn, finally.

Since the summer, shredding papers has been my contemplative activity.  Many of those papers are articles kept for writing essays, the essays themselves, and images for collage. This morning I came across one of my papers about the life of faith as an artist.  A quote from philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorffe expresses both the temptation of an artist and, in my case, how faith and art practices co-exist so well:

The art lover, like the mystic, turns away from ordinary concerns to be caught up in the bliss of contemplation… art takes over the function of this worldly salvation, no matter how this may be interpreted.  It provides a salvation from the routines of everyday life… Picasso expresses [about art]: “I love it as the only end of my life.”… Thus works of art become surrogate gods, taking the place of God the Creator; aesthetic contemplation takes the place of religious adoration…  “Art in Action”

Choices must be made.  In the life of faith, art making serves God, not money.  The unpopular image is enfleshed when one knows it will not be well received.  One does not build a career so much as follow Jesus on an art journey that imitates real life.

A table painted with checkerboard circle and vines, a round glass mirror, with hand-built pottery cups with holes around the edge and butterfly handles, and a little brown basket.  Is there any meaning here?  One could never drink from such cups with rows of holes.  Even so I am impressed to display them as some kind of worship.  There is no doubt that these items in their hand-made imperfect form are no competitor for the worship on offer.  It seems to me that God is pleased with this offering of my talents, such as they are.  Will it be another year of creating work that does not sell?

A Christmas Gift

 

Christmas Ferris Wheel

“Christmas Ferris Wheel” Phone Photo DS

What is Christmas really all about, I was thinking this morning. I usually make some time for at least one unusual way of celebrating to make the occasion different each year. It came to me that Christmas, really, is about freedom. A baby was born. A unique baby was born a couple of millennia ago, lived a quiet life for 30 years, a public teacher/prophet/priestly life for 3 years, was murdered and three days later walked out of his cave grave. The world changed.

The baby, the Freedom Fighter, became the Way to real freedom. This is the gift we have been given if we avail ourselves of his offer to follow him in life.   He gave himself for us. We give ourselves to him. It is reciprocal gift, a covenant. Even when our gift fails, his remains a constant. This is what we celebrate. This is who we love.

I celebrated my Christmas freedom by riding the Ferris wheel that came to town. How will you enjoy this one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver)

An Advent Calendar to open each morning:

http://imagejournal.org/advent/

Nativity

Christmas Window

“Christmas Window” Phone Photo DS

The rooms overlooked the city. The rooms with their coloured walls took my attention. As did the happy greetings from the others that morning.

So cup and cookie in hand we chatted about this and that of which we saw and felt. My seat was in the second row of the circle of friends. As I took in the surrounding beauty, I noticed a salt and pepper size nativity scene at my feet. It stood on the iron floor pedestal of the nearby lamp.

The location for the holy scene was so unusual but in keeping with the holy event. Was this not the same low-key of the Bethlehem appearance of the holy three?

Unseen by others my attention was drawn again and again toward the Christ child so low. It was a reminder to invite God’s real time presence into the meeting. If only I had realized it at the time.

 

Creativity Contained

Last Summer

“Last Summer” Acrylic on Panel, DS

The painting would not come together. The idea was clear. The execution was not. Colours, shapes, glazes were painted over again and left for more inspiration. Small but mighty this painting lived on. Layers added here and there. A figure, in fact only a woman’s head low on the picture plane, viewed a waterfront landscape. There was a lamppost, a bridge, and several easel shapes on the tiny 8” x 8” birch panel.

Some ideas cannot be enfleshed. They are delicate, fleeting, yet so powerful. This work now has a layered landscape of knitting attached removing all evidence of the woman. Yet she remains. The waterfront and her image in it live on, hidden under the knitting. There is something about it – an atmosphere, a choice of colour, which draws me to prayer. Is this a contemporary icon?

 

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.   Book of I Corinthians

 

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

 

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.