Category Archives: Writing

Two Targums of Love

Celsus Library Ancient Ephesus

The photo above is from the ‘Commons’ free images of the Celsus Library 117 AD in ancient Ephesus, a gift of love to honour his late father, Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, Roman Senator of the Province of Asia, from his son Gaius Julius Aquila.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Celsus

Targum:

It was probably the Apostle Paul who writes the book of Ephesians in 70-80 AD as a beautiful Hebrew style poem about how God has chosen to bless his covenant people.  In Jesus, Messiah, now everyone can join that family and find that grace.

After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem twice in 597 BC and again in 70 AD and the subsequent exile of the Israelites, rabbis had to translate the texts of the Jewish Scriptures as they read.  Few understood Hebrew then.  The rabbis also updated the text into current contemporary idioms and contexts.  These non-literal translations were called targums.

Below are my two different attempts to follow this practice using a text from Ephesians 3 on God’s love – to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day week.  The first one is my wild artist effort to be outside of the box after watching the 61stGrammy Awards, the second, a calmer version for the more studious among us.  Which do you prefer?

Targum #1

Whether God is a black woman like in “The Shack”

Or Jesus of Nazareth, the embodiment of

Old Testament wisdom literature

God is real and willing to give a course,

A whole series of courses in real practical

Wisdom, in fact the cosmic wisdom God wants us

To have is a new wave of wisdom programs

That permeate universities, corporations, hospitals

Care homes, the prison system and immigration

God not only provides a Tutor, the Spirit

But will program our software

Powered by the user’s faith

To end up with an A+ doctorate degree

In powerful world leaders and spiritual

Gurus and demons destroying type

Of Matrix surprising power

We have a personal Benefactor

A Patron who has paid for us to

Achieve success

All we have to do is register

And stick with the program

Out of love for our Handmaker

In these individualized 2.0 programs

For kindness ME to WE work

We can contact the Handmaker’s

Helpdesk 24/7

We do not work alone

A state-of-the-art studio

Awaits us each day with regular

Field trips offered and practicums

Provided for real-life hands-on

Career impressive callings

The work is messy, filled with chemicals

And hot and cold suffering, crying

Masks, gloves are provided

In metanarrative wisdom

The Handmaker gives us free reign

To create landscapes and portraits

Sculptures and installations

That show Whose love-rooted and

Love-conquering

Program we are in

In fact, in the Wisdom art school

We find ourselves, by faith beloved

Becoming

The painting, the Hand-pulled

Original print

The sculptures ourselves

The handmade Spirit-living art

Donated to gallery visitors

Installed in the Grand Grammy Awards

Art Show.

 

Targum #2

  1. God did this as part of his forever plan. Thank you to Jesus for this in all he did on the Cross.
  2. As a result, Jesus allows us the chutzpah to come closer to God trusting.
  3. Please do not be down when you see me having a hard time on your behalf. Others will see and give you perks.
  4. I fold my body before Abba.
  5. The One whose vast array of creatures owe him life.
  6. God is awesome and magnificent. I offer you to God for powerful modelling.
  7. And so Christ will hang out with you and in you trust. Stay there grounded in deep affection and don’t run off.
  8. I lay you and all Jesus mentees in his imagination to see the great dimensions of this affection.
  9. This care is actually immeasurable in its excellence and scope. Then all that you are will be God-coloured.
  10. I ask God to make our New Covenant community do God justice in word and deed fulfilling God’s blueprint for humanity and showing the very nature of God to all.
  11. God is capable of doing in us more than we can request of dream up. May it be so.

 

 

 

 

 

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When Art is Not for Sale

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“Intolerance and Materialism” Acrylic and Ink on Canvas, DS

Recently my art was exhibited in a public alternative space.  It went mostly ignored until the last day of the show.  When I was taking down the paintings and carrying them out to be packed for transport, someone brought out the next one for me.  Someone insisted they take my picture in front of them. Four people grabbed my arm and attention and introduced themselves and asked if the art was for sale.  They seemed to like it without really looking at what it was.

As an introvert in a hurry to meet someone a few kilometres away, I said to the first: “I can carry them.” To the second, who wanted me to pose here and there and not where I wanted to, I blurted: “I am in a rush.” The last group, I fear, saw that I was very non-artist-like.  I said, nice to meet you, and quickly left, extricating myself from their kindly grip.

The display was installed to promote thinking and awakening to new ways to consider the Christmas story. The ideas visually presented were not heresy but they were alternative like imagining what Mary and Jesus would look like in today’s culture.  I dreamed one night that angels had meetings to discuss how they might help us with our issues.

The everyday person, educated but not in art, has probably been to European galleries exhibiting traditional, historical paintings.  The new, the avant-garde for them, is maybe Van Gogh or Picasso in extreme.  Perhaps anything contemporary does not register on their consciousness as art.  After all, as a non-musician uneducated in music appreciation, classical music has only appealed to me in the past decade.  My rhythms flow in the era of disco and ballad.  After all, I am a narrative painter.

We need more shows of art that is not for sale: art that can challenge our current ways of thinking and being in a changing world.  Lately most shows that offer art, not-for-sale, are self-funded by the increasingly silenced artist.  The arts used to be totally supported by the church.  Patrons paid artists to paint for the church.

Art reflects life. The way a society supports the arts reveals its inner health and outer vibrancy.  Perhaps we need venues for viewing and circles for discussion.  I like that ad I think it is for Levi’s jeans where everyone of many cultures just dance together to the great music.  Art is like that.  Art for art sake, not sale.

“Art Makes Us” Vancouver Art Gallery

http://vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/upcoming_exhibitions.html

A Christmas Offering

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“Pop-Up Empty Stable, Ambleside” Photo DS

Dear followers:

May the Father offer you grace

May Jesus offer you his hand

May the Spirit offer comfort and

Guidance to you as

You begin the New Year.

 

Below is a poem by Mary Oliver

Blessings, Deborah.

 

Christmas Poem

Says a country legend told every year:
Go to the barn on Christmas Eve and see
what the creatures do as that long night tips over.
Down on their knees they will go, the fire
of an old memory whistling through their minds!

[So] I went. Wrapped to my eyes against the cold
I creaked back the barn door and peered in.
From town the church bells spilled their midnight music,
and the beasts listened –
yet they lay in their stalls like stone.

Oh the heretics!
Not to remember Bethlehem,
or the star as bright as a sun,
or the child born on a bed of straw!
To know only of the dissolving Now!

Still they drowsed on –
citizens of the pure, the physical world,
they loomed in the dark: powerful
of body, peaceful of mind,
innocent of history.

Brothers! I whispered. It is Christmas!
And you are no heretics, but a miracle,
immaculate still as when you thundered forth
on the morning of creation!
As for Bethlehem, that blazing star

still sailed the dark, but only looked for me.
Caught in its light, listening again to its story,
I curled against some sleepy beast, who nuzzled
my hair as though I were a child, and warmed me
the best it could all night.

Mary Oliver

 

Poem for a Rainy Day: Recovering

I am a recovering know-it-all

Before that I was self-righteous

Prior to that I was a

Miss Goody-Two-Shoes

A first-born sibling

A mother of three

No four

Now I realize I

Have two left feet a

Collaged ego

I only hang out with those

Who are better and know

More than me

In some way

Always.

DS

“Mossy Tree Roots, John Lawson Park” Phone Photo DS

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Studio Rhythms

Stephanart Studio Rhodos

“Stephanart Studio Rhodos” Phone Photo DS

Proposals, jurying, framing, carrying, selling, or not

Sketching, canvas prep, composition, colour, painting

Artist statements, bios, CVs, photographing, website posting

Contemplation, creativity and rest: these are the rhythms of my practice.  The ancient monasteries called it “Ora et Labora”:

“In Christian mysticism, the phrase pray and work refers to the monastic practice of working and praying, generally associated with its use in the Rule of St. Benedict.” Wikipedia

The vertical blinds flutter as I unlock the studio.  Sunlight shines across the white colour spotted floor.  I drop some supplies in, take in the fir-treed mountain view from here and mostly just notice the mess:

Cuttings from garden and fashion magazines

Dried paint skins on plastic take out lids

Brushes in red Folgers coffee cans

Glass beads, Play Doh, and wooden rulers

A painting on this easel and the other

Time stands still here.  I like that. Ideas formed and partially executed, a yellow pad with tiny sketches of what is to come, and the temptation of the paint itself wait.

It is about the paint – the way colours juxtapose, drip, run – even onto the floor. This is freedom.  It is the space to make a mess, to leave it there and to long for this antidote to the structured life I lead outside of these walls.

 

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Book of Ecclesiastes

 

 

The Way to Publication

First publication is calming; my work has finally paid off, literally. As always, God leads me but in a zigzag line.

A child at breakfast reads every word on the cereal box. That was me (not so much the French).

In my twenties I worked in a bank. One day I came out and tried to start my car. I looked and instead of the key I had attempted to put my pen in the ignition. Today my brain thinks a pen is an essential part of the body.

At meetings I have now disciplined myself to take notes on my iPhone. (My pen is ever ready in my bag for backup.) This summer my precious spare time has been spent shredding five years of note-taking files.

So, the other large percentage of effort this year has been about submitting work for publication: prose and poetry. Some had fees and some graciously accepted submissions gratis. After a ‘couple’ of rejections of my writing I decided to submit one of my painting images to Understorey Magazine, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. After a few weeks I was advised that “Taffeta Apron” was to be published paired with another woman’s story.

It took me a moment to review exactly what I had achieved. An editor, so personable, had praised my image. I would be paid by a university and had to phone them with my SIN.

The magazine is published online and my work is in the current issue together with a story called ‘Island Girl’. Although I had asked to read the story before my work was paired with it, I felt strange. I felt confused. Usually I self-publish my images with my own stories on a blog. This was an anomaly.

Issue 11 of Understorey Magazine is now published on the website! Look for “Taffeta Apron” (Acrylic on Linen, 36” x 24”) alongside the prose poem Island Girl by Susan Brigham. If you scroll to the end of the poem you can read our bios.

http://understoreymagazine.ca/

Mixed feelings are still with me. I am excited to have my visual work published. It is not the same as being juried into an art exhibition, which is a bit more ephemeral. A published work is always there for people to see. I am disappointed that it is not my writing to be published.

I have a resume for art and a CV for writing. Which is this then – a painting in a writing magazine? It is truly a mash-up, a crossover of genres – and a delight.

How did I do it?

  1. I prayed for help.
  2. I made work.
  3. I submitted work to any call that seemed to fit.
  4. I researched as a regular practice and kept making work.
  5. I accepted that not all of my work would be paid for and perhaps not even my most important work.
  6. I experimented a lot. Creative work is about process over product first.
  7. I calmly waited for some response from somewhere. Then celebrated.

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“Taffeta Apron” 36″ x 24″, Acrylic on Linen, Deborah Stephan

 

 

 

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