Tag Archives: collage

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

 

Advertisements

Blue Suede Shoes

IMG_3105

“Blue Suede Shoes” Collage DS

So yesterday as I walked the UBC campus a woman came out of a building wearing blue suede shoes. I had just written an in class test and was on my way to grab lunch at a nearby Italian café. My hand went to my bag to retrieve my phone to capture her feet. Then disappointed, I realized I could not take a photo of her feet without being observed. I thought perhaps it would be a violation of her privacy unless I asked permission. I was too tired for that level of sociability.

Today they are still etched in my memory. They were a lighter blue than expected – just a bit paler than blue jeans. They had chunk brown heels and matching blue fringes along the sides of the low rise boots. They complimented her pencil skirt in beige. She was a student of fashion.

Last week I had just gifted a light blue-framed collage I had created months go. It featured a cut-out of boots which I had coloured royal blue. The abstract surrounding magazine imaging of ochre and orange I supplemented with royal purple, green, red and white paint. The idea of creating those blue suede shoes low in the picture plain gave me great pleasure. I did not know why.

It came to me that they were a metaphor for dancing, yes. I have always, from my earliest days of doing the Scottish “Highland Fling” and “Sword Dance,” loved dancing. In recent years, after a catastrophic ankle injury, I do not dance – on the outside. Inside, however, I dance as much as I have always done. This, I see, is God’s message to me. He sees me, as I really am – a dancer.

David danced before the Lord with all his might.

Second Book of Samuel

Redaction and Collage

IMG_2994

“Scripture Fragment” 2016 DS

The penny has dropped. The light bulb has gone on. Redaction and collage are the same. One pieces together the writings of others. The other gathers and glues found images. The author/artist unites them with a few of her own ideas. What could be better?

These seem to be very postmodern pastimes. Yet they are each ancient practices. DeSilva a Bible scholar and Rauschenberg a prolific artist of found objects may make strange companions but have worked in similar ways.

Redaction criticism of the Gospels pays particular attention to the differences between each fragment of text preserved. These differences cannot be collapsed together without losing the authentic voice of each of the four Evangelists. They serve an important purpose. That said, in piecing together the Jesus sayings, the redactors see that they form a related whole.

In my mind, the redactors of the ancient texts are actually like collagists. They take what is there and fit the pieces together like skilled artists use binder. The Spirit helps the redactors of Scripture like rabbit skin glue or synthetic medium promotes the harmonization of disparate images do for the artist. Authentic meaning is both discovered and made:

Presentation of the passage often connects directly with the themes or topics that are of greatest interest to the Evangelist.

Taken from (An Introduction to the New Testament by David A. deSilva)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) took 2D and 3D fragments of everyday life: a bed, a goat, a tire, or a bird, or a newspaper item, mixing together elements of high and low art to present to the world his unique skill in portraying both art and life. Memories of childhood fragments influenced his masterful work:

His mother, Dora, was a devout Christian and a frugal woman. She made the family’s clothes from scraps, a practice that embarrassed her son, but possibly influenced his later work with assemblages and collage.

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-rauschenberg-robert.htm

Redaction must be one of the most basic activities of life. Go for the gold then, when a surfeit is received. The opposite venture leads to a ‘less is more’ way. We gather and we purge, write and redact. We create paintings and we sell them. We birth children, then we say goodbye to them. Art and life are collaged by the Spirit.

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 kill, and a time to heal; 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;

(Book of Ecclesiastes)

A Parrot in the Window

 

Snow Angel Collage

“Snow Angel” Found Paper Collage 2015 DS

Flashlight in hand I set out for a prayer walk this evening. The rain had stopped but the road glistened with all of the colours of the rainbow, sometimes together and at times a lone – red tree, blue bush, or an orange roofline with flashing LED wreaths. What a backdrop for my prayers. It had been a while since I walked in the evening.

As I climbed a hill in the leafy neighbourhood I looked up to a window and saw – of all things – a parrot. The sight took me as a symbol – of what I am not sure – of beauty, of delight, of the exotic nature of life. Just outside, within the parrot’s view, a regular birdhouse hung in the window. In awe of the bird in the lit square in the darkness, a scene of outdoor and indoor birds became my reverie.

The walk began in serious concern. I prayed for family, friends and for guidance and strength for myself in the New Year. The half-hour ended with smiles to the night sky and gratitude. Again God had spoken peace to me using birds.

The last bird was a white one, a couple of weeks ago, which flew briefly above some bushes across my sightline. I had to double check with myself that I had actually seen it. I do not recall ever having noticed a bird like it here before. I felt immediate calm as I tackled my work of creating under the pressure of the season. I was able to include a few original collage cards in with my scribed offerings this time.

It has been such a beautiful holiday season again. The snow – well it is lovely while it lasts. The Christmas lights, still shining, uplift my colourist soul. The singing – I can only say that it heals me. The laughter and giving have extended into 2016. Again there is evidence of faith, hope and love. May the new refugees in particular be overwhelmed with God’s goodness this year.

Painters and Poets

Snowflake Collage

“Snowflake Collage” DS

Christmas 2015

In my online reading, quite unexpectedly, I happened upon a contemporary thought-provoking painting of Christ’s birth: “The Nativity” by Brian Kershisnik. It became obvious from looking that so much of what is happening when we think again of the story is unseen. Another great artist said:

“My aim is always to get hold of the magic of reality and to transfer this reality into painting — to make the invisible visible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is, in fact, reality which forms the mystery of our existence.” Max Beckmann

We rely on the eyes of faith or what has been called the prompting of the Spirit – a feeling perhaps or a knowing that something is true without all the facts. I think again of how my Christmas celebration seems so far from what I would like it to be each year. My habit of direct prayer, however, is always answered. I address the risen Christ, the One who was born, lived, died, rose and now lives again interceding for us at the right hand of the Father (Book of Romans).

As I go about my preparations for the holidays, I pray to this alive Jesus for something wonderful to happen again this year. I pray that He would give me the best gift on His birthday – a paradox this – as the birthday person usually receives all of the gifts. But turning expectations upside down is nothing new for Jesus. I do rejoice in this. It gives me hope for change for those who struggle – and miracles can happen – especially at Christmas. The Creator of the universe came to be with us – Emmanuel. The gladness is real and spreading. It does not depend on me or my attitude.

“Nativity” painting by Brian Kershisnik

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rKpxYjnPAM

 

This Year will be Different

by Ann Weems (1934-    )

Who among us does not have dream

that this year will be different?

Who among us does not intend to go

peacefully, leisurely, carefully to word Bethlehem,

for who among us likes to cope with the

commercialism of Christmas

which lures us to tinsel not only the tree

but also our hearts?

Who among us intends to get caught up in a tearing around

And wearing down?

Who among us does not long for:

gifts that give love?

shopping in serenity?

cards and presents sent off early?

long evenings by the fireside with those we love?

(the trimming devoid of any arguing about who’s going to hang

what where,

the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg mingling with the pine

scent of the tree,

and carols gently playing over our idyllic scene)

and the children! The children cheerfully talking about

giving instead of getting?

Who among us does not yearn for

Time for our hearts to ponder the Word of God?

Moments of kneeling and bursts of song?

The peace of quiet calm for our spirit’s journey?

 

This year we intend to follow the Star

instead of the crowd.

But, of course, we always do

intend the best.

(And sometimes best intentions tend to get the best of us!)

This year, when we find ourselves off the path again

(and we invariably will!),

let’s not add yet another stress to our Advent days,

that of “trying to do Christmas correctly”!

Instead let’s approach the birth of our Lord

with joyful abandon!

 

And this year

let’s do what Mary did and rejoice in God,

let’s do what Joseph did and listen to our dreams,

let’s do what the Wise Men did and praise and glorify God

for all we’ve seen and heard!

As for the Advent frantic pace, we don’t have time for that.

We’ll be too busy singing!

This year will be different!

 

Schwitters Again (Still)

Mixed Media on Cardstock 8 1/2” x 11”

“Lemon Ginger Tea” DS

The Tate Britain had an exhibition of Kurt Schwitter’s work in January 2013. I saved the “Arts and Ideas – BBC Radio 3 – R3 Arts: Night Waves” podcast to listen again to the interview between host Martin Sweet and the art critic Charlotte Mullins. They are recorded as saying he was one of the great figures of European Dadaism. About Kurt Schwitters work, they celebrated that it was: “extravagantly impure embracing all conceivable materials: bus tickets, boxes of licorice allsorts, cotton wool… He called his creations: “merz”.

As a collagist myself, I naturally work ‘after Schwitters’. It is my heart style. I save and glue anything from my life. Again and again I come back to reading about his methods. His room of ‘merz’ amazes and inspires me. (Imagine a room that becomes smaller from the sides and ceiling as he adds architectural found pieces of wood in white.) I enjoy shape and pattern. I find both in Schwitters’ collages.

The work is intuitive and organic. It flows naturally from life. It becomes cultural artifact witnessing everyday lifestyle and a new kind of legacy documenting the intimacy of the personal for the family. It is non-hierarchical and so easily accessible as a practice for rich and poor of any age or culture.

I consider what I will collage in the studio today – some black and white wrapping paper from a generous Korean friend, a parking receipt with blue, and some emerald green foil from my favourite chewing gum. This I may top off with a hot pink sticky note. The possibilities are endless. Made in the image of God, we too create not ex nihilo but out of the givens of the daily detritus of our lives – reminiscent of the leftovers from the feeding of the five thousand. In the workshops I pass this on. In feeding others, I am fed. DS.

google keywords kurt schwitters

Apologies

 

Image

“April Collage Workshop” 2014 DS

Apologies seem to be in short supply in our culture.  We have no fault divorce, no fault insurance and – actually a general sense of non-accountability abounds everywhere.  In an accident it would not be wise (or so the ‘wise’ say) to admit fault.  Even if one were caught red-handed stealing or killing, someone it would be advised by legal counsel to keep quiet.

Therefore, I must say, it was refreshing this evening at the workshop to receive an apology for a comment of last week.  The apology was gracious, specific and heart felt.  It was a pleasure to receive it.

I am no lawyer but it seems to me that if a genuine apology – a timely statement of regret; of responsibility taken for the misdeed or mistake – were given, the healing would begin right away.  I suppose some in our culture have put this idea into practice with the restorative justice movement.  It is a good trend in these days of every system needing reform.  I guess the slogan “let it begin with me” would be appropriate here. 

Actually I live a blessed life.  I offered several apologies myself last week and received one unexpectedly.  Can one be rich in apologies? There was something else that I could have apologized for but decided in that complex situation it would make it worse so I refrained. Perhaps more than an apology is required for healing.

I realize that at this particular workshop the women have bonded over difficult times.  There is no one-upmanship so one cannot really ‘lose face’ or lose one’s place in the pecking order by apologizing.  The regret can be received the way it was given – in honesty and caring.

If only we could package this experience in this microcosm of people in that place tonight, the world would be changed.  I can personally think of several people I would like to receive heartfelt apologies from.  There might be a couple that I need to give too.

This idea is what the church is meant to embody.  Is this practice freely given what the cross is all about?  Is the payment then so that we can apologize and accept those of others graciously without all of the posturing and cover up?  I think I have grasped some of the transforming power of the cross tonight.  If everything I have ever done has been forgiven, how can I not pass it on?