Tag Archives: Painting

Pilgrimage

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“Tartan Mountain” Acrylic on Canvas, Deborah Stephan

Over the past couple of months, the subject of ‘pilgrimage’ has been on my mind.  I have started to do research on the subject for an art show I will offer in April.  I have been thinking about my own life as I read about the Camino, about the Celtic monks founding Iona, and about the men and women who travelled out of the cities to have a quiet life before God: the Desert Mother and father.  I consider Abraham’s pilgrimage and that of Moses.  I also consider the journeys of Hagar, Diana, Deborah and Anna.  I ask, what would it have been like to be Lydia with her journey into business in that day, what was her path, and of Junia, almost unmentioned as a female apostle, about Priscilla and her husband’s growth toward leadership?

I begin to notice the many pilgrimages of my own life.  Some are as dramatic and life changing for the people I love as the escape from my first marriage.  I traversed prairies and mountains.  (Perhaps this is where the “Tartan Mountains” painting came from.  It also reminds me of my son snowboarding.)  Others are lesser journeys of faith: a retreat, a conference, a walk on the seawall.  Actually, my whole life could be considered a pilgrimage with various companions along the way.

Today, as I consider Mary and Joseph’s journey as I read about the Camino with its hostels for pilgrims, I think about theirs as a deeper walk of faith as there was no room for them at the inn.

I recently discovered a new podcast which has become one of my spiritual disciplines as I look to the journey of another year of faith

Merry Christmas Everyone!  Enjoy the day.  The Light has come and I want to pass it on by recommending a new podcast:

#22 The Scandalous Christmas

Pilgrimage podcast

 

Writing as a Spiritual Discipline and a Request

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“Shellseeker Pilgrimage” two paintings and various shells, Deborah Stephan (copyright)

I have written as early as – swapping little biographical quote/poetry/comment books with 8-year-old Scottish friends in the school playground.  The poem beginning: Roses are red, violets are blue, was always a favourite as well as the skipping song: On the mountain stands a lady, who she is I do not know…  Composition books at school were full of the required writing and at one point I sat with a friend on a brick wall recording all of the license plate numbers of cars passing by.  The object of the daily writing exercise was to see who could fill her notebook first.  Various ways of writing have formed me over the years.  I now know that writing has been a spiritual discipline in my life.

As I do some research for my Shellseekers Art + Soul Life Writing workshops, I find these quotes helpful:

“[Writing] allows them to reach across the boundaries of geography and time to be in intimate communion with people they will never meet… it also requires that each writing project begin and end with others…”

“The God known by this woman is a God who writes, an author whose chosen parchment is the human heart.”

“The woman writing the letter seems to say that it is in the work of expression, in the struggle to unite human and divine creativity, that understanding begins.”

“We do not do these things because we know exactly what they mean.  We do them to find out what they mean.”

“Writing might be practised as a creative, meditative, intellectual activity that might gradually change our lives.”

Stephanie Paulsell “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline” in “The Scope of our Art”

Another writing project is inspiring my activity right now and I note a further idea from the book: it is not just that we write alone that is important but the work we do together.  I am wondering if you will join me in my “Pilgrimage Project,” the written part for an art exhibition I hope to hold in the spring by sending me a message in the comments section.  I am collecting examples of the main places where people have lived in their lives e.g. for me it has been – N.B, Scotland, Ontario, and B.C.  This is your chance to be part of an art project!

Please comment below with your ‘main places lived,’ so my writing can begin and end with you:

Reading About Cultures

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“Pilgrimage (detail)” Acrylic on Canvas, DS

There will be all cultures in heaven.  Rah provides a history of challenges and a way forward to embrace humanity in all of our colours.

Readings from Soong-Chan Rah’s Book: “Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church:

Stories have the power to build and develop community on multiple levels. In Western approaches to communication, we tend to focus on facts and information. Truth is communicated through statistics, numbers, dates, and information based on cognitive knowledge and is usually expressed through logical rhetoric. In certain non-Western approaches to communication, stories that evoke feelings and draw out a more emotional response may be the norm. The difference between these cultural expressions is that effective storytelling may have different intentions and approaches arising out of these different cultural values.

Aristotle stated, “When storytelling goes bad, the result is decadence.” Society and culture cannot progress and be transformed without real, honest, and powerful stories. The church also loses its influence if it fails to engage in powerful storytelling.

A speaker will often close a sermon with a stirring and inspiring story. My earliest memory of public speaking was sharing my testimony before the entire church when I was a high school student since, like many American evangelicals, I was encouraged to share my personal testimony almost immediately after I became a Christian. Stories have the power to communicate elements of our faith in ways that a lecture cannot. When in doubt, share your story.

In our current American cultural context, some of our best storytellers are found through film. As a pastor, I found it fascinating that my congregants would connect to my referencing a movie more than a book.

Media have the power to transcend culture in ways that direct verbal communication cannot. Eric Law *explains the equalizing power of media by asserting that “verbal communication alone is a biased means of communication, favoring people who have a strong sense of individual power and verbal ability.

 It is important that a character undergoes credible and authentic change in the course of the narrative, keeping the setting in the forefront. A conversion story, for example, must not occur out of the blue—it must reveal the work and character of God, as well as the transformation that can take place in a man or woman. (3) Conflict Every worthwhile story needs an element of conflict. What difficulties is the character going through, and how do these affect change in him or her? As Christians, we are especially concerned about transformation. How is it accomplished? by a logical argument? through convincing rhetoric? No, true re-creation comes from the Spirit of God.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Art Can Imitate Life

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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?

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

Experiences of Art Series: Interview with Joyce T.

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“White Spot Patio” 2017 DS

Bio:

  • Born in Dumfries, Scotland where Robbie Burns (famous poet) was buried
  • Family of musicians (6 generations of mouth organ, accordion, violin, guitar, organ), loves the bagpipes and dancing
  • Worked for the Vancouver School Board
  • Has a vast collection of pink roses and rose memorabilia

Art:

  • Oil on canvas, 4’ x 3’, ornate gold frame (made by the artist too)
  • “Heart Lake” on Vancouver Island with soft pinks and greys (a lake she has never seen)
  • Painting was bought when she was 21, a visit with her parents to the artist’s gallery (her classmate from high school’s father Mr. Kaip who was moving to Vancouver Island)

“Something about the painting called out to me. I just loved the colours and the sense of peace it gave me. I guess I must have some artistic sense.

I have had it in every home I have lived in over the decades. It has been in my bedroom and living room. Right now it is in the upstairs hallway.

I will tell my sculptor son it’s history one day and leave it to him.”

Joyce T.

We met at the White Spot at Park Royal. In fact Joyce invited me and blessed me twice with an interview and a lunch on her. I am intrigued by this giving of interviews with various people who rarely talk about art yet their passion sparkles their eyes as they are asked the same question: “Is there a piece of art that has a particular meaning for you – from art history, your own childhood etc.?” DS

http://www.hellobc.com/ladysmith/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/hiking.aspx