Archive for the 'Art' Category

15
May
13

re-drawing sacred circles

Drawing Sacred Circles transformed: the story in three parts:

Part I • The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century rejected religious imagery as being idolatrous—the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Five hundred years later, the baby struggles to make a come back, crawling inch by inch over ideologically traditional terrain looking for water in which to bathe away years of neglect.

Part II • Despite attractive altar flowers and holy season decor, much of what greeted me when I returned to the church after being gone nearly 30 years, seemed trite, contrived and lacking in a sense of spiritual mystery. I was unmoved and wanted to see visual art taking its place as a significant element of worship equal to music. Although there was some movement afoot in this area, centuries of visual deprivation seems to have left a gap in terms of spiritual nurturance.

Part III • I began introducing liturgically oriented art forms into the church I was attending. My efforts were not an immediate home run. Sadly, thanks to the esoteric quality of modern and contemporary art, many people distrust their own visual sensitivity. (The world is turning so fast…we see without knowing and know without seeing.)

In 2010, I started Drawing Sacred Circles, a blog where I could present visual art as a creative process inherent in human beings—circular and sacred—whether designed for church/synagogue/mosque worship, gallery viewing or personal enjoyment. I sought to give form to this view by keeping two separate, yet parallel archives—liturgical art under the heading, Worship Circles and personal art under the heading, Meditation Circles.

Having spent considerable time presenting art in this manner, it’s time for these categories to meld into an inclusive celebration of life expressed through any and every art form, at any and all levels of accomplishment, whether professional or amateur.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

I like the sound of that…it’s all about soul and spirit. We engage in the arts because something within wants to reach higher and go deeper  all the days of our lives. This kind of growing is at the spiritual core of doctrine, creed and liturgy. When the creative thing we do reaches another soul, a connective circle is made. Connective circles complete and make sacred, the artful process. How and why we do this soul-growing thing through the arts is the nexus and raison d’etre of Drawing Sacred Circles...take a look…subscribe.

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Your comments and suggestions for the Drawing Sacred Circles blog are
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01
Apr
13

looking backward / going forward

Every now and again an old friend or acquaintance will come to mind and I wonder what they are doing now…where they are. Sometimes I Google to find out. Maybe it’s a way of measuring the length of my days in years? Some time ago I found an artist friend through Facebook that I’d known a dozen years ago and wrote about the encounter in my June 13, 2012 post, art then / art now. A few weeks ago I reconnected with another friend through Facebook that I’d known in the glorious, early 1970s (when some of us were still young and others, not yet born). That was great fun.

Last week…in a more serious mood…I looked for a person I’d known six years ago in a cancer support group. I’d been thinking about him for a while. I wanted to thank him for all the invaluable help he’d given me—help that changed the course of my recovery for the better. We both have a form of incurable lymphoma that can capriciously become active or lie inactive at will. I’ve been in remission for five years and wanted to know how he was. I Googled him, and found his name in connection with a cancer support group’s phone listing. I called and was delighted to find that he is a survivor and continuing with his cancer support mission. It felt good to send a message of thanks and affirmation. Many cancer survivors like to pay it forward, including me.

A few days ago, I thought about two persons I’d known from my days in the art world.  Despite that association ending badly, I Googled them hoping to find an avenue for constructive reconnection. To my dismay, I found pages and pages of articles linking them and the gallery to fraudulent misappropriation of federal grant funds from 2004-10. I was shocked and wanted to know what had happened. I began reading the articles. When I got to the FBI Press Release dated December 14, 2011 what I considered the most reliable—I stopped to take stock. My partner and I had known these women for many years. Until my last show in their gallery in 2002, we had considered them close friends. The exhibition—Inheritance: art and images beyond a silenced genocide—was a production showcasing Armenian-American artists and the Armenian people. It was nearly a year’s work and a major undertaking for me as artist, curator and producer.

A few weeks before the exhibition opened, our tax preparer urged us to ask the two women for an accounting of the money contributions that had been donated toward funding the show. Asking for an accounting touched off a firestorm of angry accusations toward us, and threats to cancel the show, which put me in a state of ongoing anxiety for the two months of the show’s run in the gallery. Naively, we assumed the contributions that came in from our contacts were earmarked and set aside. We had virtually no understanding of non-profit gallery operations at that time, and no idea of the potential threat this request to the gallery directors would be.

Historically, the gallery had been an important outreach to the community and an alternative for rising artists to the traditional, market-based gallery system. I do not know how the current situation happened, when, or why it happened. I only know my own experience in what would be my last show there. It had been my labor of love. We were fortunate to receive in-kind donations that included a four-color catalog, marketing/advertising help and a marvelous array of catered, Armenian food and drink for the opening reception.

Everything was in order, but the enmity that ensued—the demands and constant threats to close the show at a moment’s notice made a basket case of me for most of that time. Trust was broken on all sides. What had been friendship for many years became a battleground and a living hell. I didn’t understand it then and mourn the emptiness of it all now. I am sorry to have lost the friendship we had with these two very interesting women, but in light of this new information I am thankful to be on this side of current events…thankful…but still sad to have all that collateral damage sitting in the roadway of my past. I cannot think of it without great regret for relational carelessness and wasted time.

Looking back, I remember the government shutdowns of arts funding hitting the small enterprises hardest. I am not excusing anyone or anything, merely seeing two sides of what has become the vanishing coin of the power-Study in time–3x2.5elite. I have compassion for these two people, regardless of circumstances, because I knew them at their sincere best…maybe not as deeply as I’d thought, but well enough. We are all looking for our way…our path in life. I am sorry about detours and sink holes and broken pavement. I do not know where these women are today, or how they are coping. There is nothing online past December 2011, so I assume the allegations are still pending. I am a bit of an idealist. I love resolution and reconciliation. I would like that with these two, but I dare not dream of it. I don’t really know how to swim with the bigger fish and my skin has not yet hardened. ~¿

Waiting

21
Jan
13

an unexpected sabbatical

I’ve been on something like an unexpected sabbatical since my last posting on this blog (June 13, 2012). My world has turned round and round, upside down, right side up and sideways. The sale of our Frank Lloyd Wright house took on shady tones and bogus proportions that finally were unacceptable to us. When asked to reduce the price to less than half its worth, it took us only a moment to flatly refuse in unison. We shifted gears, reclaimed the house and promptly put the smaller house—our downsize house—on the market instead.

July and August were full of heavy packing, lifting, and moving—box- by-box, carload-by-carload, all day, every day until Two Men and a Truck came for the furniture at the end of August. We were not just moving our living quarters; we were moving a studio as well. Despite having either sold or given away lots of things during our move to the smaller house on Audubon Road, the volume of stuff was staggering. I started the job with gusto mid July and ended with a torn meniscus in my knee shortly before the actual move. Since I had didn’t have a lot of experience with physical injury, I paid little attention. There was a job to do and a goal to be reached.

We were excited and full of hope at coming home and starting over. Thinking to put the past behind us, we planned to live in the spacious old house in a new way. Ballroom 2We’d done a thoroughly beautiful renovation on it and lived there for seventeen years before moving to Audubon Road. It suited us in many ways, but there were some rooms that just never felt right to us, no matter what adjustments were made. We concluded that we’d been trying too hard to live there in a more formal FLW, prairie style. So the plan was to use the rooms in a different way…color outside the lines, so to speak. The most notable change was our decision to keep the 23 x 15 foot living room clear for large gatherings of friends and family, music and dance events to accommodate our current interests. We call it the ballroom. Here is a shot of the southwest corner of the room, showing the expanse of oak throughout and a great dance floor.

Once in the house, we felt an immediate sense of being at home…as though we’d been on assignment somewhere for four years and finally came home. It was glorious and it was fun. This was where we belonged, without doubt. The tenants we’d had were good people, but despite the arrangement we had made with them, they really had no investment in the place, so we had a lot to do in addition to the changes we needed to make for ourselves. The house spoke to us and we returned the greeting a hundred-fold, but my knee was steadily worsening and I was unable to dance. The big beautiful music/dance room stood waiting. With my oncology appointment looming (always a point of anxiety), I began a generalized worry pattern that pretty much centered on the idea that dancing was all over for me. I’d been too proud of my ability, so I thought; my body was now showing its true colors.

Finally, at the insistence of my very good friend, whose dancing days made her an expert on injured knees, hips and other parts, strategic to dancing health, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. The MRI confirmed frayed meniscus in my left knee, a product of aging wear and tear, made worse by packing, schlepping and cleaning on hands and knees with relentless determination to leave the little house pristinely ready for the market. The doctor suggested surgery or physical therapy that would strengthen my quadriceps enough to relieve the pain.

I chose physical therapy and came home feeling hopeful enough to meet with my dance teacher for some gentle, stretching, body movement. It had been nearly three months; yet, under her direction, I was amazed at what I could still do. I was floating on cloud nine after she left. It was time for lunch…still floating,  I placed a piece of my favorite Middle Eastern lavash in the toaster while I went about searching for something in the pantry to go with it. (This lavash is very thin and needs only thirty seconds to heat.) While six feet away, standing on a stool in the pantry, something bright caught my eye: serious red flames shooting up from the charred lavash toward the wooden cabinet directly above. I told myself to stay calm and get to the toaster before alarm bells (or worse) went off. I got quickly down, protecting my knee, I lunged forward, jamming my left foot into the leg of the stool I’d been standing on and sustained a spiral break in my toe and an enormous hematoma. I hobbled to the toaster, unplugged it and carried it (still flaming) out to the yard, all the while telling myself I had not broken anything. The kitchen was smoky. Windows went up, the fire alarm got disabled and the pain increased; reason returned: I had broken a left toe, a very sore left foot and a damaged left meniscus. Agony! Bad luck! Misery! No dancing for me now, for sure! My glass was not half-empty…more like nearly empty.

Ice, ice and more ice. Ibuprofen. Homeopathic Arnica and Symphytum. It was two weeks before I could wear anything but a “glamorous” orthopedic post-op shoe and four weeks before I could manage a shoe with a big cutout on the side. I was limping along with a cane, feeling awkward and immensely unlucky to say the least. The doctor said it could take three months to properly heal. After six weeks, with the help of my cut-out shoe, I started physical therapy. Four weeks later, my quadriceps were strong and I was back! No surgery required.

In the midst of all this came Thanksgiving with all its hustle, bustle, worry and scurry—our first big dining event in the ballroom. Thankfully, it was a great success. Five days after Thanksgiving Day I had a strange sore throat and cough. The next day was my six-month oncology appointment (never a fun trip). My lab tests were very good, so I didn’t think much about the sore throat, since it seemed to be improving. The following day was my last physical therapy session. I was unusually tired and low on energy with muscles more sore than usual. The day after came with chills, fever, gas, bloating and overwhelming flu-like tiredness. It was the first of December and I rallied to take the granddaughters to the town’s Frosty Fest pageant. It’s total fun to be with kids at Christmas. We had a great time…Santa, reindeer, cotton candy, hot chocolate…joie de vivre!Frosty Fest Composite

The next day my illness began to slowly return, but my youngest granddaughter, Miss Pink’s, birthday party was scheduled for that afternoon at the dreadful house of grown-up horrors called, Chuck-e Cheese’s. We had to be there. J and I soldiered through the noise, the din and the obnoxious urging to be happy, happy, happy; aren’t we all so happy today??? By the time it was all over and done with, and we were driving home to peace and sanity, illness overtook me. We had to pull into a parking lot; I sat on the curb, shaking with chills and gastric distress for fifteen minutes while my body decided which way it was going to go, up or down. Once home, I went to bed and prayed for recovery. Many weeks of illness ensued, making many return visits that simply would not stop. Since my blood work had been good, I could set aside my habitual fear of illness being cancer returning in cloak and dagger fashion. Nonetheless, I was really sick for weeks and not able to stay well for more than a few days at a time. My doctor suggested an immune strengthening regiment of elderberry, astragalus, and two homeopathic medicines to be taken regularly for four weeks. I am starting my third week of this regimen and feeling quite disposed to continuing until the robins and blue birds return and this unseasonable Midwest weather pattern gives way to proper spring days. We’ve set up a bird bath and feeder to encourage them back into our daily life.

During the course of the injuries and ensuing illness stretching into January, Incarnation Body and SoulI’d lost my raison d’être as an artist. Only dancing made any sense to me. I watched many dance films to stay connected to this. Last week I looked at the computer and heard writing and visual art calling me to return to them as equal partners with dance. I don’t know exactly what it was that brought me back; I think it best to let go of so much knowing anyway. I’m back in my house, looking to the future—not as a younger woman would do, but as a woman in her seventh decade with a lot of history, a 50/50 chance of cancer returning one day, and a mind that processes time differently than I did in my fifties and sixties. I am at yet another point of transition and coming to understand that life is all about transitions. Nothing is permanent. Only now is here. Today I am glad to be writing again, composing visual art, dancing, and by grace, moving forward.

13
Jun
12

art then / art now

I need to reorganize the house I’ve been living in for the past four years!

In 2008, we moved from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house to a small, unassuming, 1960s tri-level with joyous expectations of becoming part of a particular church community in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving the housing market fell, leaving our FLW house without a great many qualified buyers. At the same time, we entered into what became a long, painfully drawn out series of backwards and forwards efforts to become part of this church. Toward the end of that first year my sister died and I was heartbroken. Then partway into the second year our dear friend Bettina discovered her cancer was on the rise and she moved in with us. We were a chosen family of three working for inclusivity until the end of May, when the church body proclaimed that it could not, would not make the leap to inclusiveness. We were stuck with two mortgages, taxes, and much deep bruising around the heart and brain. By January of 2010, when it was clear that her cancer was unstoppable, we turned our home into a hospice dwelling encompassing all of us. Then, when she died on March 6, 2010, my world fell apart for a very long time.

We lived here in this little house for four years with shattered dreams and could not make it a home. Now we are on the brink of finally selling our FLW house, albeit at an enormously reduced price. It is time to move into this unassuming tri-level and make room for the next chapter of our lives. Making room means re-organizing and that requires cleaning out and thinning down my files…all those things I’ve carried around thinking that they will be needed at some future time. As I am in my seventh decade and climbing, I think the future is now.

The process of reducing files requires opening and looking through them. I could only manage four drawers without mental/emotional exhaustion overtaking me as I walked back into my life, folder after folder, making decisions that sometimes brought unwanted memories to the surface. In one of those folders I found correspondence with a friend from the past—an artist from Armenia whom I’d met a decade earlier when Judy and I were visiting friends on the east coast. It was a period of my life when I was doing a lot of genealogy in an effort to understand my heritage as a building block for knowing myself. This period culminated in an exhibition I produced involving nine Armenian/American artists.

Inheritance: art and images beyond a silenced genocide. (The electronic version is hosted by the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota.)

Curious about this old friend and somewhat lonely for people of my own ethnic temperament, I looked him up online and found he was here in this country, with a partner of six years and still a practicing artist. I sent out a Facebook friend request, Twittered and emailed him at the art center address where he teaches ceramics. About a week later I received an email from him that made me happy; he is a person like myself in so many ways, and one of the few remaining links to my own heritage. When he asked so plaintively why I got out of the art world, I had to give a brief history of the past decade since I’d last spoken with him. Haven’t had a response to this yet…must be busy…

His question brings me front and center, having been asked by others from time to time: Why did you get out of the art world…why would you? Revulsion is one answer. Cancer’s clearer vision is another. I am a professional artist gone AWOL. There is an article in the New York Times—How the Art Market Thrives on Inequality—that simply renews my sense of revulsion. I recommend reading this for all art lovers. It’s educational.

I will always be an artist. That is my temperament and training and it filters into everything I do. Some have questioned why I pour so much of that artfulness into the church I attend when they see so little reason for doing so. My answer is: Why not? The Church having separated itself—to its own detriment—from visual art at the time of the Reformation, is in desperate need of beauty for soul’s nourishment. I can do it and it gives me pleasure rather than pain. When I hear that someone’s experience of the sacred has been enhanced by a bit of beauty I’ve had a hand in providing, I am blessed, because I’m acting in accordance with having been Called by Name back in those gloomy days of cancer treatment and recovery. Clearer vision, that’s the reason.

Art created for one’s own pleasure is personal and edifying, but in a broader, societal sense, it is one hand clapping. Art created out of one’s own spirit and shared freely with others is two hands clapping—communication, pleasure and edification all around. As many of my friends and acquaintances know, I’m big on movement, hands, feet, whatever. Clapping counts.

Now I go to my weekly dance class where I can be art as well as make it…where I can be beauty as well as behold it.

This is the street where I live now…

15
Feb
11

a note on another note:

Before my valentine salutation yesterday, I wrote about my search for an visual enhancement for our church lectern, appropriate to our Lenten theme. (See posting, on another note for February 10th) For those who wonder how it all worked out, I can happily say that, 1) I have relearned my laundry lesson and 2) my intuition about the burlap being appropriate did turn out to bear fruit.

After cleaning up all the mess in the dryer, I spread the burlap out on the ironing board and pressed it as flat as I could, then hung it up to dry overnight. The next day I looked in on the piece, which had acquired approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches of fringe on both sides of its 48 inch length.  It hung there in its ugliness for most of the day while I set about searching in fabric stores for a piece of cloth that would speak of homespun, and be a naturally neutral color. After hunting high and low, I came home with 1-1/2 yards of unassuming linen, but no sparks had flown from this selection. I left it alone on the table and read another chapter of Taylor’s previous book, Leaving Church.

I could not get the burlap out of my mind, despite its menacingly ugly color and stains. By evening I wove a plan to color it with fabric spray, and began rolling through a number of color choices, settling on a variety of interlaced of tones. It is winter here and there is a ton of snow outside where I would have to do the spraying, so I went to bed with a plan to start the next day.

The next day was Saturday. Although the sun was out and the air beginning to warm up, I still couldn’t open the back door. Resourcefully, I devised a plan that would allow me to suspend the 48 inches of ugly burlap outside in front of the garage door. It took only a second to realize that my plan for multi-coloring was off the mark, so I just started spraying with ivory, then quickly switched to flat white. Each swish of white spray brought me joy. I knew this was the way to go. It took a heap of spraying to bring this remnant to a visual semblance of human/humble. While it was drying I flew back to the fabric store for the piece of purple I saw in my mind, draping along the left side of the human, humble, now whitened, burlap. I flew back twice. The first time I chose two beautiful fabrics based on color and texture that turned out not to fit the bill at all. On my second tour I found a dark purple, plain-knit jersey that spoke to me: Take me home, I’m the one! I was skeptical and concerned about all the money I’d already spent, but determined to listen to the intuitive voice over the, let’s just get it done, voice.

So I brought it home, set up the whole thing and there it was, like magic: the human/divine connection creating yet another altar in the world. I am pleased and relieved this is done. I am ready for my cataract surgery tomorrow. They say I will see instantly, but the following several weeks could be a bit of a trial. If I’m lucky and receive perfect vision, I won’t need glasses anymore. If I am not, I will have to hobble along for the 3 weeks it takes before receiving a new prescription and the additional week or two before new glasses are sitting on the bridge of my nose.

******

The surgical center just called. My appointment time is 7:45 am. By 9:00 the doctor will be making a small incision in my right eye, removing the failing lens and slipping in a new model straight off the assembly line. I don’t like to think about that. I prefer to think about the 5 mg of Valium I will get before, and the lovely nap I will have all afternoon long. After that…I throw myself on the mercy of all that’s good and holy.

10
Feb
11

on another note…

We, at the little church at the edge of the city, are using themes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book, An Altar in the World—A Geography of Faith, this Lenten season. It has been a bit of a challenge to come up with visual art that communicates the breadth of content in this work in a simple, non-literal manner. The bulletin covers,  altar arrangements and lectern will be our main focal points, since the full sanctuary installation will be done by our host-church congregation. Ours would appear to be a fairly self-contained project, but not so, since we will not be relying on traditional purple, but instead, variations of warm sepia.

Once I had all the art finished for the bulletin covers, I turned my attention to the lectern, which will be consistently visible throughout the whole Lenten season. For the last two days the lectern has been running through my consciousness, like a steady hum from some outside electrical source one wishes to high heaven would stop. It has not stopped and is niggling around in my brain, because next week I will have cataract surgery and don’t know when I will have again reliable vision for artful details. Yesterday, ideas came and vanished as I visited several shops looking for something, but not sure what. I was getting discouraged. My God conversations went like this: “Hey, this is your thing! Help me out…give me an idea…bring it forth…please!”

Then I went home and waited. I was discouraged and began thinking again. Suddenly an idea popped into the camera of my brain: Jewish prayer shawl…homespun…something simple and naturally colored that I could enhance somehow with sacred purple. It was a cold evening and I was not going out again, so I looked through my boxes of fabrics and found a length of burlap. It was a little rough and a rather unpleasant ochre color, but I am resourceful. First thing I did was to soak the whole thing in bleach water. Ninety nine percent of the color remained and so did the smell. What next? Keep the cats out of the laundry room and ponder the situation.

While pondering, I served a rather unsatisfying dinner to my dear partner and myself, then returned to the unsolved problem in the laundry room. The burlap was hanging over the tub looking very unpromising. I decided to wash it with soap in the machine. Not to be wasteful of water, soap and energy, I added all the dark clothes in the laundry hamper as well, and looked ahead to a virtuous conclusion.

While waiting for the washer to finish, a recollection came to me that I’d done this before with a bad outcome, but I pushed it to the side of my head. The sight that greeted me upon opening the washer brought the recollection back again, somewhat more forcefully: the burlap was a tangled mass and the dark clothes were covered with its furry mess. Now what?

Like a mother quickly pulling her babies out of harm’s way, I dumped the whole thing into the dryer along with an anti-static cloth that I was sure (!!) would cause all the mess to leap from the fabrics and into the lint trap. I waited, opening the door a number of times to empty the trap, and saying a little breathy prayer as the recollection loomed larger and larger. I knew I had done this before and I was beginning to realize that the price for dumbness was my road ahead for the rest of the evening. I trimmed and ironed what was left of the burlap, hung it up and prayed that it might turn into something useful by morning. Then I began the laborious task of de-furring socks, T-shirts and pants inside and out with strips of silver tape. I was penitent for not waiting faithfully for God’s inspiring thought—for zooming ahead with me-power. Then I went to bed just a little bit doleful.

This morning I surveyed the scene. All the clothes are hanging nicely in the closet with nary a sign of misdeed and stupidity, but the socks called to me and I had to give them a third silver tape massage. Now everything is out of sight and out of mind, except for that drat burlap still hanging mockingly in the laundry room.

I’ve re-learned my laundry lesson, but there are still a couple more fabric ideas to try. Will wait for noon warmth and maybe try a few other retail sources on my way to the grocery. God knows my every need. It will happen and it will be glorious when it does. In the meantime, I have to confess that artful problem solving is a lovely bit of fun and I do enjoy the hunt. So, God be with me—show me what to pick up and what to put down.

Let not my heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

17
Sep
10

drawing sacred circles

I have several new postings on Drawing Sacred Circles…. http://drawingsacredcircles.wordpress.com /

Take a look and leave a comment if you are so inclined. I really love the comments. Postings on DSC take more time and are fewer than on this one (CbN) because with the arts as central theme, they have more components.  To keep up with my slow progress, you can subscribe to  Sacred Circles in  just the same way as on this blog… by clicking on: Sign me up! under Email Subscription on the right.

I’m looking for guest contributors to Sacred Circles…looking to all of the creative arts, music, drama, poetry, crafts, whatever. You know, life without the arts is like a day without sun or moon. If you have something to contribute to the Sacred Circles blog please let me know.




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