Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the colour of success

so here's my Q (big question):

what does "success" look like for the [christian] artist?

i suppose i could ask what "success" looks like for the artist in general as well but, like the masthead says, this is "an exploration of the arts, faith and whatever else crosses my mind."

i will be the first to admit that it would be great to be able to make a living (and by that i also mean a profitable living) from my art. regardless of what you may think about thomas kinkade or precious moments i would dearly love it if my work was emblazoned on every possible printable surface or interpreted as any number of kitschy objects: framed prints, plates, towels, stickers, magnets, t-shirts (actually, that might work!), mugs, placemats, table runners, bibles, paperweights, snowglobes, tattoos...a cornucopia of delights. it would be wonderful if everything sold and the work was collected by patrons and museums. if there were catalogues and monographs and films and interviews. let's be honest: it would be. i'm no van gogh but i'm also no damien hirst or jeff koons (or kinkade). after all, the making - while hard work, and often tediuos - is fulfilling. it is both my responsibility and my joy.

and, if i am honest, i would also admit that i want the madding throngs to come and see my work, and to await new work with excitement and anticipation; to come and be transported, transformed, deeply and profoundly moved. and that happens on occasion. someone is moved to tears. someone feels a connection to something spiritual. someone is challenged to change their ways. someone recognizes something in themselves and finds freedom. someone finds comfort and healing. someone is astounded. someone is inspired. someone experiences joy. these things have happened and, i trust, will continue to happen, and they are wholly and deeply gratifying. and i suppose that is "success". i just want more of it. i'm greedy like that.

Friday, December 11, 2009


about a year ago, i attended several presentations at the banff centre. the first was with paul butler, and the second was with matthew higgs. i was interested in what they had to say because paul works with collage and, in particular, has these wonderful, crazy "collage party" events that he hosts for/with other artists. he was at the centre to direct a creative residency called reverse pedagogy. i wanted to hear what higgs, who is a curator and artist (among other things), had to say because of his work with found books, artists books and text. he was visiting as part of the banff international curatorial institute's symposium, trade secrets: education/collection/history. their talks raised a number of questions for me, chief among them the questions of community and the nature of collaboration.

what struck me most was paul's statement that a primary impulse behind his collage parties was a longing for the type of community he had while in university. like many an artist (or anyone, really) i can absolutely relate. university or college (or high school) fills up so much of your day, time, identity that when you leave that social context you find yourself somewhat unmoored, afloat. it's hard enough finding kindred spirits in that context, let alone when you're removed from it. and despite many organizations' efforts, "the monthly meeting" just can't take the place of daily, ongoing or intermittent opportunities to talk about the piece you're working on, or the series you're exploring, or the brand! new! artist! you've just discovered!

he also discussed a number of alternative artists' ventures that move outside of the traditional artmaking and distribution contexts that are quite intriguing.
the upper trading post is one such venture. i'm sure there are others of this ilk. anyone?

the notion of collaborative spaces, and social spaces is an intriguing one, whether those spaces are physical or virtual. while i'm still not convinced of the virtual context's ability to foster true community (there's just something about
faces) there are ways - there must be ways - to create opportunities for community. where art is more of a communal process, or at least the communal process is an integral aspect of the finished work.

matthews higgs' talk generated ideas about how one can use forgotten or neglected spaces. small, hidden, ignored spaces that can be activated and energized by art's presence. or the creation of spaces dedicated to that collaborative impulse, where work is never finished, where dialogue and discussion and coffee and beer and wine are ever-present and ongoing.

higgs also spurred my interest in relational aesthetics (again). while that may make the art-work less 'arty', i think it's important to acknowledge that art
is relational in nature. it must be. as bourriaud states, relational aesthetics are "a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space". it may be a little passe now, but i still think the human interactive element in the art process (both while making and when experiencing) is an important consideration for the artist.

i must admit that my desire to work collaboratively, and my ability to sustain that and complete the task (assuming 'completion' is even part of the process) have not been that successful. and i find myself asking why that is. is it the lack of human presence? is it too much reliance on a shared passion for an idea, and that virtual community doesn't have the legs to carry the load? am i too idealistic? demanding? not demanding enough? even in situ, i wonder how much the invitation to add and participate can work? how does one create the conditions for that dialogue between viewer/ reader and work and viewer/ reader? creating the context can only do so much. people still have to choose to engage and "enter in".

i'd be interested in others' experiences working collaboratively, whether it worked or not. for some reason, the idea and act of collaboration, collusion, sharing, interaction, etc. is important to me. i just want to do it better.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

tracey emin and the popes

two interesting things happened in the last week or so:

1. tracey emin wins art + christian enquiry (ACE) award for [i]art in a christian context[/i] -- tracey emin?! she of the tent with the names of everyone she had ever slept (and not necessarily sexually, mind you) with embroidered on it? she of the frank and overt sexuality? she of the abject and throwaway? hmm...but she is also the tracey emin who repeatedly, and directly, without the subterfuge and obfuscation of many other artists, addresses God in her work. i remember reading an interview where she noted that no one ever discusses the religious/ spiritual aspect of her work and instead focus on the shock/ scatological aspects. in an interview with sarah douglas, tracey states:
Judge my work, that’s fine. It’s here, it’s on the wall. But don’t judge my soul. So even though it sounds a little tongue-in-cheek, it isn’t. And in terms of God — not religion, but in terms of God — I have a vast amount of faith, and belief.
and it's not the only time her connection to faith is mentioned. try here, for instance. i find her increasingly fascinating.

2. pope benedict met with artists from around the world in the sistine chapel to discuss the relationship between the church and artists, and the possibilities of Beauty - a gesture of reconciliation and entreaty. it happened to have occurred on the tenth anniversary of pope john paul II's letter to artists, as well as the 45th anniversary of pope paul VI's original meeting with artists in 1964. see the full text of pope benedict's address here.

pjp2's letter starts with "to all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world". epiphanies of Beauty. lovely.

that's one of the primary ideas i'm currently exploring - the once again acceptable idea of Beauty. dostoyevsky said that "Beauty will save the world", and the idea often finds itself linked to Truth, [moral] goodness, hope. i find that Beauty is invoked a lot in contemporary art, especially art that explores spiritual content. i'd definitely be interested in any suggestions for reading, exploring, thinking about the role of Beauty in art and the world.

(more later)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


i will be displaying some new pieces this weekend at a fundraiser/ exhibition for the mustard seed in edmonton.

from their website:
The Mustard Seed Street Ministry is a non-profit Christian humanitarian organization that has been caring for Calgary's homeless for over 24 years. We help meet the essential needs of the less fortunate through food, clothing, and shelter provisions. The Mustard Seed also provides a broad range of progressive and innovative education and employment training programs to help guests regain confidence, find hope, and rebuild their lives off the street. Supported housing, arts and recreation programs, an integrative health and wellness centre, and personalized mentoring provide comprehensive care to our guests, helping restore wholeness and confidence.
look at these images in that context. as always, i'd be very interested in your responses.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

re: god in the gallery

just finished reading this a second time. i think daniel siedell presents an interesting approach to (and much needed corrective to the usual theological attitude towards) modern and contemporary art, especially from the position of the viewer/ reader as opposed to the maker. that being said, there's a lot to chew on in this book as one forms a theology of art.

right off the top, siedell asks why art, which is "complex and difficult and contextual", is so often communicated to people as "fun, accessible and child-friendly"? obviously, the desire to make art accessible confuses the issue -- there is a difference between the therapeutic effects of self-expression and making art. in turn, we create an expectation that makes it difficult to engage with art in a critical manner (by which i mean analysis, evaluation and judgement). it's actually quite counter-productive. as siedell notes, it is crucial to consider the work's historical and philosophical conditions. i also found the idea that "creating meaning is an institutional practice" intriguing, especially when we consider modern and contemporary art as genres.

there is a lot of discussion about the spiritual element of art. siedell does a very good job of outlining why there is that parallel between the aesthetic and the spiritual by addressing art's role in embodying ideas. art has a phenomenological depth; it (hopefully) presents, or bodies forth, human experience. museums are often described as the new "secular" temple, but rarely does anyone unpack why that might be so. if "the aesthetic" has replaced "the religious", it does so through a union between the sensuous material and ideas, bringing them together in a way that is more than the sum of its parts.

one possible approach to this spiritual/ aesthetic connection can be found in the approach to the icon. icons have a curious parallel to modern and contemporary art, especially the earlier manifestations of abstraction (malevich, kandinsky, etc.) -- they are similar in size, their spiritual power/ presence, composition, and self consciousness. these images are doorways, portals to the ineffable, a claim that is equally important for both icons and abstract art.

a very important idea that siedell emphasizes is that art is a cultural product, and that creating art is a cultural practice; and that cultural production functions best within its own [interpretive] context. this, in turn, means that it must be conscious of its audience if it is to be interpreted properly; obsessed, even. this idea is especially important in the context of modern art and the idea of the avant-garde, which, as siedell shows, was all about finding its own, different audience, whether his example of courbet, the impressionists or dada.

one question he raised, which i think is an important one, especially for the christian artist, is: how can i develop "a telos that is less explicitly religious in its subject matter but more profoundly religious in its structure"? this question relates to the experience of the work, its liturgy, the environment of our interaction with it. it involves an engagement with the work, which breaks down any traditional aesthetic distance, a deeper contemplation and communion. to return back to the icon, the 2nd council of nicea determined that images were not merely educational; the icon projects presence. that presence, however, is contextualized by its place in the liturgy and rituals of the people in a church environment. the nicean icon, therefore, provides a model for modern and contemporary art by "incorporating objects, practices, and environments into an expansive and comprehensive aesthetic network".

art is not simply about the object; "it is an institutionalized way of making, looking, experiencing and interpreting. it is a confluence of specific circumstances that include the artist, viewer, object and the way that object is presented and displayed" -- and, i would add, how it is discussed and written about.

i also appreciated siedell's forthrightness about art criticism and its alienating effect on the general public. art criticism, or "talking around the art", is a literary genre. it's really not so much about explaining the artwork as it is about the critic's experience of it. the call being sounded is one inviting christian critics and curators to speak about "the relationship between the immanent and the transcendent, the material and spiritual, the aesthetic and ethical implications of consubstantiality and the hypostatic union, and the inextricable relationship between dogma and practice as an intellectual framework" (p. 111) and "to creatively bend and shape contemporary art towards christ". which isn't as difficult as it seems, judging by the increasing interest in the art world in the True, the good, and the beautiful.

i also appreciated siedell's attention to the much different context of the church, and how art functions within its liturgy and the rituals of the people. there, art serves the larger purposes of the gathering. its purpose is to aid prayer, not "ask difficult questions" or "challenge beliefs". this contextualization also means that the meaning [of an artwork] evolves over time, both within and outside the context of the liturgy. the middle ages are often trotted out as an exemplar of art being used to communicate to an illiterate populace. but that is a misrepresentation; art was never used for "the common people" for illustrative purposes -- those images functioned in the context of an immersive environment and multi-sensory experience. the sense of transcendence was, and is, accomplished through instilling in the participant an awareness of presence where the aesthetic parallels the spiritual.

daniel siedell's god in the gallery is rich. it is a book i will return to repeatedly.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


i just discovered a new site through one of the list-serves i'm on, and i find it quite intriguing: dear computer. as the website states: Dear Computer is the quest for beauty in algorithmic randomness. Using various tools I'm trying to create surprising results in the field of generative art.

i've always been interested in systems and their relation to creativity -- partially because i tend to work in series and with collage, but also because i think that creativity really shines when we are given limits to work within, push against, transcend. in fact, it's a great way to develop your "chops" - working with different styles, genres and other limitations. certainly, utilizing forms and structures as generative devices is not new, nor is it a new thing to incorporate randomness as part of the process.

and while you're there, you may also want to check out glitch. just sayin'...


i just discovered blublu.

i'm not kidding. especially

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

gobsmacked, i am. utterly gobsmacked.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

more ambling

this post is more of a response to responses to a previous post but i think it's worth exploring further. A.H. asked: ...what about questioning the truth? An artist may choose to present an opportunity to ask "what is the truth?"; allowing the viewer to explore an issue from a new perspective, taking the viewer on a journey to examine their own beliefs, values and assumptions.

and i agree. but when we say "questioning the truth", don't we really mean "questioning that thing that is masquerading as the truth"? aren't we really speaking about the artist unveiling or unmasking? aren't we referring to their task as a presenter of truth and revealer of lies? one of my favourite books, the prophetic imagination by walter breuggemann, refers to the truth-telling function of the voice of the church - which i think also extends to the voice of the artist (in whatever medium):

the task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the of the dominant culture around us. they are to criticize the status quo and energize us to action. simply, it is to identify those things that are not as they should be. (emphasis added)
in other words, art is about a hermeneutics of hope.

A.H. also asked: ...what about the viewer's role? Each viewer brings their own knowledge, experience and bias to the viewing process and this influences what they take away from the experience.

obviously, every viewer does indeed bring their own "baggage" to their viewing of a work, but my position is that one does not begin there. if that's your starting point, it's not really about the art, it's about you. and art is not first and foremost about the viewer. it does not, in fact, simply exist as a blank template upon which the viewer imprints their own desires and psychology and hopes and fears. i actually think that's a very modern approach to, and attitude about, looking at and thinking about art. art is about me. well it's not, actually. or at least not particularly. that kind of thinking brings us to the place where "art can mean [radically and completely] different things to different people". poppycock. i think that is only possible if art is all about the viewer's [personal] experience and not about the relationship between the viewer and the art. and i think that is the wrong way to approach art. let me explain.

it's like that c. s. lewis quote i referred to in the previous related post. we have to come to art with a willingness to engage in a conversation, and that means at least as much listening as talking. all of that is ultimately mediated and shifted by the viewer's open-ness to what the work is communicating, exploring, offering. in fact, the simple process of starting with describing the work, and making connections between those descriptions, and then [slowly] moving to interpretation (rather than jumping to our interpretation immediately - almost without even really looking at the art) will help bring a greater balance to that interaction.

i prefer to believe that the art (and artist) is trying to communicate something. it may be a criticism or it may be propaganda. or it might be asking us to consider something (but let's face it -- that usually does have an agenda). one would hope that the artist has exercised some responsibility as an artist and has thought through and considered the work they have created, how its materiality, presentation, context and imagery/ symbols conveys the message. that being said, if we exercise some measure of the same care in reading/ looking at the work (i.e. deciphering), we really can't simply interpret the work however we want to -- we have to engage with what is there. and while our experiences et al certainly can colour those interpretations, i think the core will be pretty consistent. in anything, our experience should enrich and add nuance to those interpretations.

then again, i'm an idealist. and very demanding of both the viewer/ reader and the art i look at. and my own ideal viewer/ reader.

happy international artists day!

(this also happens to be picasso's birthday)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

art, pastors and the church (o my!)

as a [practicing] artist and follower of christ, i am always interested in the relationship between what i consider my primary calling and the community i am part of.

here is a video by craig detweiler where he shares his thoughts about the role of the "arts pastor":

a wonderfully impassioned speech -- it makes me want to do an arts rant of my own! (and i just might)

there are several things that i like about this video -- chief among them, the role of the [arts] pastor to simply pastor/ shepherd ("release/ unleash") the artist in the local congregation. and
not only the artists, but everyone's inherent creativity. i also like the references to serving the local community/(-ies), not only by releasing the congregation's song in the community but also telling their story (stories?) in an artistic or creative way. this is part of what i consider a primary calling for the artist (christian or non): serving.

the second question - does the church set the artist free? - was more problematic for me. yes, the church was a patron of the arts in times past, but the church also was a patron of
excellence. i think that part of the church's role as a patron also necessarily involves an ability to distinguish and determine (perhaps even discern) what work or which artists are worthy of patronage and support. the question i have is: why exactly was the church the main patron before? what was the impetus behind its patronage? status? power? didacticism? evangelismo? i think we sometimes gloss over the intricacies and context of that particular history of the church and its role in culture. certainly, the church did play a major role - after all, what is often referred to as "the cultural mandate" is part of our calling as fully alive humans - but it is complicated. so why were "the arts" (and there is a history in various aspects of the church for all artforms: music, dance, literature, drama) a focus? and how does that play out now? and what does it mean that the church was a locus? what does that mean for us as part of a community (or communities)?

the last section and its repeated emphasis on beauty was also quite generative. dostoevsky said that "beauty will save the world". beauty as a theological concept is a driving force for much of the theology of art, and there is a moral component to the idea that is crucial to our activity as artists, let alone christians. further, in the last 10 years or so, the notion of beauty is increasingly invoked and explored in contemporary work (and often, oddly enough, in conjunction with notions of spirituality), and no longer ignored or ridiculed. there's something important about beauty. it has a moral rigour to it.
i especially like craig's question:how can we create moments of beauty, truth and splendour that cause us to pause? and, presumably, ponder. reflect. open ourselves up to the possibility and capacity of art to move us.

do wonder, however, about the emphasis that somehow the 21c is purely a "visual century" and of rushing headlong to embrace every form and expression of that visual culture. in his other do you see? video (this one is #2) craig speaks of slowing down. perhaps the inundation of images (depending on your source, we are bombarded with anywhere from 4,000 to 20,000 images a day) is more a matter of incessant demand rather than simply the visuality of our time. how do we/ can we/ will we create or facilitate that place of [visual] rest? i think it's more a matter of finding and presenting the right image(s) for the right purpose (the idea of "fittingness" being another way to look at beauty) than embracing our culture's proliferation of images (iconophilia) or abandoning them altogether (iconoclasm). i mean, images are powerful - they are not, nor have they ever been, neutral. which reminds me, i need to keep reading iconoclash.

anyway, certainly lots of grist for the mill...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

international artist day (october 25)

yes. that's right. someone lobbied for october 25th (picasso's birthday) to be recognized as international artist day. and it's working.

which begs the question: do we need our own day? why? what purpose does it serve? are we that fragile? are we that deserving? what would justify artists "having their day"? it all seems to be a little "look at me - i deserve to be noticed" (oh, and buy some of my art, too!)...i mean it's a list of things to do to celebrate/ support artists:

  • visit a gallery and explain why you're there
  • purchase a piece of art to support an artist
  • visit an artist's studio
  • take an artist to lunch and explore their world
very nice. but how does that make us matter (if, indeed, the arts matter)?

i say, let's turn the tables. how will we, as artists, serve our public(s) -- i.e. contribute to society -- on that day?

let's go to the public and share our work, process, passion. let's move outwards. let's reach out. i think international artist day should be purposeful. it should be more than self-aggrandizing and self-celebratory. let's mess up how people perceive artists. let's help them understand us. let's rebuild the bridge between art and people. let's reconnect art and life. let's engage with community.

and then we can celebrate international artist day as something that is more than just about ourselves.

Monday, September 28, 2009

well -- that's one way to walk on water

this is an installation i just discovered by artist michael cross called bridge. i think it's amazing, but then i think a lot of things are amazing. actually, what i really think is that i wish i had made this. it's lovely. the piece was installed in a church, and obviously there are a lot of resonances because of that context. its genesis was the artist's recognition that he needed a 'new kind of bridge' (he wanted to experience the sensation of standing in the middle of a lake, presumably for the emotional/ spiritual sense of [wonder?] that would generate).

what i find so compelling about this piece is not so much the references to faith (and, like peter, walking on the water with jesus) but the way it literally and physically incarnates the idea -- it makes the sometimes rather abstract notion of faith something palpable. the artist comments that numerous people had a difficult time trusting the piece i.e. they had no faith to walk on the water. in order to experience the piece fully, you had to start walking. which
is, actually, the point, regardless of where you approach the piece from (physically, spiritually, whatever). there's a very real tension between fear and faith.

i wish
i could have walked on the water -- even if only for a few steps...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

day of the living marionettes!

on saturday my family and i went to see the cashore marionettes at the banff centre. here's the blurb:

A performance by The Cashore Marionettes is a celebration of life. The Cashore Marionettes redefine the art of puppetry through exceptional artistry, grace, and refinement of movement. The performances, stunning in their intensity and simple beauty, have thrilled audiences in Europe, the Far East and across North America. The classic and well-known Simple Gifts expresses themes of beauty, joy, and the wonder of life.

and it lived up to expectations. in fact, the performance surpassed them. it was absolutely engrossing and wonder-full. the boys are still talking about it and, naturally, so am i.

there were a series of short pieces. from the opening piece with a passionate and aged violinist to the final piece, called simple things, about a boy and a kite, we were all transported into an amazing imaginary space. there were other stories of course: a monk discovers a small treasure, a young girl is distracted from her homework by the toys in her room, a mountain climber reaches a summit after much toil and trial, a guitarist cranks his electric guitar to 11, a mother lulls her child to sleep, a horse escapes his pen and explores the countryside, a homeless man looks for a reason to hope, a last-minute replacement trapeze artist conquers his fears.

sure - the marionettes were beautifully made (carved and painted by joseph cashore hisself), but what was truly astounding was the level of articulation of the marionettes and the truthfulness of the characters and their movements. they were alive. wondrous.

there is something about the power of stories and the simplicity of a single character to move people. yes, the lighting was dramatic and yes, the music was moving. and yes, it was interesting when joseph broke the "4th wall" and entered into the performance (which also, oddly enough, didn't destroy the illusion that these characters were independent creatures, with a life of their own). and yes, it was interesting to hear about his passion, commitment and even obsession for his work during the q&a session afterwards (he has invented and created his own mechanisms for manipulating the marionettes).

ultimately, however, you could tell that all he really wants is to convince you of a story. and he wants that story to move you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

kseniya simonova's got talent

i submit, for your consideration, a powerfully moving performance piece that masterfully demonstrates the power of art. i was in tears as the piece progressed (and i didn't even have the additional element of the music). a thoroughly engrossing 8 minutes plus of profound art.

simply put, the video is astounding. it depicts, in sand, the suffering of ordinary people caused by the invasion of ukraine by the german army during world war two. regardless of my feelings about the "TV talent show/ competition" phenomenon (i think they enable short cuts to fame and fortune rather than an embrace of the process of working on your craft and developing as a true artist - regardless of medium), ms. simonova justifies the genre.

to paraphrase karen stone:

we use words to explain and teach, but we use images to move people:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

blasphemy! blasphemy! blasphemy!

the preamble
i've been reading 2 samuel (yes, i do read the bible, although perhaps more occasionally than i'd care to admit) and was struck by something i read. it was occasioned by the episode in the david story where he stayed home and played while everyone else went to war. while at home, wandering on his balcony, he spied a beautiful woman bathing on a roof somewhere with spying distance. and he desired her (idle hands and all that). and, being the king, he sent for her. and she came. to be honest, i'm not sure what choice she had. the bible says he lay with her. and then she purified herself from her uncleanness. i find that interesting. anyway, wouldn't you know it -- bathsheba (that was her name) became pregnant.

so david brought her husband back to the house from the battlefield, hoping he'd be happy to be back with his hot wife and that he'd lay with her as well and thereby create a skin for david's sin. of course, uriah (that was his name) was too honourable, and decided that he couldn't indulge himself when his fellow soldiers were going without and he refused. in fact, he avoided his wife altogether. which meant uriah wouldn't be providing david with an alibi to hide behind. bad enough that david coveted another man's wife, but then he schemed and conspired to have that man killed. once uriah was dead, and his wife had mourned him, david sent for her again, and made her his wife. and she bore him a son.

now, that's all preamble and context for the thing that struck me. see, this thing remained a secret (for the most part). some time later, nathan, a prophet, came to visit david and told him a story. in essence: a man had lots of lambs and yet he stole the only lamb another man had for his own purposes. david recognized the injustice of that and declared that the many-lambed man should pay for his selfishness, at which point natham lowered the boom, pulled off the veil and let david know that the selfish man was david (and bathsheba was the little lamb).

the amble
now here's the thing i want to discuss (and i will bring it around as a way to look at art or the art process or the calling/ responsibility of the artist): nathan says that this event has given people (okay, okay - he says the enemies of God) an opportunity to blaspheme. well! what does that mean? i think it means this: his actions, and the results of those actions, mis-represented God and the Truth of who he is. his character. his justice. the Truth.

i would like us to consider that idea in the context of art, its making and receiving. after all, there are numerous instances when art is accused of being blasphemous (andres serrano, chris ofili). and perhaps people mean that it misrepresents God. that it misrepresents the Truth. more often than not,however, i think people mean that it offends their image of God, what they understand to be true of him.

here is a tension. on the one hand, God is the Great Iconoclast. every time we think we have him solved he surprises and confounds us, and chips away at or outright destroys our image of him. that, despite the fact that we are inherently idolatrous (and, for that matter, theolatrous). we make idols of things, images, ideas, people without thinking. on the other hand, we are image-bearers of God - we carry the imago dei. like him, we are creative beings. and yet he gives artists the pleasure and the responsibility of working with images (or texts - which in turn create images in our minds), and using those images to communicate to people, to move them. the questions is: how deeply and closely do we consider the images we make? what do they reflect?

so let me say this: it is blasphemous when art misrepresents the Truth. yes - the Truth about God, but also the Truth about man. about relationships. about suffering. about injustice. about joy and hope and love. to quite the japanese director, akira kurosawa: the artist is the one who does not look away. the artists sees the truth. the artist must engage with the Truth.

of course, all of this is to say that i think, and will maintain for all my days, that art's purpose is, in fact, to communicate Truth, within and between communities, starting with the individual. it is an inherently communal enterprise. it is purposeful in its intent to connect. to commune, i.e. to make something 'common' or shared. i think it is counter to the purposes and, indeed, the character of God, who has made us in his image as creative beings - and even some of us with the calling of the artist - to present anything but Truth, on whatever level or about whatever subject. in fact, it is therefore blasphemous, a gross and perverse misrepresentation, to live anywhere or anyway else.

all i want is the Truth.

just give me the Truth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

chicago, chicago, that happenin' town

we went to the art institute of chicago on our 10th anniversary road trip. unfortunately, we didn't make it to the contemporary art museum. next time. however, there were some beautiful pieces there. highlights (and revelations) for me were:

cy twombly - big splashy paintings. surprisingly colourful. like gigantic peonies mashed on the canvas. the surprise for me was the size of his minimal and elegant sculptures. of course, they will eventually be a conservator's nightmare...

gerhard richter - there was a room of his paintings, both the photo-based work (from the 60s and 80s - loved the candles) and the large abstract field (ice) paintings. his work is really about vision - seeing. the act of looking.

bruce nauman - i've always found him a polarizing, though important figure. i think he, warhol and duchamp are very much touchstones for a lot of contemporary work. there was a neon piece - human nature/life death; a text piece - in which he plays with possibility and permutations of a single line of text, exploring permanence and meaning; and some video pieces - the clown torture series, which were maddening. annoying. grating.

robert gober - i'd never seen his installations, and here i saw 2! sure, they're layered and multivalent and double-sided, but they're also quite elegant and open. i especially love the fact that all the objects are hand-made - plaster casts and glass casts - and hand-painted; not the industrially produced objects they seem to be at first glance.

philip guston (born in canada, btw) - couple in bed is a lovely painting, devotional even.

sol le witt - there was a great wall piece...

lastly, there was an astounding (and huge) caravaggio: the resurrection. what a strange painting. otherworldly. yes, he could paint - textures, skin, shadow and light. but it all seemed so surreal. a fascinating painting...

the medieval wing was closed, which was disappointing.

the real [chicago] highlights for me, however, were the public art installations.

1. anish kapoor's cloud gate - 110 tons of fun. i've loved his work for decades. i could speak about the sense of the sublime in his work, the ineffable, the 'spiritual' -- but instead i'll note how his work always disturbs my equilibrium - i always feel de-centered when i look at this work, and cloud gate is no exception. not only that, it's a tourist bonanza. it was pretty crowded outside it, but inside, in the swirling vortex at its center, it was even more packed. people filming themselves and each other. very communal. brilliant.

2. magdalena abakanowicz's installation agora (greek for meeting place). 100+ walking figures fill grant park. her work has always spoken to relationships, from her early performances (public sculptures) with her then partner ulay to more recent pieces. this piece is powerfully affective - as you walk through from the periphery to the center, where the figures are more densely grouped, you feel the press and presence of these sentinels, these faceless witnesses.

3. the crown fountain - a 230' pool is book-ended by two 50' fountains, glass block towers with LED projections of chicagoans' faces. fun. and absolutely astounding at night.

4. frank gehry's jay pritzker pavilion, a 120' high stainless steel spaceship of a concert stage. unbelievable.

i'm running out of superlatives. i will visit chicago again. definitely.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

become aware of your own experience

i came across a great quote by robert morris (he of the felt and earth fame) the other day:

i want to provide a situation where people can become more aware of their own experience rather than more aware of some version of my experience.

this is in many ways the core of what i hope to achieve with my work. of course, i do want people to be impressed by my work - whether for its execution or its content. i want it to have a wow factor. but i want the experience of looking at my work to be more than that. i want the viewer/ reader to engage with the work and use it to examine themselves. yes -- i have an agenda. yes -- there are ideas i am trying to convey. yes -- there is a direction to the work. yes - i expect you to enter in to the work and spend some time trying to decipher and analyze "the code"...

but at some point i hope it becomes about you and your experience and not mine - the work is not about my experience and my self-expression. i want the work to be little prompts, small agitations of the soul. doors. windows. hints and allegations. invitations, even.

it's the other side of another favourite quote of mine (by c. s. lewis this time):

[When looking at art,] We sit down before the picture in order to have something done to us, not that we may do things with it. The first demand any work of any art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such a surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out.)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

"books are windows on the world"

as i work towards an installation/ exhibition this october, i would like to solicit input and thoughts from friends, followers and random visitors. obviously i will be working with books and text (both found and generated), but also windows, portals and doors (o my!). 

my request to you, the casual and devoted reader, is that you consider contributing quotes, poems or books that explore/ comment upon the following ideas (or any others that may tangentially connect for you within  the somewhat vaguely offered context): books, communication, text, language, writing, reading, orality, aurality, images, art, creativity, seriality, narrative, travel, journey, pilgrimage, culture, imagination, story, myth, philosophy, exploration, discovery...

here's my first contribution: of all man's instruments, the most astonishing is, without any doubt, the book. the others are extensions of his body. the microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his eyes; the telephone an extension of his voice; then we have the plow and the sword, extensions of his arm. but the book is something else: the book is an extension of memory and imagination. - jorge luis borges

please leave your thoughts, suggestions, questions or comments...

Monday, May 25, 2009

the fall(s) of edward

the fall of 2010 is looking to be a very busy season for me -- i will be having 2 solo exhibitions (one in september and one in november). i have already begun conceptualizing the exhibitions (see my previous posts about your possible contribution to an installation) and will continue [trying] to work on my collaborative projects (such as a photo-based exhibition with a friend). more details later. i hope i have enough time to bring them together.

in the meantime, i have been invited to install a piece at king's university college in edmonton as part of their read in week events for october 2009. it's a nice connection: read in week and bookworks (or at least text works). evidently, read in week has been going on for approximately 20 years - its stated intention is to create a greater awareness of the importance of reading. this year's theme is books are windows on the world. i'm already getting some ideas, but i will be waiting for some images of the space before i get too attached to anything in particular. in fact, i'm going to be very literal with the theme. which, in turn, will make the piece(s) very metaphorical. odd, that.

i have also submitted a proposal (i can't really call it a piece for reasons which i will explain below) for october 2009 to self absorbed, an exhibition about self-portraiture at the SPAC art gallery at seattle pacific university. while i do not work with my own self portrait, i am interested in identity and how we see ourselves (and therefore, how we see the world, and are seen). my proposal involves providing a template onto which visitors can project their own self-image (with supplied art materials) and thereby create a composite (self)portrait of the exhibition's visitors. i hope it gets accepted. 

there are several other submissions i have yet to hear about, which is probably a good thing. for the most part, i'm not getting paid for these shows, and i'm still working on ways in which to make my work more available (which is not the same thing as accessible). my goal over the next few years is to continue to widen the net -- slowly but surely moving out into alberta and the rest of the west. and aiming for exhibitions in 2011 and 2012. i may even try to cobble together a curated exhibition. dreams, visions and a lot of hard work (thinking and making). yes.