April 29, 2022
Creativity in Exhibitions
I have written in times past about the organization Art and Christianity. They are based in London, and their website is www.artandchristianity.org. While their activities are focused in England, their website is a rich resource of programs and ideas that can be adapted in other situations.
Years ago, as my congregation created our performing arts series, I very much wanted to include exhibitions of art, and other activities, in addition to hosting musical concerts. And we have done that in a variety of ways. We produced exhibitions of art that included the mediums of both photography and collage. We sponsored a youth photography outing and subsequent exhibition of their works as well.
At the time when we began our series, I bought a guidebook which provided direction and advice about the practical aspects of putting on art exhibitions of varying kinds. It was quite helpful, and I have used it at times through the years. The Art and Christianity website also provides some helpful links in this regard, ranging from a template for an artist contract, to a sample budget, to a template form for open call submissions. These are found on the “Art in Churches” tab, under the sub-tab of “Guidelines and Case Studies.”
Under that same sub-tab are a listing of “Case Studies of Temporary Works of Art and Exhibitions in Churches.” Each site has a link which provides readers with more detailed information. These exhibitions include such diverse approaches as a festival related to several rural churches, to installations and exhibits in various Cathedrals, to a participatory residency and a performance piece. The variety is striking, and the ideas that can be adapted in one’s own setting are inspiring.
I hope that you will find their work to be as interesting and helpful as I do.
April 22, 2022
Celebrating Resurrection 2
Frederick Buechner, in his book entitled, Whistling in the Dark (originally subtitled, “An ABC Theologized,” but then reissued with the subtitle, “A Doubter’s Dictionary”), defines Easter in his own unique way. He begins by talking about Christmas and the “large and colorful cast of characters.” He relates the familiarity of it all, and comments that “we have made a major production of it, and as minor attractions we have added the carols, the tree, the presents…” But then adds, “With Easter it is entirely different.”
He writes, “The Gospels are far from clear as to just what happened. It began in the dark. The stone had been rolled aside. Matthew alone speaks of an earthquake…Confusion was everywhere. There is no agreement even as to the role of Jesus himself. Did he appear at the tomb or only later? Where? To whom did he appear? What did he say? What did he do?”
Buechner reflects that “it is not a major production at all…It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth…When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty. That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.”
As I have read and re-read the Gospel accounts through the years, I am always led to reflect upon Buechner’s words, upon his perspective of the vagueness of the accounts and his faith-filled statement that “something unimaginable happened.” His “definition” of Easter has always had an impact upon me.
Toward the end of the “definition,” he reflects that “the symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness.” It is an interesting statement, and indeed I find it more challenging to deliver an Easter message than one on Christmas Eve. Birth we understand. We have seen and adored babies. But emptiness is something different.
It is here that I believe the efforts of artists across the centuries help to give form to the stories of the Resurrection and Jesus’ encounters with his followers. While their creations depict events and encounters with the Risen Jesus that reflect the artists’ own experiences, they open the door for us to envision the events for ourselves. In so doing, we help to give form to the emptiness, and give shape to the power of the Resurrection in our own lives.
April 15, 2022
Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, is a large mortuary / cemetery, but it is also much more. The founder of the Forest Lawn collection of cemeteries, Hubert Eaton, was a lover of art. There is an almost innumerable collection of reproductions of great works of art throughout the grounds and buildings of the cemetery in Glendale. These reproductions allow one to experience these works of art without having to travel the world to see them.
At this site, there are at least three original works of art as well – a Stained Glass Window reproduction of da Vinci’s Last Supper, an immense painting of the Crucifixion, and a companion painting of the Resurrection. Several weeks ago, we took a group to view these three works of art. All went well in viewing the stained-glass window and hearing the commentary about it. But when we arrived at the large church where the paintings are housed, we discovered that the exhibit was closed due to filming. After further questioning, the filming had actually concluded, but some of the equipment was still present, and so that was why the presentation wasn’t happening. As a courtesy though, we were allowed into the church to view just the painting of the Crucifixion. It was helpful, although several people in the group felt as though they had missed out on the total experience. So, we returned on Palm Sunday to view both paintings and to hear the presentation. This time it was closed for maintenance. Fortunately, we connected with a wonderful docent, who ushered our small group into the church, provided us with excellent commentary, and then, after a time of again viewing the painting of the Crucifixion, she moved the painting of the Resurrection into place, and gave us as much time as we wished to view it. In some ways, it was a more enriching experience than seeing the pre-done presentation, which I have viewed before. Information about all three of these works can be found at this link - forestlawn.com/exhibits-and-community-events/exhibits/ .
While some may question the idea of viewing this art at a cemetery, what better place to proclaim our faith in the power of the Resurrection, in the power of God over even death, than in the midst of a place where people are interred for eternity, but from which their spirits are absent precisely because of the Resurrection.
April 8, 2022
Mosaic Creation 5
A total of thirteen people participated in our mosaic workshop, most of them working individually, but a couple working together on a project. These people ranged in age from nine years old to folks in their seventies and eighties. There was a wonderful sense of comradery and support for one another, and people seemed quite pleased with their creations.
I provided about twenty different designs that people could use to spark their creativity, and expected that some would arrive with their own projects in mind. While the two youngest participants did create their own works, the others used the provided designs to envision their projects, with some of them following the designs closely and others using them as only starting points.
People worked steadily on their projects, and most of them finished within the first three hours, even though I had set a six-hour time frame for the first day. We started at 9:00 a.m., and the last person finished by 1:30 p.m. The grouting of the projects on the second day also went well, with everyone grasping the process and emerging with beautiful results.
I share here images of some of the projects. With a few of them, people questioned the rough nature of the finished works, but for me it is the distinct quality of mosaic creations that they are quite different from paintings or photographs, and their textured quality is part of the beauty of the works.
April 1, 2022
Mosaic Creation 4
In the movie “Finding Forester,” the reclusive writer gives his young friend a push start in his writing by sharing one of the writer’s own works. The inspiration is indeed provided, but then the use of the author’s words gets submitted for a class assignment and issues of plagiarism arise. It is a wonderful movie about writing, friendship and courage, and if you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the time.
Blank pages before an author signal both an opportunity to create something new and the possibility of stagnation as one struggles with how to begin. That dual engagement can also be true of visual art creations. That is part of the reason that many art instructors present still life arrangements, or give specific settings, for beginning students. It is a way to get started.
When we gather for our mosaic workshop this weekend, I will provide plenty of examples from which people can get their push starts. I have been encouraging those who have registered for the workshop to be thinking about the design or image that they would like to create. Some have already indicated their ideas, while others will likely arrive without any preconceived direction. For those who are at a loss of how to proceed, I will have a variety of samples and designs that I hope will get their creative energies flowing, while at the same time I hope that these will become starting points and not just designs that they adopt. While there is nothing wrong with using the designs, especially for beginners, I do want to encourage their own creativity.
That being said, the wonder of working in the mosaic medium is that no matter how much people may follow a pre-set design, their choices of colors and shapes will make their creation unique. It is part of what I enjoy about the medium, in addition to the involvement in the work as one brings the creation to life.
This again points out a parallel to our own lives. Even if parents and teachers provide guidance to us, and even work to design our course in life, it is as we bring in the colors and shapes of our own experiences and choices that we give true form to our lives. And as we do so, we can truly celebrate the beauty of who we are.
Welcome to my website. I hope you will discover a connection to the life of small churches, and the richness that the arts can bring to these churches.