My clay tiles from the project STATIONS OF THE CROSS: THE WEIGHT OF DUST, will be on view at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in Harrisonburg, Virginia from Tuesday April 15th through Thursday, April 17th. The photo above is by Les Horning of EMS who also built the stands specifically for the tiles. For information call 540-432-4260.
I saw a flock of robins
Hopping in the blowing leaves.
Getting closer It was
One robin and many
Brown oak leaf carcasses
Moving with him in the wind.
Or an expansive hope
Yesterday I lost an opportunity to showcase the products of my art activity. Misunderstanding a donation letter scuttled my organizational plan. I had already given up a co-op gallery spot a couple of months earlier because the products of my work weren’t selling, and I thought 3 years was enough time there to find my “audience.”
Another setback in my next steps. What now?
Amazingly I didn’t panic. In the center of my being I knew “The Universal” had our direction in mind, so I went to the gym instead. When I got home I looked up apple crisp recipes for the abundance of organic apples in my refrigerator, and I wrote down the phone number for an appointment I needed to make the next morning.
Before going to sleep I read something that changed my whole attitude about my art work as product. In his new book, SHOW YOUR WORK, Austin Kleon talks about seeing one’s creative work as process, not product. In the pre-digital age artists were held to product as their representation, and I am certainly a person of that time.
But times are new. Artists share their process as well as their results which are, in themselves, fluid and open to connections with observers and other artists. It brought me back to the sense of the art I do as Gift, in a connectional and universal sense. Art as product puts the artist into win/loss accounting. Art as gift-given enriches both the giver and the receiver.
My eBook, Stations of the Cross: the Weight of Dust, is now available in the Kindle Store for download on any Kindle device, including the Kindle App on iPad and iPhone. This is the book that made me understand what it is to be an artist and expanded my understanding of the Jesus of scripture and Christian tradition. The next installation of the tiles themselves is at Eastern Mennonite University on April 14 -16.
Thanks to Martin Pigg, my editor, the book is formatted well and includes my poems and the excellent photos of the clay tiles by Ellen M. Martin.
Today is my Spiritual Birthday. October 4th. The date of a major transformative religious experience in my life. A cosmic shift. It was years ago, and many years before I learned that my birth-date was the birthday of St. Francis of Assisi. I have felt connected with this man who would have rejected the title Saint, since childhood because of our mutual love and respect for animals and the natural world.
So I celebrate by offering the gift of one of two pieces I created and entered in a local show, “Garden Variety”. The other was accepted and I’ll go see it this afternoon, hanging in the local gallery. “In Our hands” was left for me to give as my birth-day card. This year has been a time of moving beyond knowing I have art to express, into the fearsome and exciting world of sharing that art. I believe seeing Beauty and experiencing its absence, can change the world. It’s in our hands, no matter our medium of expression, to be the change we hope for.
When I create a graphic image, it precedes the experience. The experience that followed the creation of this image was very dramatic and very human.
We can try to put God in a box. God still shines into our circumstances.
I was trying to connect by phone with my brother in South Carolina in the Veterans Home where he moved several months ago when he could no longer remain in the home he had built and loved. He suffers from dementia and is in and out of awareness. After a series of questions to which he answered “yes”, I spoke a question that I thought he would have to answer with more than one word. “Rich, what’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” There was a long silence and then in a strong deep voice he answered, “GOD”.
One word is all he needed. In it he spoke of whatever had brought him into the experience of God’s love “today”, but also of many years of attention to his faith and many people who have showed God’s love and care. In all he has lost, he still has “God” as his best “happening” in his life.
God can’t be shut up in a box. In difficult situations that seem to box us in or box God out, God keeps shining. I am thankful that my brother has people, places, and things that help God keep shining. I’m glad he reminded me that the best thing that has happened to me today is “God”.
The image God Shining is the artist’s effort. To use it, send me a message.
In my visual work I often use the circle to speak of soul. This image grew out of reading a Bonhoeffer quote in Christian Wiman’s recent book, My Bright Abyss: It will be the task of our generation not to seek ‘great’ things, but to save and preserve our souls out of the chaos, and to realize that it is the only thing we can carry as a ‘prize’ from the burning building.
There are two souls in the image, the yearning human and the very present God.
Thanks for respecting the artist and seeking permission to use.
I was at my chiropractor’s office, waiting, which doesn’t happen often. I noticed the carpet, picked up my cell phone camera and took a picture of it. I liked the colors and the texture. With my graphic app I drew a circle that echoed the green in the carpet. I applied a border in the same color. The yellow of the carpet became other graphic program brush stokes, and I added text without much thought but with great satisfaction. At home I was greeted by my extrovert son who alerted me to a Susan Cain Ted Talk on her work with the world of introverts, which my son knows I am. I immediately bought her book “Quiet” remembering the satisfaction of the graphic composition and its word “quiet”. It proved a life giving connection. I hope someday she reads and sees my little story because her book has given me many moments of joyous insight as I skipped around the book finding and honoring my life story.
Part of the series, Exile and Healing. Last one…maybe. :0)
Feel free to ask if you would like more information about the series.