Saturday, December 11, 2010

Great Video On Mary!

I should have posted this a few days ago for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, but better late than never! Here's a video I came across a little while back that lays out the ways in which the Bible points to Catholic beliefs about Mary. The best video of it's kind I've yet to see! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some sketches from my discernment adventures...

As some of you may know I've been discerning consecrated life for a few years now. Here are some sketches that I have done since this past August on my discernment travels.

First stop: Chicago.

This past August, right before heading off to start the school year, I flew out to Chicago for discernment purposes. The following two drawings are from that trip.

Here is a drawing of Ms. Sullivan, who's part of the family I stayed with while I was in Chicago before heading over to the convent of the the Daughters of St. Paul to end my trip.

Here's a drawing I did of Sr. Anne Flanagan fsp. My first drawing of a sister! You can visit this media nun's blog at:

I did this drawing a few weeks ago while I was at a come and see retreat with the Sisters of Life, who are based out of New York. I forgot this sister's name but she was really cute and really excited about my drawing. She was quite a serious model, she asked another sister to hold up a little crucifix behind my head for her to meditate on (and keep her head still) while I drew her. So here's a woman whose gaze is fixed on Jesus!

Here's a drawing of my friend who is a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of New York, who I've been corresponding with to look into that vocation. When I was visiting the Sisters of Life I was able to leave my car at her house and have her drive me the rest of the way and pick me up, and I stayed with her a bit after the retreat. In case you're wondering, she's reading something, thus why her expression is the way it is. I encourage you to check out her very excellent blog where she writes about consecrated virginity at:

Whenever I show someone my sketchbook it's like I'm giving them a peek into my life. Hope you enjoyed this little peek into my discernment via drawings!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Art as Servant: The Art Blog of David Myers

Just this morning I happened across the art blog of David Myers, another Catholic artist and thought I should share it here:

I have only given a cursory look to the blog, as I should probably be writing a paper right now for school, but I did look over an interview of Mr. Myers that was published in the 2009 May/June issue of St. Austin Review Magazine, and noticed that at the bottom of his blog Myers posted an excerpt from that interview, which I'd like to share here because it seems to encapsulate well the gist of the blog and his art (emphasis mine):

The Vocation of the Artist

I firmly believe that art is meant to serve others, especially in lifting the hearts of people, through "ephiphanies of beauty," (John Paul II's letter to artists) to the contemplation and the glory of God. The artist participates in a unique way in the inspiration of the Creator of all things, and knows something of His joy in the act of creation, for "the act of creation is an act of love."(The Agony and the Ecstacy) This act is essentially bound up with the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus, in which what had been invisible was made visible in His person, His life and work, and finally in His death and resurrection. The artist is exhorted by the very perception of his gift to its service. Art is not merely, nor should it ever be, a vehicle for selfish ends or cheap shock and awe, but it must seek to give joy to the lives of others. The artist is then in the end merely a servant of truth, beauty, and goodness, and his work must serve to convey these to a wider audience. "Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 15-16)I believe that the artist finds in the lives of Jesus, and of His foster father Joseph, essential role models, especially in their hidden life at Nazareth. Though very little is handed down to us in the Gospels or in tradition illuminating this period in Jesus' life, I believe that this hidden, simple, carpenter's life of "working quietly" (2 Thessalonians 3:11) can be a model for all artists, in which delight is daily sought in the manifestation of beauty in wood, paint, charcoal, dance, the stage, and music. This is a life of humility, where the artist freely accepts that this world, including his own work, "will pass away," (Matt. 24:35) but what it points to never will. Obedience to inspiration, especially as it is inspired by God's Word (itself the revelatory self-expression of God) is the artist's highest calling. This new site is dedicated to this higher calling of the artist, to this challenge.

While this whole passage is good, I chose to draw attention particularly to how Myers' communicates the intimate connection between art and the Incarnation. God is the great Artist who is compelled to make visible the invisible through the physical. With all of physical creation God is communicating something of Himself, but out of all physical creation what is the most accurate picture of the invisible mystery of God is the human body which reveals the person made in the image and likeness of God. Pope John Paul II stated in his General Audience of Wednesday, February 20th, 1980 that:

"The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it."

And of course, God made himself visible by taking on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

This topic could be elaborated upon endlessly I'm sure so for now I'm going to stop and try to get some school work done!

May all artist recognize their call to serve God who is Truth, Beauty and Goodness, made visable in through the body of Christ.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Masterpiece

Last Saturday when I was attending Mass the deacon incorporated into his homily an excerpt from Ralph Marston's "The Masterpiece" and I thought I should share it here. It really spoke to what I am going through now, as lately (and particularly through a phone conversation I had right before attending Mass the day I heard this homily) God has really "pulled the rug out from under me" so to say as far as my discernment goes. This was very pertinent for me to hear as what has been the struggle in my discernment has been trying to respond to this artistic calling I believe God has given me as well as trying to find if I have a vocation to consecrated life, and these two callings seem to be in tension with one another, hence why discernment is making me into a crazy person! I've done a bit of research and it seems that this version that that deacon used has been adapted from Marston's original, where he seems to communicate that we ourselves are responsible for creating the masterpiece of our life, without reference to God. I like the "tweaked" or appropriated rendition that the deacon used because it speaks to the truth that although we have free will, God is the ultimate artist and it is our role to cooperate as His plan unfolds for our lives.

Your life is a singularly unique work of art that comes to life more richly and more fully in your every moment.

The masterpiece of your life Is not the same as any other, and that is what gives it much of its beauty. It is a living, breathing, feeling work of art that is a distinctive and irreplaceable expression of wonder and joy.

As you feel the remarkable reality of yourself, always remember that you transcend every label that could ever be placed on you. Though there are many ways you have been, there are countless other ways that you will yet be.

You are not old or young, not wealthy or poor, not healthy or ill, for those are all merely outward states that you experience. In fact, you are life itself, and every experience adds to the value and richness of your life.

Just as the darker areas of a painting and the lighter areas play off each other, so too do the varieties of your experience all add to the masterpiece of your life. With each new day, the masterpiece becomes more magnificent.

In this moment, God continues his work of art through you, letting it flow from your authentic heart, giving your spirit cause to soar, and forever capturing the unique beauty of NOW within the masterpiece that is your life.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Hanging By a Moment

I wanted to share this song by Lifehouse, "Hanging By a Moment". This has been one of my favorite songs for a while now and I feel that it really is relevant to where I am in my life now. These past few years as I try to find God's will for my life, my vocation, more often than I should I find myself being anxious and wanting to know the answer right NOW. I feel that Christ is inviting me at this time to cling to Him, and let Him lead me...into something currently unknown, and to be OK with not knowing exactly how it's going to all turn out. This involves a lot of trust and confidence in God's providential care, which God is inviting me to right now. This song really expresses the freedom of seeking first a relationship with Christ and His Kingdom (as in inviting Him to be Lord and King of our hearts and lives) and trusting that the details will fall into place in God's timing. I sense that Christ is asking me for detachment from my own plans for my life so I could let Him in more, to make some more room for Him to move in me, which is of course WAY easier said than done! Looking back on these past several years it's amazing to see God's hand in the ordering of events in my life and am confident that He is leading me now. I can't say exactly what I'll be doing after college or what specific vocation God is calling me to, (I have it narrowed down though), but I get the sense that God is teaching me to trust Him now in preparation for living out my vocation once I find it (He's got a lot of work to do still on me!). For even after finding my vocation trust and abandonment to God will still be required for me to live it out I am sure. Enjoy the song and consider what God may be speaking to YOU through it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Can I Live?

I think I came across this video for the first time a few years ago. I remember Nick Cannon on Nickelodian as I was growing up. He has a beautiful story and I think this video telling it is very well done and thought I should share.


Here's a watercolor I did a little while ago while sitting in on a figure drawing class. I really never use watercolors, it has been years, and this was my first depicting someone from life with the medium. It's a start anyways! Watercolors might be good for quicker studies as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Being a Nun

I came across this video a good while ago and really enjoyed it. Recently I found this sister on facebook (she commented on a friend's post), so she came to mind again. Just wanted to share, something about this one just makes me happy. Though I need to limit myself on these because there are a lot of videos related to religious sisters I could put up and I wouldn't want to go overboard! Enjoy!

A Catholic World View & Art

I was fortunate enough to come across this video today which is episode two (the most recent one out) of a program called The Way of Beauty by David Clayton.

You can learn more about the program and watch archived episodes here. I liked this second episode best myself as it directly addressess an issue I was pondering in my previous post Fill These Hearts; Sacred and Secular Art where I was seeking to understand what sacred art is and how it relates to artwork that glorifies God but may not be in the category of "sacred art". I found that his treatment was very affirming of all art that brings glory to God and open while at the same time maintaining important distinctions. I like what Clayton has to say on the issue thus far and am looking forward to follow his exploration of this subject in this series. Clayton proposes that good art is beautiful and true. While this may seem at first to be too narrow a view, he notes that a piece of art could depict even a horrendous subject such as suffering yet still be beautiful if it proposes also hope. In other words good art needs to be real and need not shy away from the messiness of real life in order to be beautiful. This brings us to truth, which can be approached by different angles. For example art that may not be as true to life in the sense of being naturalistic could be true even in abstracted styles or are less "literal". We see this for example in iconography, which is seeking the truth but by a different path, or is exploring another dimension of truth. This point of truth in art is something I've been thinking about in regard to my own art and I plan to write on that soon.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To the Pure All Things Are Pure

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St. Therese as St. Joan of Arc in a play

I've been sort of bad at checking my gmail, yesterday I came across an email that Sr. Helena sent me earlier this month which was forwarded from another sister in her congregation, Sr. Lorraine. Sr. Lorraine has been following and responding to the whole Theology of the Body related debate concerning how far through Christ are we able to overcome concupiscience. An illustration of this controversy would be all the criticism Christopher West has gotten this past year relating to this point. His response to some of the criticism he has recieved can be read here for those unfamiliar with what I'm referencing. Basically my take on this issue is that while some criticisms of West's work have been constructive and have helped him refine his approach to interpreting and presenting TOB, some critics misinterpret and misrepresent his work or aspects of his work. There are some relatively minor points of Christopher West's work where I'm not sure where I stand yet, I need to conduct more research, but I feel that he is pretty much on the mark in regards to the issue of Christ's power to overcome lust.

Christ gives us real power to redeem the way we perceive the human body, and real power to overcome lust. This isn't to say that the temptation to lust will not always be there, just that through Christ there is real power to achieve a real change in our hearts from lust towards love, in our vision of the human body from distortion towards reintegration. This issue really involves me as an artist who represents the human body (often unclothed!) in my work. There are those who believe that it is never appropriate to make or view art which has as its subject the unclothed figure, thinking that the naked human body will always be an occasion for lust. I believe that presenting the human body in a respectful way that seeks after the whole truth of man who is made in the image of God (and who's body speaks of this in its inscribed call to self-gift and communion with the other) is healing in that it aids reintegrating our vision of the human body which has become distorted through pornography (which instead of seeking after truth pursues and presents lies about the human person and sexuality). Now this doesn't mean that an artist representing the human body, even with the best of intentions, doesn't need to be discerning in the way they present their subject and the means through which they display their work for the human body is a loaded and sensitive subject, this is process is on-going for me and I feel I have a lot more to learn. More on this later.

Back to the email, Sr. Lorraine, trying to clear her head of this TOB debate, went to read the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. But there's no getting away from TOB, in her reading, much to her surprise she came across this passage, concerning the the saint's trip to Rome:

I prayed Our Lady of Victories to keep far from me everything that could tarnish my purity; I was fully aware that on a voyage such as this into Italy I could easily meet with things capable of troubling me. I was still unacquainted with evil and so was apprehensive about makings its discovery. I had not yet experienced that to the pure all things are pure (Titus 1:15), that the simple and upright soul sees evil in nothing since it resides only in impure hearts, not in inanimate objects.” (Story of a Soul, chapter 6, pg. 123).

This blew Sr. Lorraine away in the way it summed up what this whole debate on purity of heart is about. St. Therese was concerned about all the art with naked people, and then came to realize how one who is pure of heart can perceive the human body in purity rather than have it be an occasion for lust. St. Therese is famous for her child-like faith, perhaps there is connection with child-like purity in seeing the human body?

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I'm grateful for Sr. Helena forwarding this to me, perhaps St. Therese should be special patron of mine now?

St. Therese of Lisieux- Pray for us.

OK, now for some art...

So it's been a while since I've put any of my art up on this blog, seeing as how this summer wasn't exactly the most productive one as far as making art is concerned. But now that I'm back at art school there should be more regular postings of what I've been working on. I've been sitting in on one of my professor's figure drawing classes. Last time he was having his students sketch and draw with india ink, so I figured I'd give it a go to try out something new, for I don't recall ever making drawings from life with straight up ink and brush. I found myself liking it. I liked how fast an image could come together with the bold black of the ink. I really also think it's a helpful medium for me to use to help me loosen up and paint more spontaneously as drawing with ink requires a certain boldness (no erasing!). The first was a three minute sketch and the other three were 15 minute drawings. To achieve lighter values I drybrushed. Would be a little different effect if I were to use washes, sort of like watercolor. Perhaps sometime I'll experiment with ink washes, would be a good preparation for watercolor painting. Watercolor painting is something I never really got into but I think I'd like to experiment with it a little, if only I use it mostly for sketches.

More art on the way!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

JPII; Sistine Chapel and TOB

I've been pretty lax about blogging lately as lots has been going on. Just so you all know I still have a pulse I'll post a section of something I was reading the other day that I found very interesting. JPII's words on the Sistine Chapel as they relate to TOB is surely a topic I could write about later but for now I'd like to share this excerpt, taken from this article:

Theology of the Body, written by Fr. Robert Streveler

Back in the 1990’s the beautiful Sistine Chapel (next to the Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican) was restored. During the restoration Pope John Paul ordered the removal of several loincloths that previous popes had ordered to be placed over Michelangelo’s original work. During the homily rededicating the restored frescoes, Pope John Paul proclaimed the Sistine Chapel “the sanctuary of the theology of the human body.” In speaking about the difference between pornography and a proper portrayal of the human body, the pope spoke about how the pornographer seeks only to arouse lust while the true artist helps us see the whole personal mystery of man.

Some people responded to this idea by saying the naked body will always arouse lust in the heart of man. The pope responded with this beautiful declaration of redemption, “Of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom from the domination of lust”. The pope says elsewhere, “Deep in the heart we learn to distinguish between what, on the one hand, composes the great riches of sexuality and sexual attraction, and what on the other hand, bears only the sign of lust.”


Friday, July 23, 2010

Fill These Hearts; Sacred and Secular Art

I cannot describe how much I am liking "Fill These Hearts", which is a tour put on by TOB evangelist Christopher West and others in which TOB is made accessible through art (visual art, music ect...). In reading the content of the website and watching this trailer there is a sense of "coming home" for me. Art and TOB baby!


Watching this trailer and visiting this website stirred up my stuggle this summer to understand the distinctions and relationship between sacred and secular visual art and trying to figure out how my art fits in. This has been particularly challenging for me as the terms "sacred art" and "secular" can mean different things when used by different people and in different contexts.

For example in one article I read the writer listed religous art, sacred art, and liturgical art as being distinct terms. He didn't clearly define what constitued each of these categories but I inferred that he meant sacred art as being less encompassing than religous art and liturgical art being the most exclusive, narrowly defined category.

More commonly in material I have read, artists' webpages I have looked at, and in conversations I have had, two categories of art; sacred and secular, are expressed. Here "sacred art" is defned as being art with explicitly religious imagery, usually directly and unambiously illustrating a biblical narrative, church doctrine, story of a saint, portayal of Jesus, Mary or another saint, and gets us in touch with the divine through the subject represented. Also I have read in a few places the idea that sacred art as defined this way involves some stylistic limitations, e.g. not being overly naturalistic; idealizing figures to some degree. (This point perhaps I will explore more in depth and write a blog post about another time). Some people who define sacred art in this way are more "rigid" than others in their definition and others somewhat less so. Just to note I've read that Eastern Orthdox Christians define sacred art very narrowly as including only icons, but in this post I'm dealing with the Western tradition.

Still I have seen another, looser, defintion of sacred art as any art that is communcative of the sacred. This would define even, say, a more ordinary portrait of a person that is meant to draw out and communicate God's image and His glory in and through the person represented. Another example could be the painting of a landscape that is meant to communcate the grandure of God through His reflection of Himself in nature. So "sacred art" as such could have subject matter ranging from expicitly "religious" themes to more subtly communicating God.

I appreciate aspects of both the more "rigid" classifactions of sacred art and the"looser" attemps at defining it. I feel that both are onto something. I belive that I am seeking a more nuanced veiw to adopt myself.

On the one hand, I believe that distinctions and categories serve a purpose and can be helpful. For instance I belive that, generally, artwork that has more explictlly and unambiously religious themes is more appropriate for a lituragial setting.

On the other hand what I can appreciate about the "looser" or "less technically correct" defintion of sacred art is the attampt to bring together the sacred and everyday life by helping us to see the sacred in an through common human experience and drawing attention to the sacramentality of all things (how all things that God has created discloses something about Himself, sort of like how the work of an artist can be self-expressive).

Perhaps what I'd like to see is an exhange between sacred art (as defined as art with more explicitly religious themes) and secular art (secular here being defined as art which ideally would glorify God but may not meet the criteria for being classfied as sacred art per se). This would preserve appropriate distinctions without which an abusive "anything goes" attitute could develop which could threaten the integrity and rootedness of sacred art while at the same time avoiding the error of being overly rigid which would prevent cultural exchange; the mutually enriching interpenetration of the sacred and the secular.

What Christopher West said about finding that "sweet spot between the sacred and the secular" and not succumbing to "a kind of religiousity where there's often a very rigid line between the sacred and the secular" really resonates with all this. West said that "what we are really looking for is the universally human", which really resonates with me and what I strive for as an artist.

It has been made clearer to me, ever since studying Theology of the Body, that God's heart as revealed through His Catholic Church desires to bring back together what has been seperated. The faith is ALL about re-integration. This all hinges around reintegration of the human person, body and soul and the human person in his or her entirety partaking of the very inner life of the Holy Trinity, which is a communion of persons- an exchange of love. St. Ananasius' said it well in saying that "the Word was made man so that we might be made God". Of course this marriage of the human and divine is made explicitly clear in the person of Jesus Christ, and our partaking of Him- His full humanity and divinity through reception of Him in the Eucharist.

I believe that this same impulse toward reintegration is the driving force between authentic art, to bring back together what has been seperated or disintegrated. In the garden there was no distinction between "sacred" and "secular", neither will there be such a distinction in the eschaton. Today's gospel at Mass was where Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer. The line of the prayer "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" is particularly relevent here, in this quest to reintegrate the sacred with culture at large. Although this reintegration, when the distinctions between sacred and secular will pass away, won't reach completion until that day, God havs given us real power to start living redemption NOW, bringing heaven to earth NOW.

Really what it's about is striving to be in touch with what is most real, a.k.a. God and ordering things accordingly. As Fr. Tom says mystics are the only ones really in touch with reality. A lot of the time people think the mystics are the ones that are out of touch with reality when just the opposite is true, they are in touch with what is for real. One line of reasoning I have heard for not embracing the faith, particularly along the lines of sexual morality, is that some people believe that it is out of touch with real life, actual human experience and is more or less a set of arbitrary rules disconnected from a person's experience. What has to happen, and what artists have a particular role in bringing about, is bridging this unnatural and irrational disconnect between so called "real life" and God.

So I guess to sum up this post I'll say that although I appreciate and affirm a degree of categorization and differention of sacred art as helpful and affirming that it serves a purpose to "historical man" (i.e. where we are at now- man fallen yet in the progress of being redeemed in Christ), I propose that this categorization shouldn't lend itself to a "cutting off" of or an overly severe and rigid divide from the secular (the culture at large) lest "sacred art" become irrelevent and inaccessible and the general culture becomes cut off from that which is "religious", that which is meant to call us higher. Because ultimately these distinctions will pass away in the Marriage of the Lamb when creation is wed intimately with it's Creator as it was meant to be. This is my take on these matters at least, they are open to tweaking so if you have any thoughts on the the subject your input is appreciated as always.

By the way if you haven't noticed I'm putting so many words in quotes because of the multiple connotations they have.

This blog post is pretty loaded so I'm sure I'll revisit some of the concepts I have explored here and further elaborate on and refine them as I (hopefully) gain some more insight. I'd say that in most of my art I'm drawn to reach that "sweet spot" between the sacred and the secular that West mentioned. More on how my art relates to all this later though lest I get carried away write too much for one post. I'm trying to make sense of all this myself, this is at least a start! Comments would be helpful, I could use some people to help me as I struggle through this question of the relationship between the sacred and secular in art (and life in general).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron; Evangelizing Through Beauty

Listen to his lecture on evangelizing through beauty here.

Fr. Barron provides some very good insights in this talk. What struck me was how he said that it is showing people the beauty of the faith which is going to really draw people in. I appreciate how he integrates art into his evangelization style for this reason. I was watching some trailers for Fr. Barron's "Catholicism Project" series he is developing. The trailers along with this lecture are reassuring in that they are indicators of a movement I have noticed toward an increased interest in the role of art in the Church today.

Here are some trailers for the Catholicism Project. They are very high quality and you will see how Fr. Barron's interest in art is very apparent by watching them.


This series, which I believe is going to be available sometime in the fall on TV and DVD, brings to mind a quote from Fr. James Alberione, founder of one of the religious communities I'm considering. I don't remember the exact quote but it communicated the idea that the way the Gospel, the faith, is presented must be fitting in being of high quality. If you present the good news through means which are poor quality or cheesy they are not appropriate to the beauty and importance of the message. Fr. Barron really gets this. Here is my favorite thing that he said, in the first trailer I posted: "Catholicism is smart. Catholicism is beautiful. Catholicism is colorful. It's textured. It engages the mind and the heart and the body." YES! And he responds to this conviction with a commitment to providing highest quality means of communicating the faith. One reason why I am so offended by bad art, as I communicated in my post Emasculation of Jesus is that I wonder how many people have been turned away from the Catholic faith because of lame music, bad art, horrible architecture ect. I know I personally, if I didn't know that Heaven met Earth in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, wouldn't be drawn in by the beauty of the music (not saying that the person leading the music is necessarily a bad singer- though that could be the case). Same goes for the architecture in some modern Churches, some of these instead of drawing the mind and spirit to contemplate the beauty of God his Bride the Church instead are more evocative of a space station. (I have one particular church in mind when I say this). Something has gone wrong with the Church as is evident in the production of such poor art, there needs to be a spiritual-artistic renewal of Catholic Culture. Ok, yeah- so this is just a long way of me going about saying I like what I see in what Fr. Barron is doing! Later I'll write more about my feelings regarding the relationship between mediocrity of art and spiritual lukewarmness, I think I'm on to something there.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Artists and Theology of the Body

Below is an excerpt from an interview of Ann Slattery, of Stabat Mater Prayer Apostolate whose mission is to support artists primarily by praying for them. I came across this a while ago and since starting this blog have linked to this interview but I reread it recently and wanted to bring it to the forefront because of its importance.

(emphasis mine)

4. Part of your mission is to spread an understanding of the Theology of the Body through the arts. Why is the Theology of the Body important and relevant for artists? How can they incorporate and spread the principles and ideas outlined in TOB?

We live in a visual world. All of us are bombarded with hundreds, even thousands, of images on a daily basis. We process huge amounts of information through websites, email, television, and movies. The way we digest information has become so graphic. You want to know how to change out a flat tire? Look it up on YouTube. And, of course, we all know that many, many images rampant in our culture are trivial, demeaning to the true nature of human sexuality, and even blasphemous. That's why we think that Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body needs to be widely understood, especially by up-and-coming generations. And who better to communicate it to this image-saturated culture than artists? Artists who grasp this teaching are best equipped to spread it, because they can present it immediately and profoundly. It's a real challenge, and I am not sure how they will do it—I am not an artist—but I know that they can and will. It is not necessary to get a theology degree to realize the beauty of this teaching and the impact it is beginning to have on the world. In the Middle Ages, people learned the Faith primarily through the teachings presented in art (stained glass windows, statues, the cathedrals themselves). Today, we will see a turnabout in our culture, from one of death to one of life, when we begin to see (literally see) the revolutionary implication of the pope's teaching. He has so eloquently taught what it means to be human! Incidentally, we are offering this apostolate in thanksgiving for the life of John Paul II on earth and in anticipation of his eventual canonization.

For the entire interview go here.

Right there Ms. Slattery expresses exactly what has been compelling me ever since I first came across TOB, to communicate it through art. Another thing she touched upon which is also very much on my heart is for a generation of artists with a grasp of TOB to RISE UP and communicate the truth of the human person through their art. Artists have a critical role in bringing about a transformation in our culture, from a culture of death to a culture of life. A major reason I started this blog was so that others who have a call to communicate TOB through art can find me and we could mutually support each other-and I know there are others as I have come across some of them already. Who else does this resonate with? I want to hear from you, us TOB artists NEED each other. This is not to exclude those who are not artistically inclined, your contributions of exchange of ideas and prayer are indispensable. On this note Ann Slattery, who is not an artist herself, mentions that the invitation is extended to everyone to support and help bring about this artistic cultural renewal. If you want to learn more how to become a part of Stabat Mater Prayer Apostolate, go to the link. Ms. Slattery, in our one conversation thus far has been immensely helpful to me personally and I know she would be very encouraged to hear from others enthusiastic about what she's trying to get off the ground.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Emasculation of Jesus

About a week ago I was in Boston on a retreat for evangelization training. At the retreat center there were a few pieces of art that depicted Jesus, whether intentionally or not I'm not sure, in a very -feminine- way.

The first piece that rubbed me the wrong way was this huge bronze sculpture depicting the Risen Christ. It could have alternately been titled, Ballerina Jesus. Now, to any male ballerinas out there, don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong or emasculating about being a male ballerina per se. I wish I had a picture of the piece but it may be better because I don't want the artist to find this entry bashing the piece and get mad at me. I think it was the ballerina-like posture in combination with the feminine build of Jesus' body which communicated to me and others who were with me on this retreat an image of a feminine Jesus. I'm pretty sure, or at least I hope, that the artist didn't mean for such a message to be communicated, but that's what I, and others, got from the piece.

The second offending piece of art communicated even louder and more explicitly an effeminate Jesus. It looked like a print of a portrait of Jesus which someone went back over with GLITTER. It wasn't just the glitter which I took issue with, but it very clearly looked like this Jesus was wearing makeup. And not natural looking makeup either. I'm talking artificially pink, I believe coral to be more precise, lips. Jesus wore lipstick? And blush, and...eyeliner? Mascara...what?! Gaudy was the way to describe it. WHAT WAS THIS ARTIST THINKING? And why was it in the retreat house? I could point out many, even very popular images of Jesus, that present him as looking quite feminine, but this one was just ridiculous. The retreat leader, when we were discussing these pieces of art, which he wasn't fond of either, said that Scripture presents an image of Jesus wearing a robe of blood and with a sword coming out of his mouth and eyes like fire! Ha! I'll put the section of Scripture up where he was drawing from, just to illustrate a point.

His eyes were (like) a fiery flame, and on his head were many diadems. He had a name inscribed that no one knows except himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen.
Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. (Revelation 19: 12-15)

Make a picture of glitter Jesus after reading THAT.

If you want to know why in the first place I am upset about Jesus being feminized I'd suggest reading this article which expresses what I feel pretty accurately:

The Emasculation of God

When it comes down to it God, in Scripture, has expressed the desire to be referred to as "He" rather than "Her". Jesus taught us to pray to God as Our Father. God, in Jesus incarnated as male for a reason. This in and of itself is reason enough for me to believe that it's not right to be pushing an image of a feminine Jesus. I'll go on to explain some my limited understanding as to why God has revealed a desire to be referred to in masculine terms in this entry but I invite you to read the article which communicates the logic behind it well. Though I trust God in His revelation over and above my limited comprehension of Him, though it is of course necessary to press into such things and seek to understand them as well as you can.

Please understand that I'm not in any way trying to say that women are less than men or deny that women image God in a way that is complementary to how men do. Not to mention that it is this difference of the sexes that enables them in their relationship to image the exchange of love among the three *distinct* persons of the Trinity. I'm not going to pretend to know that I have it all figured out and I admit I do struggle with questions such as how to affirm and defend God's revelation of Himself in masculine terms while at the same time affirming that women image God just as much as men, though in a distinct way. It can be confusing! It is my hope to encourage exchange of thought regarding such matters, not to shut down dialogue and exploration, as long as this search is oriented toward seeking the truth about God and man. What I do know is that neutering Jesus, putting lipstick and mascara on Him doesn't serve or affirm the dignity of men 0r women. Any thoughts?

I can talk a little from my own experience as a woman relating to Jesus. Affirming Jesus as a man for me doesn't make me feel degraded but rather affirms me in my femininity. As a woman, I image the Church, Christ's bride, in a way a man cannot. This is inscribed in my body in its receptivity. Humans stand in a posture of receptivity before God, He is the initiator of the gift of Himself, everything we are and have comes from Him and is received by us. The female body communicates this in a particular way. Men on the other hand, although they are like the female in their receptivity before God, image in their bodies the fatherhood of God-they are called to initiate the gift of themselves and this is inscribed in their bodies. This is not to say that women only are only passive or that men are only active, just that women and men love differently as is revealed in our bodies, and I'd argue that men and women relate to God differently as well. So going back to reflecting on my own experience, affirming God's masculinity and that God incarnated as a male is affirming of my own femininity and how in my femininity I image, in a particular way,the Church and the whole human race in it's receptivity toward God, who has revealed himself as Bridegroom and the Church as His Bride. I am quite satisfied being and imaging in my body the beloved of God- who left heaven, incarnated, suffered and died so that He could be one with His beloved-His bride, the human race. Therefore putting lipstick and mascera on the Bridegroom, IMHO doesn't serve a woman's desire to be affirmed in her sexuality, her femininity which images the stance of receptivity of the human race towards God who is masculine in relation. Also, though I can't speak with the same authority about how an emasculated image of Jesus negatively affects men as I can speak about how a woman is affected, I have some thoughts on the matter. A Jesus with lipstick and mascara and glitter I don't believe would be very affirming for a man in his sexuality either. A man images Christ, the Bridegroom who initiates the gift of Himself by laying down His life on the behalf of His beloved, in a particular way so by extension an emasculation of Jesus has an emasculating affect on men in general.

Not to get off on a tangent but one of my big questions is how do men relate to Jesus as Bridegroom and not be emasculated-any input from guys on this would be very useful! I have some theories but It drives me CRAZY because I don't have it neatly figured out! :)

Well these are just some of my thoughts, your input would be appreciated and is encouraged as always.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Traditional and Modern Communications Meet

I find this very interesting. As an artist who works mainly in traditional mediums I'm very much interested in how traditional fine art fits in with our mass communications culture. If you don't believe me I made an entry about this previously here. I don't plan on going to this but I'm glad this dialouge is happening and am looking forward to finding out what I can about what transpires.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Virtual Sistine Chapel

On the Vatican website you can tour the Sistine Chapel in a simulated way. Thanks to Prof. Scott for finding this. It feels a lot like a video game actually, a very dizzying and awkward to manuever videogame but you can get really great quality images of every inch of what Pope John Paul the Great referred to as "the sancuary of Theology of the Body".

Michelangelo's depictions of the human body painted right on the walls and ceiling of a building as prominent in Catholicism as the Sistine Chapel is very affirming for me and what I feel called to as a Catholic figurative artist. I was eating lunch with some (Catholic) friends and showed them my sketchbook which includes life drawings from nude models and they were teasing me about it. They were joking, all in good humor of course, about how I believe "God wants me to draw naked people". I could tell that they were having a hard time reconciling God with the naked human body which is a reflection of our cultural attitude we have aquired. The truth is that the human body has very much to do with God in a very particular way. God made people in His image. We tend to think this means that our spirits our made in His image and our bodies are just sort of shells containing our spirits. Actually, God's image in us doesn't stop at our non-physical selves but spills over into our physical bodies. God's image embraces all of man, integrated body and soul. Our bodies and our souls are inexorally connected. The body expresses or makes visible the soul. In all of creation, it is the human body which most concisely communicates by making visible the invisible spiritual reality which is God. I could go on and on from many different angles...but what more does God have to do to get it through our thick heads and hearts that our bodies are not to be estranged from Him. I mean for crying our loud consider the Incarnation. Break it The God of the universe took on human flesh. Why did He do this? To espouse us, all of us-including our bodies, to Himself. He took on our humanstuff to redeem it, and this redemption is an ongoing process. Don't believe for a minute that God doesn't have anything to do with our bodies...He is VERY intensely interested in the union of our bodies with His own assumed flesh. Just consider the Eucharist, where Jesus offers Himself entire...His very flesh, to be taken into our own bodies. Hmmm...I think He wants to have very much to do with our bodies. Jesus, God incarnate, is all about NOT being estranged from our bodies! I hope through my art I can do a small part in proclaiming this truth of integration... that of our own bodies and souls and of our whole selves with God in Christ.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Architecture and the Human Body

For my Renaissance art history class I was assigned to read about Michelangelo's architecture and one thing that caught my attention is how the form of the human body influenced his architecture. I thought this was an interesting concept and just reinforced my perception of how for me it all comes down to the body; God's revelation of Himself through our bodies which image Him and through the Incarnation where God took on our humanity. From the reading I got that by having the form of the human body influence architectural design, the building as a result is humanized and made more accessible to people. I'm sure Michelangelo, with his love affair of the human form, was keenly aware of this. I found this part of the reading fascinating as it spoke from another, unexpected angle, architecture, about the accessibility of the human body, of its power to communicate in a way that is relatable to people. The communicative force of the human body tied which is naturally tied into this relational factor is the reason I'm so drawn to the human form in my own art. Also, God took on the human form to make himself accessible to us, to enable us to relate to him. It's just amazing how all aspects of the human experience echo this, it's ingrained in us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Discernment and Theology of the Body

Sr. Helena Burns, fsp, has some great insight into how Theology of the Body can inform our discernment. This presentation is right up my alley, combining the two things I'm currently most obsessed with!

One thing I really appreciate is how Sr. Helena witnesses to the way discovering Theology of the Body informed the way she lived out her vows as a consecrated woman.
I am convinced that TOB is key for us all to more fully live out our vocations. I know for me personally when I started to feel a nudge toward religious life I resisted because I didn't understand celibacy. I know at one point I had a conception of celibacy being the ignoring or denial of one's sexuality and an ignoring of one's desires for love and intimacy. I would complain, "God, why would you give me these desires to frustrate them...that's just plain doesn't make sense". But gradually, through studying TOB and experiencing God's personal love and desire for me through prayer...I came to understand that God didn't give us such desires to frustrate but to fulfill them, ultimately with His very self. Earthly marriage is meant to point to the Marriage of the Lamb, our union to God in Christ. Some people are called to skip the earthly sign and entrust all their desires to God for Him to fulfill. And does he ever! Only God affirms and satisfies totally...the WHOLE person, body and soul. He has affirmed me as woman. As I came to this realization my aversion to celibacy gave way gradually to this intense attraction! After tasting God's love I've come to know that He's more than enough to satisfy me, all of me. God desires our total gift; body and soul, and gives all of His self to us. I desire to give Him all my love and for Him to be my only Love. But then on the other hand...if God is calling to marriage, though if this is His will He'd have to tweak my desires because my heart is set on Him alone as my Lover, I'd have a solid foundation because any healthy relationship must be grounded in God. Married couples must also recognize God as their ultimate fulfillment or there is the danger for them to expect their spouses to fulfill them totally, something only God can do, leading to big problems!

So thus having an understanding that God is our ultimate fulfillment makes living out your vocation, wether it be consecrated celibacy or marriage, possible through His grace. The question becomes...what is the best way for you personally to spend your love? You come to know this through opening your desires to to God and letting Him reveal to you who you really are, what you are made for...which vocation would be be most fulfilling and give you the most life. Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart...He will reveal to you your deepest desires satisfy them because it is He who gave you those desires! This involves a lot of trust, but we have to understand that God is more than worthy of our trust, and He will keep proving this to you if you let Him. Pray that that I may ever more deeply surrender to God's loving plans and I will pray the same for you!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What piece of art reflects my vocation?

It's been a little while since I last wrote because midterm week was crazy busy for me. Now I am writing from the Franciscan University library, I'm here visiting some friends for a few days. I just want to reflect a bit on Christ's body and our bodies. I was prompted a little while ago to reflect on what piece of art would reflect my vocation. While I initially thought Bernini's St. Theresa in Ecstasy would be the best fit I then thought I needed a piece of art that more clearly expressed the redemption of the body. (This is not to say St. Theresa in Ecstasy isn't a very relevant piece of art reflecting my vocation, this is an entry for another time). I thought that Michelangelo's Risen Christ was a rather suitable piece that effectively expressed what I particularly feel called to. Both the statue (excluding that detracting sculpted cloth covering Jesus' "manhood"), and this wonderfully expressive sketch which I love.

If this piece of art doesn't express the redemption of the body I don't know what does! Love it! I'm going to be writing a paper on Michelangelo focused on this so I'll have more relevant material later to share I'm sure. It's becoming clearer to me that Jesus has entrusted the mystery of His body...the incarnation...the redemption of our own bodies through His, in a particular way to me. What makes me say this? Well there are multiple reasons, many of which can't be adequately described in words though I'll list a few reasons.

The most important...He has revealed to me His presence in the Eucharist. My spirituality is intensely's all about His precious body and my union...body and soul..with Him. I won't get into explicit detail about how He has, and continues to reveal His Eucharistic presence to me here publicly on my blog because it is an intimate sort of thing but feel free to talk to me individually. I'm very open to and enthusiastic about sharing the way God has revealed Himself to me, to an extent. There are some things for now that are to stay between me and Jesus.

The second reason, which is naturally tied up into the first reason, is JPII's Theology of the Body. I'm utterly obsessed with Theology of the Body as about anyone who's talked to me in any depth can ascertain. The Theology of the Body is I believe as Fr. Thomas Loya described to me, the answer to all of life's problems. Essentially TOB is a presentation of the Gospel that is really accessible for me and for people of today. Of course the ideas of TOB are nothing new, just JPII really presented this Gospel message through the lenses of embodiment and sexuality in a way that really resonates with the "language" of people today. I could go on an on about TOB. Since TOB is essentially the Gospel, it is essentially about redemption of the body, (and the spirit expressed though the body). Jesus took on our flesh to redeem it!

Another reason is my talent for figurative art. My art is all about the human form. I hope to reveal through my art an authentic vision of the human person (through the body naturally). In a conversation I had with Fr. Thomas a while ago, he said that the way to redeem our pornofied culture is to help others see the human body as a true artist its beauty and dignity which reveals God...who has imprinted His very image in us. I was in open figure drawing a few weeks ago, drawing a young man. I had just come back from adoring Jesus in the Eucharist. I couldn't help but think...I'm drawing Jesus. This man images Jesus.

So there you have it. My relationship with Jesus is very physical...He has given me this awareness, entrusting this to me so I can proclaim that He calls everyone to this communion with Himself. For me it's all about His body.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Portrait of Jesus

Over fall break I paid my first visit to Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a glorious time, I got to see many dear friends, Jesus being one of them! While my friends were in class I would spend a lot of time in the chapel;"the port" as they call it. My dear Jesus made a fantastic model, didn't move an inch! Note that part of the image was cut off in scanning it. I always love drawing people from life, if you look through my sketchbook that would become readily apparent. I enjoy life drawing (or painting) because of the directness and the relational aspect to it. You get to really know a person by drawing them, and drawing Jesus was a way for me to know Him a little better. I was hoping that He would in a sense be transmitted through my eyes, my mind, my heart, and my hand, to the paper, through the viewer's eyes to their heart. I want to make art that is tranformative, moving myself and others toward God. What better exercise is there to study Jesus Himself? Drawing Him in the Eucharist is a way for Him to school me in communicating Him through my art.


I hope to head back to Steubenville for part of my spring break, and meet Him again there. But the great thing about Jesus is that He has been so generous in making Himself available to me in the Eucharist wherever I go. He has blessed me with a chapel here in Alfred that is always open, and there He awaits me...a prisoner of love. Some people will tell me that since God is present everywhere, they don't see the point of the Eucharist or see organized religion as irrelevant. Surely God's presence is everywhere, but in the Eucharist He makes Himself available in a very special the flesh! God revealed Himself to me through the Eucharist and continues to do so. I myself am a physical person so I desire to be with the One I love physically. For me it's all about the body...the invisible spiritual realities are made visible through the physical, especially through the human body since people are made in the image and likeness of God. God is an artist. The work of His hands communicates something about Himself. This is what my art is about, just bringing it back to this sacramental worldview. God is all about making Himself accessible to us, through the created world He communicates a message about Himself, but He doesn't stop there...He came to us, took on our human nature so He could redeem us and wed us to His own divine nature. In Jesus the human and divine kiss. Through the Eucharist, the human and divine meet and become one. A haiku from a certain nun friend of mine comes to mind which illustrates this point quite poignantly, (and humorously):

If our humanstuff
was God-incompatible:
Incarnation? Not.


Sometimes I wonder why God even made matter, that is physical stuff, if He is pure spirit. Angels are pure spirit, why did he make us humans a spirit-body mix? I tend to think that perhaps it was so we could come to know Him and freely love Him. Let me explain what I mean. Let's go back to the Garden, to Adam and Eve. God made and Adam and Eve and put them in this beautiful garden, full of all the wonders of God's creation. The beauty of the garden was meant to communicate the beauty of God, though in a mediated, indirect way. God didn't overwhelm them with the fullness of His glory right off the bat, but would reveal it gradually to woo humanity to Himself. I believe the time in the garden, though paradise, wasn't the final end for Adam and Eve but merely a preparation for something greater. He was preparing them for union with Himself, God's plan from the beginning was to wed humanity to Himself in Jesus. If Adam and Eve had not sinned and had freely chosen God they would have, instead of dying, been caught up and united with God. These are my thoughts on the matter.

Our time on earth is granted to us so that we may, through God's grace, make ourselves a capacity for Him. Jesus had given us Himself to us in His fullness, so that He may come into us and bring us to closer union with Himself. How lukewarmly I receive Him! I trust that as I spend more time with Him He'll give me the grace to love Him better.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kiss Me With Truth

These past few days have been a bit rough for me, due to me not being trusting of who God is as I discern my vocation. You see I'm very much attracted to a particular religious order (the Daughters of St. Paul) to the point I don't feel open to be called anywhere else. As I was researching another order that's on my radar, the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, I came across the story and music of Danielle Rose, a Catholic musical artist who has joined them. I found that prior to entering she recorded her last CD entitled "Pursue Me" about her own journey being called to religious life and knew I had to have it so I bought it right then. If I had not been so impulsive I would have realized that it's free for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood or religious life...oh well. For more information about the CD and how to get it for free go read the bottom of this article:

If you aren't discerning a religious vocation if you buy it all the proceeds go to support vocations to the priesthood and religious life. After reading some about her from a few different sources I was captivated by the beauty of her life and her relationship with God, also communicated to me through a few of her songs I've listened to online. I was touched by a line in her song "Defining Beauty" after which her debut album is named. Kiss me with truth. These words I felt were spot on with my relationship with God. Whenever I'm not open to Him, it's just because I don't know Him like I should. When this is the case He always draws me to Himself and reminds me of who He is. As I come close to Him I can hear the voice of reason that all He really wants is to fulfill the deepest desires of my heart, so I have no reason to resist Him. I believe God is calling me back to Himself so He can once again kiss me with truth so I can let Him in more. That's what God is like in my experience, He always brings me back through letting me know His goodness through the tenderness of His love revealed to me. Perfect love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18

I'm a sucker for vocation stories, here's Danielle Rose explaining her farewell song, "See You in the Eucharist". She's beautiful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Marketing" Jesus

The other day in my graphic design class we had an intersting discussion that got me thinking about a few things. We were considering graphic design and advertising. What are the distinctions? are they the same? At first I suggested that advertising is a sub-category of graphic design, but then as I thought about it and heard what others had to say I'm thinking it may be more nuanced than that. Designing something in an attractive way, wether it be a poster, a book, a sign or an ad presents that something, and the values and ideals attached to it, in a more appealing way, giving it an image of credibility and quality. The question of morality came up. We are familiar with ads which try to make you feel bad about yourself and therefore more inclined to purchase a product. Or even misrepresenting the truth and making what is actually bad for you seem appealing. Examples of this are manifest in our culture, just look around critically. What is most concerning for me is presenting certain negative and harmful values as glamorous or normalizing them. And this goes beyond graphic design, although that's a dominant element of culture which permates our lives, to music, movies...basically any means of transmitting culture. I know I at least at times will catch myself singing a song with a catchy tune but an objectional message which I know to be false. Even knowing it to be false the appeal of the tune can influence me on some level to emotionally accept the message of the song. Same goes with something visually well presented. That being said advertising in and of itself is morally neutral, it becomes a problem when we use it to manipulate people or "sell" a product or message that is false rather than using it to serve others. So what does this have to do with me? The reason why I'm trying out graphic design is not that I'm interested in selling something like toothpaste or making a profit so much (not that there is anything wrong with that), it's because I think the skill would be useful to have for designing material that will present the faith effectively. The challenge for me, and this would apply to me as an artist whether or not I continue with graphic design, is presenting the message behind an image or design in a way that doesn't compromise the freedom of or manipulate the viewer. Presenting something in a visually attractive way is necessary (to a degree) if you want people today to even consider the merit of your message on its own terms. The question becomes how do you present or "market" the gospel in a visually compelling way while at the same time encouraging people to think for themselves rather than assimulating a message, no matter how good, based on the aesthetic value of its presentation rather than its actual merit. Granted nothing has more merit than Jesus but still this is a concern for me. I don't want to "brainwash" people, but I do hope to influence them. What are the distinctions between the two? Input appreciated!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Traditional Fine Arts In a Digital World

Being a fine artist who works with traditional media I am from time to time confronted with the question of where art forms such as painting, drawing and sculpture fit in with the world that we live in today. Hundreds of years ago people got their portraits painted because photography wasn't invented. Then one might ask what's the point of painting a person's portrait today when we can just photograph them? I'm not denigrating photography by any means, but painting or drawing someone is a very different experience than taking a photo of them. For me drawing or painting a person is very relational. It delivers something photography can't, (and photography delivers something a drawing or painting can't). Making a painting for instance occurs over a period of time, where it is characteristic of photography to be more immediate in regards to time. For this reason painting invites the artist and the viewers of the work of art into an experience and kind of directness with the subject that can't be replaced by more technically advanced mediums. The subject is "channeled" through the artist's eye's head and heart in a very personal way and invites the viewer into that same intimacy with and knowledge of the subject. This is why I prefer working from life than from a photograph when I paint or draw because then it is about communicating a relationship with an actual person or your experience of a particular place ect. It is my belief that each medium, whether it be sculpture, drawing, painting, printmaking, digitally generated images, photography or film each have their own strengths and limitations and any of these mediums cannot be replaced by another.

I am discerning my vocation right now and I am very much attracted to the Daughters of St. Paul for multiple reasons. Their big thing is evangelizing through the media so I am confronted with the question of could my working with traditional media such as oil painting be integrated into their mass media apostolate? For a while I dismissed them for this reason...mass media nuns would have no use for a fine artist working in such "archaic" mediums. Oil painting and mass media just didn't seemingly fit together in my mind. But I would ask myself...then for what reason am I painting in oil if it's not relevent to the culture today, a culture dominated by mass communications? I want to use my talent to engage the culture, there must be a way to integrate the new media into my life as an artist so I could reach more people. I can think of a few examples of people who are integrating fine art, Theology of the Body, and mass communications to reach people. One of them being Fr. Thomas Loya, who redirected me to the Daughters of St. Paul after I had more or less dismissed them. He told me that the we artists must use our art to help the larger culture see like us, that is seeing the glory of God in the human body- this is purity. So I have seen that fine art and mass media can be integrated together but still questions arise. Some pieces of art, i.e. art that is digitally made or altered lend themselves better to dissemination through the mass media e.g. the internet. Here's an example. Here's a pen and ink sketch I did of Mother Theresa, in preparation for a ceramics project I wrote about in a previous post "Faith, Hope, and Love".


I scanned this into photoshop and slightly tweaked the image there. This image loses nothing of it's beauty or power by being disseminated online seeing as how it was processed digitally. On the other hand, if I were to post an image of an oil painting, though you can see much of its beauty, something is lost through being transmitted via video, in a book or through the internet. Seeing an image of a painting, though useful and valuable, is a different thing than experiencing a painting in person. These are just some points that I need to reflect on further as I continue my journey as a TOB artist living in a media world. Any reflections or comments are much valued!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some Reflections On the Human Body In Art, Viewer Reception and Mass Communications

Viewing Dony Mac Manus' presentation on TOB and art (see previous post) stirred up again in me some questions I've been mulling over for some time now. One such topic that surfaces for me which he touched upon is how my art will be received and my responsibilities as a figurative artist.

Pope John Paul II dedicated four of his 129 Wednesday audiences where he spoke of Theology of the Body to reflecting on art. His message regarding the unclothed human body and art have a strong cautionary tone, and rightly so because the human body and sexuality are so sacred they are subjects that need to be handled with extreme reverence and care. JPII spoke about how there is a danger of the gift of the model's body represented not being met with an appropriate reception from the people who view the art. To illustrate this I can speak of my own experiences as a figurative artist. There is a special relationship between artist and model. There is a deep level of mutual understanding and trust. The model reveals his or her body to the artist trusting that they will be received appropriately. The artist in turn makes a gift of their whole person through their art. As fine and dandy as that all is, there is also a fear in me in showing my art portraying the human body to others, because I don't know and have little control over how it will be received. This isn't as much a problem showing my art to other artists or people who I trust know where I'm coming from. When you show your art to someone you are making yourself vulnerable, especially if the piece is significant to you and if you are a figurative artist your model is vulnerable through your art as well. This hesitancy or fear on my part has been fostered by instances where my art wasn't received well. One instance I was showing my art to some friends and one friend covered her eyes and scurried out of the room upon seeing a painting of a nude model. Or comments such as "I'll check out your art as long as it's got no naked people...". Granted more instances than not my art is affirmed but I just mention these negative experiences to illustrate the challenges artist who work with the human form face.

JPII also spoke about the danger of a person's body being reduced to an object, that is as opposed to a body revealing a person. This point I need to reflect on so I can unpack it some more but my understanding is that we must create art that reveals the whole person, and doesn't divorce a person's body from their personhood, reduce it to an object as opposed to revealing a person to be loved. An artist's responsibility goes only so far, then it's up to the viewer to receive the piece of art in purity as well. One thing I appreciated about Dony Mac Manus' presentation was how he spoke of challenging those who view his art to purity. That's what I want to do through my art, to challenge those I share my art with to see the human body in purity and to recognize the dignity people have as being created male and female, in the image and likeness of God.

Being a figurative artist in a mass media world also raises some interesting questions. Especially seeing as how I want to evangelize with TOB through my art and the new forms of communication have the potential to expand my audience and impact. This raises questions relating to communicating the human form through art to a mass audience and the responsibilities that entails. As a point of discussion, I'll post a flier I made last semester that was an advertisement for a TOB study:

Theology of the Body@Sacramentality

I took the image out of my sketchbook, from an open figure drawing session I attended a year or so ago. This brings up for me such questions as, is this even OK? I believe the model has graduated so I didn't ask her permission if I could post her image all over the campus, what are the guidelines regarding such things, is permission necessary or was permission already in a way given in her modeling in a session that was open to the public? What about, and I hate to use this word, using a person's image to promote an ideal that they may not necessarily adhere to or agree with without their knowledge or permission, especially to a mass audience? Even in such a case as this where the ideal is something I believe to be positive. Also, seeing as how this image is a bit more "anonymous" than other images I could have selected, seeing how this is a quick sketch with the facial features largely undeveloped, is there more of a danger for the viewer seeing this body represented as an object rather than as revealing a person?

I hope to contact Dony Mac Manus, I would love to discuss with him such things as well as other topics I'll touch on in future posts. I would also like to contact Fr. Thomas Loya again, he's a TOB artist/ presenter as well who utilizes mass means of communication (e.g. DVD's, live web streams).

Anyone and everyone who has any input regarding any of this please share by leaving a comment!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Faith, Hope & Love

For nearly my entire life, I never really "got" Mother Theresa. Sure, I knew her fame...but didn't really understand her as a person, what was all this fuss about her, or know how I could relate to her. Recently little by little the mystery of Mother Theresa has unfolded for me, of course there is still a lot further I could go with her, but I know her better than I did a year ago, when I made this ceramic triptych based off of her. Today I just finished reading Mother Theresa's Secret Fire, which reveals that the driving force behind her person was a profound and deep encounter with the thirst of God for her love and the love of each person.


Mother Theresa@Sacramentality

Catholic art@Sacramentality
Faith, Hope & Love , Ceramic, 2009

This piece as you can tell is not completely intact, currently only one out of the three components of this piece isn't destroyed. I feel that working on this piece was an opportunity for me to physically express my desire to understand and know Mother Theresa better. Although other people have expressed fondness of this piece, I feel that I now would be much better equipped to make a piece on Mother Theresa that went below the surface. Or if not making a piece explictly depicting her, definitely having my art in general being influenced by what I now know of her. As I was reading about her encounter with God's thirst and how it changed her, I could definitely relate to my own experience of His desire for me and how it has changed me. Mother Theresa is an inspiration for me go deeper still. If I could let the truth of God's longing for me and for each person penetrate me deeper I am sure I'd be able to live my life, more so than I am now, in a way that draws people to Him. I need to be seeking to create art that communicates the love of God for each person I represent. It is important that I take mother Theresa's advice and reflect often on the divine words "I thirst". What do they mean for me? I'd like to get those who view my art thinking, what does this Love communicated through this image mean to me? How am I to act on this? God, who is Love, like any lover desires the love of His beloved. It is my challenge to make this beautiful Love clear and accessible through my art. I hope to do this especially through the subject of the human body, male and female, which speaks a language of relationship, of love and union which mirrors the life of the Trinity, in whose image we are made. Our call to love is stamped in our inmost being and is made visible in the design of our bodies.

Consider the person of Mother Theresa, the beauty and impact of her life came all from being consumed by God. We are all called to live with that sort of passion, and it comes by being transformed by knowing you are beloved of God and desiring nothing but loving Him with every fiber of your being. The way to grow in this relationship is to spend time getting to know God, and not getting discouraged with your shortcomings...your complacency, inconstancy and lukewarmness. Jesus lamented to Mother Theresa, "They don't know me-so they don't want Me...". Mother Theresa sought to make God known through her love in action. After encountering the love of God you can't help but act on it...that's how I hope to live and make incarnated in action, love made visible in image. I don't know how this is going to play out, but I know that any effectiveness I have in communicating Love, Truth, and Beauty will be an overflow of the creative Love I recieve from God. Apart from Him we can do nothing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Here's a portrait of my dad I did last year for my sculpture class as my final project. I did this piece the same semester as my bronze sculpture Prayer.

wood portraiture@Sacramentality

Father, wood, 2008

This was my first experience working with wood, and I really like it. This was also my first time making a reductive sculpture, (for the non-art folks that just means rendering a form by removing material instead of adding it). I really enjoyed it, I should do it again sometime. This was the most physically demanding piece of art I've ever made, but I loved it. I enjoyed the manual labor aspect of it. It's one of those pieces that you sweat and bleed for (until I acquired gloves to protect my hands). Eric from the wood shop at my university, kind man that he is took me to his house so he could cut my log and rough it out some. Then I chiseled away at it but was getting nowhere fast, until I went home for Thanksgiving break and used my dad's zig saw and some other tools, along with lended chisels and a handy mallet that was given to me for this purpose. (Anyone who wants to embark on wood sculpture I highly recommend using a mallet instead of a regular hammer unless you want to miss the chisel half the time and smash up your fingers...not fun). I used photographic references for this but my dad was around in case I needed to look at him seeing as how I was working in his shop.

I couldn't help but think as I was working on this about the spiritual implication of the medium. As I worked I reflected on the significance of Jesus the carpenter and felt a connection to Him in that way as I was working on this piece. That's not to say that wood is a better, holier or more spiritual medium, of course, just that Jesus had a special relationship to it as he walked this earth during his "hidden" life before his three year ministry which I find intriguing. To work with wood you need to be patient, strong and firm yet delicate and gentle. I believe that Jesus working with wood prepared him for working with people, work that would demand those same qualities of gentle strength. Similarly, sensitivity and firmness is not only a quality required to bring a sculpture to completion, but is also demanded in our relationships as we labor to help bring others to fulfillment by drawing the best out of them.

It seemed in a sense a bit like an ironic role reversal how I was in a sense "mothering" this sculpture of my father into being. I suppose on one level, if only in the recesses of my mind, this sculpture was an exploration of a man's fatherhood and how it is meant to be a reflection of the Fatherhood of God the Father. Perhaps this is why I titled this piece Father as opposed to Dad. I never address my dad as "father".

Technical note, if you work with wood that still has a significant amount of moisture in it it will crack as it dries. There is nice big ol' crack in this sculpture now because I worked it when it was still wet.

Also, I believe the medium served the subject well. The rawness and roughness of the wood is very masculine and fitting in expressing my dad.

Friday, January 8, 2010

N.T. Wright On Art and Mission

I like this comment someone left about this video:

I love how Wright talks about the honesty of art,of the present pain, the present glory revealed and the future glory. We have short-changed art by making only pretty pictures of demure Jesus and his sad, calm appearance.
The bible is full of angst along with peace. There is ugliness as well as beauty. The ugliness is part of the beauty – the precursor of what can come of it.

I came across this video through this web page:


In this post I'm sharing a piece I did about a year ago in my sculpture course.

Theology of the Body@Sacramentality

Theology of the Body@Sacramentality

Prayer, bronze, 2008

I am by no means a pro when it comes to bronze sculpture. This is the only one I've done, for a class assignment, which I was necessarily heavily guided through and assisted. Just wanted to make that disclaimer.

This piece is a self-portrait of sorts. No, it doesn't look like me. It's actually not modeled after any specific person, it's something I used no reference for...just drawn from my knowledge of the human form. It's generally very important for me to work from a reference, I particularly enjoy working from life, (from an actual person) though it can be challenging for me at times to work with the human form from life because I am just starting to learn how to work with models, that is working with a model one on one. The first and only time I had a model all for myself was this past semester for a series of two paintings and I LOVED it! So I'm getting there but it's still something to be worked on, it will come with time and experience. Though not working from a specific person with this piece perhaps worked well, because it makes the figure more inclusive in a sense but really it's something I'd want to generally avoid in my art because I really prefer capturing the likeness of an actual person. I'm much more engaged and focused in my art when that is the case. So when I said this piece is a self portrait of sorts I didn't mean so much a physical likeness as an expression of my experience and relationship with God. Without getting into too much detail, this piece is a reflection of how God revealed Himself to me when I was at a low point. It is recalling a certain time in my life, which had occurred the year I made this piece when I knelt before God in my pain and desperation, my loneliness and He met me in a way where I KNEW for the first time that yes God is very real and yes God is Love. Though this piece isn't only about an isolated experience, but rather how that experience was the beginning of an ever intensifying surrender to perfect Love. Through the language of the body, in its receptive open posture, in its kneeling, communicates openness and dependence on God. The nudity of the figure expresses the whole person,in the totality of their being as being presented to God. This sculpture is very TOB in that the body makes visible the invisible spiritual reality. It speaks of the integration of body and spirit, how the body reveals the person. The gash over the figure's heart emphasises the vulnerability of the person. I came to God broken and vulnerable, and in that brokenness and vulnerability He met me. In my own experience my brokenness drove me to seek God and receive Him in a way I otherwise may not have been open to. By presenting our pain to God we give Him the opportunity to be our Healer and transform it into something beautiful. For me that something beautiful that resulted from my pain is a love relationship with Jesus that has met my needs for total acceptance, love, and intimacy beyond my wildest imaginings. My lack of these things drove me to seek Him and He provided with His very self! I believe my experience is pretty universal and a lot of people would be able to relate to this piece in one way or another. Also, I recall as I was making this sculpture I was aware of its Marian dimension. On one level this piece expresses Mary's total submission, trust and receptivity before God. As a woman particularly, or more generally as a person before God I have an inherent connection with Mary. As I was making the gash in the chest of this figure I couldn't help but think about the Scripture where Simeon says to Mary "...and a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 2: 35). This verse, and this layer of meaning in the sculpture speaks of participation in the Passion of Jesus Christ. I believe that this connects to my own experience in that Christ, by his suffering and death, entered into our own suffering and death and through his resurrection redeems and makes something beautiful come out of our brokenness if we but open up and let Him. Though of course Mary participated in the Passion of her Son in a different way than anyone else, by her being sinless and also through her special relationship and closeness to Jesus.

Marian themes are going to play a big part in my art and something I'm going to be revisiting again and again. After all, it is through and by her flesh that Jesus took on flesh, our humanity.

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