Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ottawa Photos II

A few more photos from Ottawa. I love this first one with the plant just peaking into the red color field softening the division between the wall and the door. I liked the circle of the pot and the organics of the tree against the geometry of the door.

This is shot of the steps in front of the justice building in Ottawa. I appreciate this one for its formal qualities of rhythm and repetition again. But to those I added symmetry. I know that many people do not care for such a formal aesthetic but for me I love to see the straight lines.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rabbi Heschel on the Ineffable

"The ineffable inhabits the magnificent and the common, the grandiose and the tiny facts of reality alike. Some people sense this quality at distant intervals in extraordinary events, in every fold, in every nook; day after day, hour after hour. To them things are bereft of triteness; to them being does not mate with non-sense. They hear the stillness that crowds the world in spite of our noise, in spite of our greed. Slight and simple as things may be--a piece of paper, a morsel of bread, a word, a sigh--they hide and guard a never ending secret: A glimpse of God? Kinship with the spirit of being? An eternal flash of will?

Part company with your preconceived notions, suppress your leaning to reiterate and to know in advance of your seeing, try to see the world for the first time with eyes not dimmed by memory or volition, and you will detect that you and the things that surround you--trees, birds, chairs--are like parallel lines that run close but never meet. Your pretense of being acquainted with the world is quickly abandoned."

Abraham Heschel - from Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ottawa Photos I

One of my favorite shots of the trip. I love the vaulted and ribbed ceilings of the Parliament. I tried several times to get the long empty hallway without one of the hundreds of people touring, protecting, working etc. Finally I did manage to snag a vertical shot with my wide angle.

This is the dome above the Parliament library...the only original structure from the 1916 fire that destroyed the grounds.

This shot is from one of the cross hallways where there was never a clear shot from floor to ceiling. But again I did manage to capture a decent shot of the ribs and vaulted ceilings.

This is a blurry shot off the balcony of Karina's parents apartment in Ottawa. I love the city lights at night and if it hadn't been so cold, I would have spent a little more time outside.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alexey Titarenko pt. II

Yesterday I posted on the work of Titarenko. Below are pieces of a documentary well worth watching on his work. If you have time, take a look.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Monday, November 24, 2008

Alexey Titarenko

In class last week we looked at the wonderful work of Alexey Titarenko. His ghost-like time lapse shots are like a convergence of memory and dream which gives each image a historical feel. Titarenko, working with a medium format, haunts the streets of St. Petersberg to which he has committed his life to photographing. One place. This struck me. How many people commit themselves to living in one place, pursuing one thing for their entire life. In seminary we talked about how it took 5+ years to really impact a congregation. Perhaps it takes a lifetime of commitment to a place to know really know it, understand its beauty, and be able to photograph it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Saul Leiter (again)

A few months ago I had several postings on the work of Saul Leiter. I found this little video of his work and thought I would share it again. Can you get too much of Saul Leiter? Watch again for his foregrounds and windows as impediments, repeated colors, and reflections. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Table by John Kaericher

Below is a print from my printmaking professor, John Kaericher, at Northwestern College. John did his MFA at the University of Iowa at their peak in the 60's working under Mauricio Lasansky. John offered this piece to me as a wedding gift (what a great gift by the way!). Karina and I have been making an effort to purchase work by those we have studied with both professors and fellow students.

I love this piece of John's. Not only because of the Eucharistic subject matter, but the rendering is dark and rich. The more I look at it I recall conversations and his frequent allusions to the work of Alberto Giacometti and Kathe Kollwitz. Can I see their influence upon him in this print? I think particularly the line in Giacometti's paintings might emerge as an influence. Kollwitz is a bit of a stretch. John did mention that some of the figures in the image are friends and family. The image gives a strong insight into his theology as well where the the Lord's Supper is primarily a communal event and not a individualized transaction between self and God.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The True, the Good, and the Beautiful Christian

I ran into this article a while back, and with my appreciation for Stackhouse's work I thought I would repost CT's article.

"The True, the Good, and the Beautiful Christian"
Beauty is making a comeback in science and theology. Will it find its place in the lives of believers?
John G. Stackhouse Jr | January 7 2002, Vol. 46, No. 1
You can find this article on Christianity Today's website.

The very idea of beauty makes many sophisticates cringe nowadays. It seems utterly out of touch with postmodern ambiguity, since the notion of beauty implies absolute standards widely agreed upon that address an objective reality: "That is beautiful." Even the Encyclopaedia Britannica (not renowned for its postmodern skepticism) affirms that "almost anything might be seen as beautiful by someone or from some point of view." Yet, despite the difficulty of defining beauty, the concept nonetheless is making a comeback. And it is doing so in at least two realms we normally do not associate with beauty: theology and science.Roman Catholic author Thomas Dubay discusses these ideas at length in The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet (Ignatius, 1999). Borrowing heavily from theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dubay seeks to awaken his readers to the presence of beauty in the world, especially as seen through the lenses of science and theology.

Dubay notes that many scientists judge a theory at least in part by aesthetic criteria. James Watson, for instance, who helped discover the double helix of DNA, suggested that "a structure this pretty just had to exist." Physicists Werner Heisenberg, Richard Feynman, and Murray Gell-Mann insisted that the elegance of their equations pointed to the truth of their theories. Likewise in theology, Dubay continues, beauty—whether the beauty of the earth, of human artifacts, of saints (as "paragons of virtue"), or of God himself—can move us to grateful recognition that God reveals himself in beauty.

Here the Enlightenment meets Romanticism. We need to be accurate, comprehensive, and logically rigorous to properly perceive the way things are. But we should also pay attention to the aesthetic qualities of both things and the theories that describe them. Since the world itself is beautiful, a beautiful theory that describes it is more likely to be correct. Unfortunately, Dubay does not help us to see exactly how beauty and truth are related. Indeed, he occasionally confuses the objectively beautiful and true with his own tastes and convictions—as when he dispenses with all rock music as ugly, or when he champions papal supremacy as the beautiful center of beautiful ecclesiastical unity.

Dubay's strength lies in celebrating beauty, and he joyfully catalogues examples from the natural world and from the lives of the saints. He turns ultimately to the beauty of God and divine things, and concludes his long meditation in an unembarrassed "Afterglow" (as he names his last chapter). We would do well to follow him in such a doxological tour of the beautiful. Still, Dubay fails to provide the promised apologetic, showing how beauty points beyond itself to its Model and Source.

From Beauty to Social Justice. Harvard professor Elaine Scarry, in her brief On Beauty and Being Just (Princeton University Press, 1999), gives us more to consider. Scarry's unusual project is to show that the sincere and genuine apprehension of beauty helps us become more just. She celebrates beauty for its own sake, to be sure, warning us that "the absence of beauty is a profound form of deprivation." But she goes on to show that beauty can lead us to justice in several ways.

First, beauty displaces the observer from the center of things, even from the center of his own life. One can, of course, merely ingest beauty as a pleasant commodity, chewing on it selfishly. But Scarry maintains that when we encounter beauty, we tend to welcome beauty and give way to it. Thus in consenting to beauty's commanding presence—its "glory," we might say—we displace our self-centeredness. Such a willingness to "step aside" for beauty can displace our egos. It can also dispose us next to displace our egos for others—including the needy.

Second, beauty prompts us both to retain it and to propagate it. We want to remember a beautiful sky, so we paint it. We want to retain the image of a beautiful face, so we photograph it. We want to treasure a beautiful moment, so we write a poem about it. Beauty calls us to extend it, to be generous, to spread the wealth. Again, we might simply propagate beauty for our own satisfaction. But the impulse to multiply beauty instead can prompt us to share with others.

Third, beauty awakens us to pay attention to things and people we tend to ignore. A spectacular waterfall gives us fresh appreciation of even tiny movements of water on a windowpane or on a drinking glass. Likewise, this quality of "distribution" can prompt us to do justice, as the dramatically beautiful reminds us to pay attention to things less obviously beautiful but still worthy of care. Yes, to admire the beauty of a particularly lovely face might cause us to despise all others. Then again, sustained attention to beauty can educate and sensitize our eyes to note the gracefulness of another person's smile, the curve of her neck, the sparkle in his eyes, in ways we had not appreciated before. This person is a human being we notice, and not just an object to be manipulated or an obstacle to be avoided.

Finally, beauty demonstrates symmetry, fitness, proportion, and other harmonies that have clear connections, and not mere analogies, to justice. Thus, we use the same word—fair—to describe someone who is comely and someone who is just. Indeed, Scarry says that beauty calls for justice as a twin seeking its counterpart.
One might wonder if Scarry is a starry-eyed romantic. Many who have a keen aesthetic sense show little moral sense. Doesn't she know about the scandalous lives of artists, from Liszt to Picasso? Has she not seen Amadeus or Pollock?
Scarry knows that beauty does not always lead to justice and that we often manipulate beauty for our own ends—in cynical advertising, pornography, disguise, and so on. She also notes that some scientific theories are so elegant that one can hold onto them too long in the face of conflicting evidence. The idea that the orbits of the planets are all perfect circles, rather than wildly varying ellipses, is a case in point.

What Scarry points out are the often overlooked connections between beauty and justice, and the opportunities to be moved by them. Whether we gratefully receive those opportunities, of course, is up to us. Scarry only occasionally discusses religion, but there is much in this little book to prompt Christian spiritual reflection. For one thing, it reminds us that we typically understand the gods, and our God, not only as powerful, good, wise, and eternal, but also as beautiful. Moreover, God's beauty calls us to worship, the act above all acts that "radically decenters" us (as Scarry says) while yet giving us transports of delight. Indeed, all of what Scarry says about beauty can be said superlatively about God.
The Good, the True, and the Evangelical.

Evangelicals already prize truth and goodness. Our tradition emphasizes honesty and charity. We practice doctrinal fidelity, straightforward evangelism, and plainspoken preaching. We are to love our neighbors, care for the poor, educate the ignorant, and give medicine to the ill—as well as live moral lives. These are the ideals we aspire to. Thus church buildings of evangelicals tend toward the utilitarian; we try to make the most of the space and furnishings for multiple uses. Few congregations make beautiful architecture and furnishings a priority. Indeed, we tend to be suspicious of anything grand or ornate, or of fine craftsmanship that draws attention to itself. But why? Perhaps it is because of our prior commitment to truth and goodness. We may feel that spending attention and money on beauty would obscure the clear lines of truth and goodness. Perhaps we feel in our bones something of the Puritans' suspicion of the distracting and obfuscating elaborations of the Roman Church.

Many of us lack even an adequate vocabulary by which to make beauty part of our shared life. For every hymn or contemporary song that celebrates beauty, whether "For the Beauty of the Earth" or "O Lord, You're Beautiful," there are ten that celebrate God's truthfulness, power, and holiness. (Ironically, evangelicalism's love of music, and therefore its genuine love of this expression of beauty, shines through the hymns and songs that praise quite different attributes of God.)
How much of this evangelical ambivalence is defensible, especially in the light of God's own beauty and the beauty of his Earth? Scripture recognizes beauty from beginning to end—from the opening hymns that celebrate God's goodness in creation, through its matchless Psalms, to the vision of the New Jerusalem as a splendid architectural wonder.

We evangelicals often practice a "war-time ethic," in which we sacrifice things that would be good in peacetime but seem inappropriate in a time of crisis. There's no point, we believe, in rearranging the flowers sliding off tables as the Titanic slopes down. Why "prettify" a church when the money could be spent on evangelism or relief for the poor? Yet Jesus confronted this sort of situation and praised the extravagant offering of expensive perfume as perfectly appropriate (John 12). Do we yet know how to integrate this teaching with our other gospel priorities of truth-telling and need-meeting? The connection, I believe, lies here: Beauty is part of Jesus' kingdom. In brief, we should give proper place to beauty—by creating and enjoying it, even writing a theology of it—as an integral part of the "war effort." Beauty is not mere ornamentation that we dutifully defer until the coming of the New Jerusalem. It is an essential part of our gospel, which must be manifest now as we bear witness to kingdom life. Beyond what Dubay and Scarry suggest, this is the true linkage of truth, goodness, and beauty: the full-orbed shalom of the kingdom of God.
Therefore, if we neglect beauty in our homes, in our churches, and in the education of our children, we will be cultivating, and propagating, a deficient religion: the heresy of an un-beautiful Christianity. To preach, and live, the whole counsel of God, including the beautiful—this is the best apologetic we can offer.

John Stackhouse Jr. is the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College, and editor of No Other Gods Before Me? Evangelicals Encounter the World's Religions (Baker, 2001).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Call For Papers - Paper Proposals

I have been working on two paper proposals for spring conferences: the regional American Academy of Religion and College Theology Society. Both have sections on Theology and the Arts. If you are a follower of my blog I have been working on ideas of the New Topographics group and their relevance for today. This project I am proposing will bring their work into conversation with my work on sacred space/place. I think it will be a fascinating and fruitful study if it gets accepted.

The Calls For Papers -
AAR (Upper Midwest Region): "Religion, Art, and Culture
Submissions are welcome on all topics that examine the relationships between religion and cultural ideas, including, but not limited to, music, literature, and all forms of art, as well as the ways in which religion shapes and is shaped by culture."

CTS: "This section welcomes all papers examining religious art (meaning either the visual or performing arts) or religious literature. We are especially interested in papers that relate religious art and literature to the conference theme "God, Grace, and Creation." Particular subtopics of interest include artistic or literary depictions of God and God's redemptive activity. In addition, as part of a proposed joint session with the Theology, Ecology and Natural Science section, we are also soliciting proposals treating the subject of nature and the environment in fiction with religious themes."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Facebook of Genesis

Saw this on Facebook and thought it was funny and should be shared. Find the original here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pith of the Apocalypse

My New Testament Professor from seminary, Paul Rainbow, has recently published a new commentary on Revelations entitled The Pith of the Apocalypse: Essential Message and Principles For Interpretation.

From the Sioux Falls Seminary Website...
Focusing on the prophetic summons to the church in the book of Revelation, Pith was written to help interpreters see more clearly the text's message to serve God and Christ faithfully in the midst of a pagan society that exalts power, wealth, and pleasure and to revisit the text with enhanced confidence and understanding.

According to Rainbow, his aspirations for The Pith of the Apocalypse were "to open up the book to the bewildered by explaining some generally accepted principles of interpretation that any thoughtful person can use to penetrate its message. The present study is intended for practicing clergy and theological students; for questing lay leaders who want an approach informed by recent scholarship; even, in places, for scholars prying into unsolved problems."

Monday, November 10, 2008

David Hilliard

The other day, one of the undergrads introduced me to the work of David Hilliard. I was immediately captivated by his images. He generally works in diptychs or triptychs of individual images with negative space allowed between. He makes no effort to apply these images to a seamless reality or panoramic, but allows for variation in time and angle to highlight the pervasive physical and emotional distances imaged in the pieces. Not only do many of the images stand on their own, together they have a wonderful narrative and psychological quality. Take a look at these few images but go to his site as well to see many more.

Below is Hilliard's artist statement from his website.

"For years I have been actively documenting my life and the lives of those around me, recording events and attempting to create order in a sometimes chaotic world. While my photographs focus on the personal, the familiar and the simply ordinary, the work strikes a balance between autobiography and fiction. Within the photographs physical distance is often manipulated to represent emotional distance. The casual glances people share can take on a deeper significance, and what initially appears subjective and intimate is quite often a commentary on the larger contours of life.

For me, the construction of panoramic photographs, comprised of various single images, acts as a visual language. Focal planes shift, panel by panel. This sequencing of photographs and shifting of focal planes allows me the luxury of guiding the viewer across the photograph, directing their eye; an effect which could not be achieved through a single image.

I continually aspire to represent the spaces we inhabit, relationships we create, and the objects with which we surround ourselves. I hope the messages the photographs deliver speak to the personal as well as the universal experience. I find the enduring power and the sheer ability of a photograph to express a thought, a moment, or an idea, to be the most powerful expression of myself, both as an artist, and as an individual."

Friday, November 7, 2008

A New Arrival

So Tuesday was a special day. A bundle of sheer joy was delivered to our cozy little apartment by the UPS new camera lenses. I have debated, studied, debated more, lusted, gave up, and finally indulged in the wonder that is L-series glass. I decided on the Canon 24-105mm L series and the Canon 50mm 1.4. The latter of the two offers an L series in a 1.2 but the price jumps about 800$. Not worth it for now. Both get great reviews which makes me all the more anxious to get out to shoot...but this excitement is tied to frustration...its raining with predictions of snow tonight. This weather shouldnt last long should it?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Greg Laswell

A while back I posted another Greg Laswell video. I just love his work so I decided to post another. Enjoy. And yes, that is the Iowa native Elijah Woods or better known as Frodo.

Adjunct Faculty

I was just browsing through Sioux Falls Seminary's new website, looking at the faculty info and the adjunct faculty info and found myself listed there...kinda fun. Hopefully they will ask me back again soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Non Voting as Viable Option for the Christian

Ok so I just responded to a few posts from yesterday and said I couldn't find Mark Nolls reasons for not voting in the the 2004 election...well I did after all find it.

Another great article that suggests some other theological and pastoral concerns is Mark Van Steenwyk's

Scott Lenger's Blog has links to a lot of others with similar concerns. Well worth checking out.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reflections of a Non-Voter on the Eve of Another Election

4 years ago I was deeply conflicted about voting or not voting...not that this has readily been resolved in my heart...but it did produce a few interesting reflections in my journal from that time. These are not in anyway conclusive thoughts but a wondering...perhaps to find a more decisively dicipled identity not tied to political and/or national ideology.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5.43-44)

Saturday I passed a sign along the road that read, "God bless America." Sarcastically I asked my passenger, "and the Iraqis too?"

This sarcastic comment began to raise so many questions… Can a good patriotic American uphold loyalties to both God and country? Which takes precedence? What are the limits of each? Should a Christian support war? These are questions that we as Christians need to be asking ourselves. Though I’ve really found no concrete answers, I will share my leanings.

Too often, American Christians confuse their loyalty to Christ with that of the State. I wonder, are Christianity and patriotism reconcilable? Certainly our commitment to Christ must certainly rise above patriotic notions. And yet, why do they so often seem to be interwoven. To do so, do we risk confusing America with God’s chosen people of Israel? If we believe God to be the creator and lover of all peoples, then patriotic or nationalistic loyalties do not seem be tied to God’s purposes. Patriotism is a division of our allegiance that would seem to pit one nation of brothers and sisters against another.

Luke 16.13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Exodus 20.1-6 The God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…

Essentially anything that takes our attention and desires from God is an idol. God is jealous for our affections.

1 Corinthians 8.5-6 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as in fact there are many gods and many lords – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Ephesians 4.4-6 The is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Romans 3.3a God is one…

Monotheism is not about numbers, but about our exclusive allegiance.

Peter, when told by the authorities not to speak of Christ, he replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4.19-20). Peter again speaks of the higher calling and commitment to God when he says, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29). Submission to the state must end when the Christian conscience is irritated and suppressed. The faithful Christian must oppose submission of the Christian conscience to the State conscience.

If patriotism is love for, and the defense of ones country, then dissent is equally patriotic as war support. Barry Harvey, who teaches at Baylor University, says that Christians are to be sanctified subversants, subverting culture for its own benefit. Dissent is a political subversion for the country’s own benefit by strivings for peace over war. In this sense, dissent protects democracy, which is the goal of patriotism.

Dissent for the Christian means faith is put first in Jesus Christ above any other loyalty. The Christian’s war is fought through prayer on behalf of both nations that the awfulness of war may be ended soon, safety of all troops (including the Iraqis) and for the nations and families of all. It is done in a spirit of humility and submission to our Lord whereby we place our trust in God’s sovereignty and judgment.

[The Lord] shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Micah 4.3)

One of the key points in this country’s political origins is the “freedom of religion” from a state imposed religion of which we all benefit from. This freedom of religion created the opportunity, in part, the pluralism of denominational forms apart from the state religion. Implicit within the freedom “of” is the freedom “from.” This means that a freedom of religion includes the choice of no religion; hence freedom from religion. This is the heart of our current liberal democracy.

We may aptly apply the same inverse understanding to that of the right to vote. Implicit within is the right not to vote. I may exercise my right to vote or I might not. Furthermore, even non action is still action. A potential voter who chooses not to vote does not become a vacuum, but rather exerts a force in opposition to what or whomever by creating yet another option of protest or abstention. If non-voting does not impact, then why are there so many current movements to attract Christians, single mothers, Gen X and the like by so many public figures (watch MTV…PDiddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign as one example). It is obvious that the silent voice of not voting has impacted the past elections.

Unfortunately the American ideology promotes self-interest as patriotism, and voting is perceived as patriotic and not voting is un-patriotic. Yet, if the current democratic system has been put in place to create the individual option, the choice to not vote is just as patriotic because it follows what the government has set forth. It is also the proper use of the set structures. Criticism of Noll’s position is likely because he is subverting the norm of political and societal structure. But his points and the choice not to vote is still politically valid, and subversively patriotic.

Sunday, November 2, 2008