Thursday, May 31, 2007

Change of Scenery

There's nothing like a vacation to refresh your mind and body - and creativity! We just returned from a great vacation on the east coast of Florida.

A change of scenery and climate can breathe fresh ideas into your art. It had been too long since I had seen an endless horizon, dug my toes in warm sand, smelled the salty air, tasted lobster and listened to the rhythm of lapping waves.

The colors and life of the tropics are distinct just as the desert of New Mexico and the mountains of North Carolina are - each offering their own palette and textures. With every picture I took, I saw a painting.

Do you have a memorable vacation or location that refreshes your creativity?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Color Collaboration

In 2001, 14 journal artists joined forces in a round-robin journal swap. With a simple theme- COLOR- each artist "hosted" a journal based on a single color scheme. All the artists needed to do was choose a color scheme, create a journal with enough space for the other 13 artists to work in, decorate the front cover and the first couple of pages to get things rolling, and mail it to the next artist on the list. The game was afoot!
Red, Black, White, Blue and Ochre, Aqua, Sepia, Violet and Yellow, Hot Pink and Orange, Sunset, Forest Floor, Metallic... from the get-go, one could tell this was going to be an interesting collaboration.

Every two weeks, artist's completed their contribution and mailed off one journal while anxiously awaiting for the next one to arrive. All mediums were fair game, all interpretations of the color were fair game, all approaches to creating these journals... fair game. It was an opportunity for each artist to show their true colors.

Over the next 16 months, the artists reveled in the journals they received. Some describe ripping open the packages containing their next journal before the postman even left their front walk. Others tell that they would dangle it like a carrot before themselves in order to accomplish some pressing administrative or household task. Still others just wanted to be alone with the newest journal, savoring it with a glass of wine or coffee, curling up with it by the fire to explore every detail of the previous artists' work.

They asked questions like:
How did the previous journal artists interpret "green"? How can I spring board from that idea or offer a counterpoint to it?
What medium lends itself to the boldness of violet? The subtlety of sepia?
How can I incorporate this piece of chicken wire (or roller skate wheel, or old apron tie) into my house design for "white"?

With each journal received, the artists had the challenge to weigh their independent creative vision against that of the entire group. They had to get a feel for the mingling of ideas and concepts within each journal's pages, while still maintaining their personal sense of style. Some artists chose to stick with their favorite media, others felt the need to branch out and try something new.

Karen Michel says, "Each journal truly emanated the spirit and style of the artist who made it, and at first it was quite a challenge to hold strong to my own vision and what I conceived to be my personal style. Working with the spirit of collaboration, I eased myself into the mingling of visions and images, getting my feet wet at first, then diving right into what turned out to be a very animated conversation of colors. I would listen closely to hear and feel what the book was saying to me and do my best as an interpreter."

The community that developed through their art journaling experiment continues on. In 2003, Somerset Studio published the collective works of this art journal community in the book, True Colors: A Palette of Collaborative Art Journals. It is a feast for the eyes, and a vanguard for the altered book and journal industry. Many of the 14 artists have websites featuring their work, as well as tips and ideas for creating altered art.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pray for Our Soldiers...and...

I hear it on the radio. I hear it in church. I read it on bumper stickers. "Pray for our soldiers."

Nothing wrong with that. It's good to pray. My friend's husband is "over there." She's caring for their three kids alone. I definitely don't want anything to happen to him, so I'm glad we pray.

But you know what's missing in such requests, don't you? Yeah--the reminder of our Lord's command to love our enemies.

Recently I was struck anew by the fact that God sent Jonah to Nineveh, which being interpreted was Babylon, which being interpreted was the heart of Iraq. Jonah resented (more like got royally torqued) that God offered his enemies a chance to repent. And they did repent, so God didn't do lightning. Woo-eeee. That did not go over well with the angry Jonah-man.

The year I decorated the card you see here, the U.S. invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those places are under His mercies, and not just because Jonah and Daniel did short stints there. From the desert to the iceberg continent, God's mercies are over all his works.

Okay, so that explains Babylon and Iraq and Afghanistan and even Antarctica. But Italian? Well, a prof in my PhD program was initially negative about my being a Christian, though she softened as the semester went by. Anyway, her speciality was/is Italian.

And she's under the mercies.

So am I. Romans says I used to be God's enemy, too.

So let's pray for our troops. But let's also pray for their troops. We need to pray the same for both: that they might all be translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His Beloved Son--the One who loves His enemies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Childhood Games

I'm designing a large scale collage using imagery from childhood games. Depending on our ages, these were popular at some point in our household:

Hi-Ho Cherry-O

Help me build a list. What were some of your favorite childhood games?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Starving Artists

Amy Grant has been said to pack away the Lays potato chips during her recording sessions. The grease lines her throat and gives her, well... a greasy, throaty sound, I guess.

James Bond likes his martinis shaken, not stirred.

Back in the days when I made scrapbooks into the wee hours, all the women at the crops brought their favorite snacks to keep them chugging around the clock. Carrot sticks, Diet Coke with ice chips (not cubes, it must be ice chips), peanut M&M's, and Arby's roast beef sandwiches.

So, when you're in the creative groove, what is your favorite munchie to keep at hand?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Are Your Faves?

Back in January when I was in Marfa, Texas, with a bunch of artsy types, several of my cohorts said I simply must read Twyla Tharp's bestseller, The Creative Habit. Tharp is an Emmy- and Tony-winning American dancer and choreographer (think "Hair," "White Nights," "Movin' Out"). When it comes to the subject of creativity, she's written a kickin' read. The layout is as creative as the prose.

Now, when it comes to creative writing, my fave is the 1983 edition of Writing the Natural Way.

If you want videos, the Catholic Communication Campaign's "Creativity: Touching the Divine" stands at the top of my list.

What is your favorite work(s) relating to art or creativity?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is (Nude) Art?

WARNING: Links in this post lead to news articles containing artistic photographs of naked people.

Picasso, 1907, Les Demoiselles d'AvignonIt's a highly debated question: What is art? Many approach the answer by saying what art isn't. Is it art simply because it's shocking or disturbing, because it makes you think, or only if it's beautiful?

You may have seen and/or heard about the most recent photo shoot by American photographer Spencer Tunick. He is known for his nude photography. So here's my question to you - is it art?

Michelangelo, 1501 - 1504, DavidI'll come right out and say I think it is. It's very provocative and creative. Artistically, the human body becomes an element instead of just the subject. I wonder if this might be a perspective our Creator has.

A definition of art that I use is that it's creating a new perspective on a familiar thing or the exploration of what things are made of by recreating them out of context. For example, drawing or painting a fish using nothing but black lines and still communicating the characteristics and environment of a fish. Or creating a picture of a fish out of macaroni by determining what characteristics macaroni and a fish have in common or in what new ways can you look at macaroni that can make it communicate "fish". Either way, you are either stretching the view of the subject or the medium.

Tunick describes his photographs this way:
"I aim to get a sculptural feel for groups of bodies, as well as create performance art." - Telegraph

He's scupting by exploring the use of a new medium.

Botticelli, 1485-1486, The Birth of VenusSo what do you think of his work?

Nudes were very common in works of the great masters. Is it different because Tunick uses photography?

At what point does nude art become pornography?

Has the church played a role in demoralizing art simply because of the nude?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Art Community: Community Art

Art is one of the few things in the world that builds community. Whether it's viewing a piece of sculpture in a sculpture garden, visiting a gallery opening, listening to a symphony at the concert hall, or watching a show in the theatre, art is created to be shared.
Shared in the enjoyment of a completed work. Sometimes even shared throughout the entire creative process.

Art is meant to be shared with others.

A wonderful example of art that is shared in conception, execution and enjoyment of the finished product, is Community Bridge, in Frederick, MD. This piece began as an effort to revitalize and restore a controversial sector of Frederick. The artist, William Cochran, proposed a collaborative art project using a bridge as his canvas. Not just any old bridge though, he wanted this specific bridge that divided the community into a quasi "right and wrong side of the tracks," both racially and economically. Cochran's vision was to use the very thing dividing the city in two and redeem it to become a point of unity, collaboration and community spirit. Hence it's name, Community Bridge.

Cochran asked 174,000 people (both locally and around the world) one question, "What image represents the spirit of community to you?"

In process from 1993-1998, and painted entirely in the trompe l'oeil style (meaning that the bridge surfaces are completely flat. Anything you see that appears to be three-dimensional is an illusion), Cochran and his art team incorporated hundreds of ideas contributed from the world-wide community. In the words of Cochran, "Imagination is the most powerful force available to humankind and everyone without exception has access to that force."

Cochran relied on a community to canvas the public for ideas. Cochran relied on a community of ten painters to assist in making the bridge mural a reality. Cochran now relies on the community of Frederick, and all the out-of-town visitors, to enjoy and experience Community Bridge together. Cochran's vision depends on community collaboration and serves to draw that community closer together. And one could even say that it creates community where there was none.

Cochran hopes to add still more symbols to the bridge. Click here to join the Community Bridge collaboration and submit your answer to the question,
"What symbol represents community to you?"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Artist's Formative Stage

I think it was Picasso who said that everyone is an artist and the challenge as we grow is to keep from having it trained out of us.

When I was a kid, my mom taught me to make shavings from crayons. Then we'd press them with a hot iron between sheets of wax paper so they melted into a kaleidoscope of color. After that we'd cut out stained glass window frames and put the colored creation inside. Hanging in the window with the sun shining through, our homemade stained-glass windows took our breath away.

My kindergarten teacher taught me to make a turkey by tracing my hand. Did you do that too?

What are some of your first memories about creating something?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Church: Part 1

My Geek and I have been getting antsy at church. We want more. We've found some friends who feel the same way. We feel like we're wasting time sitting in pews and going to meetings. Too much time in the building and not enough time with people. We're postmodern in our thinking and lifestyle. Our creativity is bursting at the seams to see what we can do with this passion, energy and possibility. What if..?

So, in January we started a new home small group. (I really see this as a home church.) There is no real plan except to always be moving forward by exploring and experimenting with what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ. Many of our first discussions were about our identity and what we want to accomplish. But as we evolve, there were some simple things we wanted:
  • As long as there's at least two of us, we meet.

  • We have a starting time but we don't care what time you show, just get there!

  • We end when we're done. It's usually late. But it gives us time to build those relationships.

  • Since we meet on Friday evening, we decided to brown bag it to make it easier for families to come. No one has to cook, just run through the drive-thru of your choice. Eating together is a great fellowship time.

  • Everyone pitches in. This is not a pew sitting church. We got things to do.

  • No child care. If the kids run through the room or want to join us, that's fine. They're not made to feel like they're not included. It's important that they hear us discussing spiritual issues, however difficult. They always want to join in on our art projects.
Right now we're building trust and relationships. Although we'd all met previously at church during the "Sunday school hour", meeting in homes has changed things. Church is sterile and restricting. There's a time limit and everybody knows how to act for an hour. When you come into someone's home, you get personal and there's no where to hide. You tend to act more like yourself.

It's mid-April now and we're still learning about who we are and challenging what church and worship really are. We're in training. We've gone rock climbing, created life maps, studied the Sermon on the Mount and even shared cocktail recipes. We're learning to get into each others lives instead of just passing each other with fake smiles on Sunday morning. The same thing we need to do out in the world.

Are you having a revolutionary church experience? Tell us about it.