Category Archives: Art

A Call to Faithful Creativity

Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity, ed. Nathan Brown & Joanna Darby (Signs Publishing, 2013) AU$ 24.95

ManifestAs cultural and economic shifts continue to take place, more people are calling themselves “Creatives.” It seems almost anyone, doing anything, can be a virtuoso, cultural kingmaker, filmmaker, or the catchall “artist.” But whether these people are formally trained, self-taught, or simply seeking value for their uniqueness, the Church has not yet begun to tap into the energy and creativity of congregants who are pursuing their passions. Pews and folding chairs both remain empty as religious leaders persist in thinking that the biggest creative choice they will make this year concerns the color of the carpet.

Genuine creativity is, in many ways, absent from our sacred spaces. The evidence is all around us. More churches are turning to portable buildings and weekend rentals that discourage decoration, stained glass, or anything that might develop into differences of opinion. What is it about congregations, committees, and Christians that sidelines ingenuity, given how many of us are designers, painters, musicians, and creative in some many profound ways? And what if the choice were not always presented as creativity or faithfulness?

Manifest: Our Call to Faithful Creativity is a collection of essays addressing those kinds of questions. Continue reading

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The Cross and the Lynching Tree

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James H. Cone (Orbis) $28

As soon as I read the title of this book it was instantly obvious to me. Human beings have an uncanny ability to miss what is right in front of their eyes. Particular narratives frame reality and admit or reject certain truths based on those narratives which run, like software, in the background, unexamined. But when our imaginations are opened to a truth, it is impossible to go back; impossible to not see it.

Such is the case with The Cross and the Lynching Tree, the latest volume from renown black liberation theologian and Union Theological Seminary professor, James H. Cone.

In this brief and engaging read, Cone highlights the problem of an anemic theological and social imagination on the part of some of our best thinkers. Cone begins, in the introduction, with these words,

The cross and the lynching tree are separated by nearly 2,000 years. One is universal symbol of Christian faith; the other is the quintessential symbol of black oppression in America. Though both are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy (xiii).

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Invisible People: An Interview with Christopher Chinn

It was…pretty hard to see how paintings of pretty people leisurely reclining on beautiful hardwood floors, saturated in sunlight, could be relevant when thousands were outside my door reclining in filth on the streets for years on end.

Christopher Chinn just completed a larger than life sculpture of a homeless man reclining on the sidewalk and installed it for one day in May. I sat down with Mr. Chinn to find out what inspired this sculpture, what kind of conversation he is hoping to engender and what his future plans are for his work.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution to the future of his project entitled Encounter, through a partnership with US Artists. Click  here to learn more and contribute!

You just completed a larger than life sculpture of a homeless man. What was the inspiration for this piece?

The idea for this work began in 2008 during a solo exhibition of paintings. The gallery director and I were discussing ways to bring the homeless who had modeled for the work to the gallery. We ultimately decided that while well intentioned it was largely misdirected. What really needed to happen was just the opposite, to move the artwork out of the gallery and onto the streets where it could be experienced by the homeless without barriers. My interest in this subject matter developed about ten years ago after I graduated from USC. My first studio after graduate school was just south of skid row in downtown Los Angeles. There were four homeless people living in the long walkway to our new front door when we moved in. It was very difficult to witness everyday the living conditions of those on the streets. I realized pretty quickly after moving there that it was something I was going to have to deal with. I came to the conclusion that the best way for me to do that was with my artwork. It was also pretty hard to see how paintings of pretty people leisurely reclining on beautiful hardwood floors, saturated in sunlight, could be relevant when thousands were outside my door reclining in filth on the streets for years on end. My previous painting lost all meaning for me, and I realized that I wanted my work to directly engage real social issues.

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Hineni. Doni Silver Simons (acrylic, canvas strips, felt tip pens; 3 paintings; each 4 x 4, 2009-2011)

Doni Silver Simons, Hineni, 2009-2011

Artist Doni Silver Simons presented her latest work, entitled Hineni, at the opening reception of the Jewish World Watch event, “Global Soul.” The event, held February 1 at Sinai Temple in Westwood (Los Angeles, CA), honored Jewish World Watch Co-Founder and President, Janice Kamenir-Reznick, for her lifetime of activism and innovation. It was through the long friendship between Kamenir-Reznick and Silver Simons that the commission came about. The “marking” – four parallels and a diagonal – that is common in much of Silver Simon’s work reminded Kamenir-Reznick of the counting of bodies; a way of remembering the victims of genocide around the world.

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Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League

© 2008, Jona Franks

Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League, Jona Frank. (Chronicle Books) $35

© 2008, Jona Franks 

Life as a student at Patrick Henry College is far from the images of beer pong and late morning snoozing that most of us conjure in recalling our university days.  Patrick Henry is a school on a mission to return what they see as a lost America to the conservative evangelical fold.  Its students are made up primarily of home schoolers and already its vast network of influential Americans has landed many of its graduates high powered jobs where they intend to carry on their alma mater’s mission.  Their rising influence alone is enough to cause curiosity from those on the outside, but the cool-headed ease with which they engage the secular culture and maintain their own subculture is puzzling.  It transcends the escapist nature of most religiously conservative groups. Jona Frank takes readers on a journey into the DNA of Patrick Henry College. Through a series of student interviews, portraits and personal assignments, the reader glimpses into the lives of the students: where they come from, where they hope to go, and what it means to be a part Patrick Henry.

© 2008, Jona Franks

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