Saturday, July 10, 2010

On My Way

I spent most of the day en-route which mostly means hanging out at airports waiting. Airports are kind of weird in-between places. Everyone is on their way to someplace else, in transit, not where they were, not where they will soon be. We all come together in this assigned holding tank. For one small moment we create this bond based on our shared experience of "going someplace other than here." It lasts about as long as a slide down the moving walkway.

But in this fleeting moment, airports reveal themselves as the true global melting pot that they are. As I sit in Chicago O'hare, all kinds of people from all kinds of places around the world sit together, read papers, chat about their families and enjoy a Cinnabon. Cities are compared, politics discussed, and traveling stories embellished as we wait to get on with our lives.

And we more or less agree to set aside our differences. Its the other-worldliness of the airport. We are there to move onto our next destination, not to start a fight and somehow that calls a momentary truce to alot of local and international feuding.

I've never really seen a fight at an airport although there was a close call once when a frustrated passenger got riled with the security people throwing away some expensive hair product stashed in their carry-on. Security, though, is one of the biggest conversation starters. You never quite remember how equally frustrating and scary all this luggage checking and swipes with "the wand" feel until you are there once again...and then you just have to talk about it. "What's going on with our world," we ask each other as we exit the body scan. The real world of mistrust and disorder momentarily raises its head but we all seem equally confused by it.

And then we are on to our next destination, excited once again for the thing before us, on with our adventure, on with our life. Back to the real world and away from this pseudo-reality that seems to have its own mysterious ebb and flow. For me it was on to Vancouver to begin my adventure for the next few weeks hanging out making art.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nihonga and Encaustic

I've been revisiting Nihonga as I have prepared for this class. For the past couple years I've been exploring Encaustic more....painting with wax. The beauty of Nihonga with the way light reflects off the mineral pigments gets lost when enveloped with wax so I wasn't seeing how to bring these two together.

Both techniques draw me in because they use light in such beautiful ways. I love the depth and the mystery that grows as the layers get built up. I think it speaks alot to the way life actually least for me. Time is a series of layers, each adding is own pain and its own beauty.

I've started combining Nihonga and Encaustic lately though. The above painting is an example. I have to start out in Nihonga since its a water base process and won't work over the wax. But then I've come back into parts of it with the wax. (the blue areas are mostly wax) and it looks almost like it's submerged in liquid.

I'm beginning to work on a series of paintings for a show I'm doing with Julie Insun Youn at the Overture Center in Madison WI in January called Beauty for Ashes Her work also explores layers of meaning and what lies beneath the surface and we thought we would make a good show together. Beauty for Ashes is about mystery and deep spaces as well as transformation. We explore how pain and suffering as well as the mundane and common weaves through our lives and is able to be transformed into something intrinsically beautiful.

I packed my wax and hot plate and sent it up to Vancouver. I'm intending to explore the marriage of these two techniques more.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Starting Again

I set this blog up awhile ago to highlight some online art sites for a few friends ....but I think I'm going to try to make it into a real blog. I'm at least going to try to document my next month to get into the hang of it.

I'm a week away from heading up to Vancouver. In fact I sent a box of my art supplies up yesterday so that must mean I'm really going.

I'm going up to assist Makoto Fujimura as he teaches a class at Regent College in Vancouver on Nihonga (traditional Japanese painting technique using mineral pigments) and the theology of art.

It would be enough of an excitement just to have three solid weeks in a row to focus on and make art. I haven't had that much dedicated time since grad school. But I have the added benefit of working with and assisting an artist I have deep respect for and whose work has such power to move me.

But probably the most unusual and interesting part of this for me is to participate in an art class that is also going to try to talk about the meaning of art.

I have had precious few opportunities so far to discuss with others in the arts such questions as to the value of art within our culture and what do we bring to our communities as artists. These questions seemed of little value during the time I was in grad school in the late 80's-early 90's. Maybe it made some sense during "modernist" times that these types of questions weren't high on the hit parade. It makes less sense now in a post modernist and whatever "post-" we are currently in, to not delve into such things.

I'm not sure though, that academia has really proven to be all that robust in developing a discussion around aesthetics period. Although the dialog that's developed around visual culture is pretty interesting. But those artists who are actually being artists within the community and marketplace aren't really engaged or informed by it. However, that is probably due more to the the general divide between academia and the marketplace...which is a whole conversation in itself.

For those of us who are Christian, there seems to be an even greater silence. The arts and the church have had a relationship of suspicion and mistrust for quite awhile. The church has removed itself so thoroughly from the arts it has become little more than an disengaged critic, periodically hurling judgements over the fence from a distance. In return many artists critique religion and the church, throwing "mud pies" of their own over the fence line. As the church remains confused about the meaning of being "in the world but not of it" and as so many who feel they have been wounded by the church seek to personally work their pain out through the ritual of the art of shock and dismay, there seems little time focused on asking what art generally means and what kind of beings are we who have been made in the image of a creative God to begin with.

So its refreshing to be able to spend some time with a few others asking questions about what art means, and how does it fit within our concept of God and our concept of the world.