Tag Archives: art

Using the language I know

I thought at this point I had made my sense of things clear: For several types of reasons, I’m just not sure about the Christian faith anymore.

However, most of my life, I have lived and learned within the context of at least four distinct forms of Protestant Christianity.

I find nothing inconsistent about being doubtful while critiquing Christian leaders based upon the inconsistencies between their public claims and their ministries.

Especially when those Christian leaders made my doubts seem more legit, not less.

I once read an interview with the man behind the band Iron & Wine. He said some folks had asked him why he uses biblical language and allusions in his songwriting when he is not a believer.

The thrust of his answer, as I recall it, was something like this: it’s the language available to me, and it fits the settings and characters of my songwriting.

I certainly see the richness of various Christian traditions. In a world gone gnostic, with so much of our communication taking place in disembodied formats, Christianity still has rich veins of language and symbolism and ritual, however despised by the new iconoclasts of both evangelicalism and atheism.

In a world gone gnostic, the thought of logos made flesh ought to fascinate anyone who appreciates tactile, sensory experience.

Beyond that, I would say to any young writers in my classrooms, use the materials you have — stories from your lives, images, settings, characters, cadences, symbols, archetypes, and songs.

Sometimes, if you’re diligent in setting the context, the truth will show up.

Video: ‘How Art Is Crucial To Understanding The Human Mind’

Or, read the interview with Antonio Damasio, M.D., professor of neuroscience and the director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California.

The only mystery allowed is the mystery that can be explained

Within the lesson emerges an analogy:

‘In the act of writing about art, then, you press language to the point of fracture and try to do what writing cannot do: account for the experience. Otherwise, you elide the essential mystery, which is the reason for writing anything at all. The easy alternative is just to circumnavigate the occasion of seeing something—to “professionalize” art criticism into a branch of academic art history—to presume that works of art are already utterances in art-language that need only to be translate into a better language to achieve perfect transparency. In this way, the practice of criticism is transformed into a kind of Protestant civil service dedicated to translating art-language into a word-language that neutralizes its power in the interest of public order. The writer’s pathological need to control and reconstitute the fluid universe of not-writing is fortuitously disguised by this strategem—since in a truly “professional” discourse, no more intimate engagement with the “needy” object is required than that of a doctor with a patient, and no more stress need be placed upon the language than that required by the clinical assignment of names to symptoms.’ (boldface added) — Dave Hickey, from his essay “Air Guitar,” from Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy

Doggie art

On the Sheraton, Canal Street, New Orleans, across from the outstanding Marriott that hosted our CMA/ACP conference. #collegemedia13

‘What the arts are concerned with’

English: *Works of Hugh of St-Victor *Form/tec...

“This, then, is what the arts are concerned with, this is what they intend, namely, to restore within us the divine likeness.” — Hugh of St. Victor

Hugh of St. Victor is not exactly a household name. Then again, name-recognition is a gauge of only a single, narrow value. As New Advent’s article says, ‘A careful examination of his works has led to a truer appreciation of one whom Harnack (History of Dogma, tr. London, 1899, VI, 44) terms “the most influential theologian of the twelfth century”.’

Andy Warhol’s semi-Stoic psychology — plus 40 more quotations from Thought Catalog

‘Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, “So what.” That’s one of my favorite things to say. “So what.” “My mother didn’t love me.” So what. “My husband won’t ball me.” So what. “I’m a success but I’m still alone.” So what. I don’t know how I made it through all the years before I learned how to do that trick. It took a long time for me to learn it, but once you do, you never forget.’ — Andy Warhol

Perhaps that’s similar to stoicism, or maybe that’s just a forerunner of F***-it Spirituality (it’s a real movement, folks).

Anyway, read 40 more Andy Warhol quotations — some interesting, some heart-breaking, some just plain Warholian — courtesy of this post on Thought Catalog.


Ancient imagination: a fierce terracotta beast

Terracotta animal in Mesopotamian/Babylonian collection at the British Museum, Dec. 30, 2009

One of my favorite photos from my visits to the British Museum: A terracotta animal in Mesopotamian/Babylonian collection at the British Museum; photo taken on Dec. 30, 2009.


Ancient imagination: The Lion of Knidos

Sadie & me in front of the Lion of Knidos, inside the British Museum, Dec. 30, 2009

Sadie & me in front of the Lion of Knidos, inside the British Museum, Dec. 30, 2009



Ancient Imagination: Hero versus griffin in Persepolis

Ancient Imagination: Hero versus griffin in Persepolis

“Cast of royal hero from doorway … Persepolis, Iran … About 490-470 B.C.” Photographed at the British Museum, Jan. 8, 2010.

I’m curious about the sources of ancient imagination — why our ancestors saw similar things in their minds’ eyes. During the past four years, I’ve been able to travel overseas quite a bit, and I’ve photographed numerous strange creatures in art, architecture, and museums.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 23,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Flash fiction Friday: ‘Appearance’

While my six-year-old son screamed, Christ appeared to my eyes. The Lord was behind my son, bare feet on the asphalt beside the jackknifed bicycle, staring down at the boy. God’s punctured skin pulsed like tidal rivulets. Now on my son’s broken forehead, little snakes of red slithered downward. My hand moved in small degrees, as if through heavy petroleum, to my son’s face. Christ vanished. The bicycle tire still spun at a racer’s pace.

© 2012 Colin Foote Burch

Truth and Imagination

Two short quotations offering food for thought:

Admirers of nailed-down definitions and tidy categories may not like to hear it, but all writers and readers are full-time imaginers, all prose is imaginative, and fiction and nonfiction are just two anarchic shades of ink swirling around the same mysterious well.  – David James Duncan

The essay is distinguished from the short story, not by the presence or absence of literary devices, not by tone or theme or subject, but by the writer’s stance toward the material. – Scott Russell Sanders

Faith, doubt, speculation, and wonder

As the Dallas Cowboys and my Washington Redskins duke it out tonight, I’ve been compiling a list of essays, poems, and books. The purpose behind this list is to give some editorial context to LiturgicalCredo‘s potential contributors.

The list, which I’ll reproduce below, represents a mix of faith, doubt, speculation and wonder — the kinds of thoughts and attitudes represented in LiturgicalCredo.

“On Stories,” an essay by C.S. Lewis, from On Stories: And Other Essays

“Recovering Evangelical: Reflections of an Erstwhile Christ Addict,” an essay by Todd Shy, from Image No. 51

“Giving Up Jerusalem,” an essay by Jeanne Murray Walker, from ImageNo. 40

“The Gift of the Call,” an essay by Christopher Bamford, from Parabola, Fall 2004

“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World,” a poem by Richard Wilbur, from New and Collected Poems

The Nobel Prize Lecture on Literature by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

“Prayer” and “All Souls’,” poems by Dana Gioia, from The Gods of Winter

The Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

“501 Minutes to Christ,” an essay by Poe Ballantine, The Sun Magazine, August 2005

“Thread,” an essay by Stuart Dybek, found in Imaginative Writing by Janet Buroway

“Useless Virtues,” a poem by T.R. Hummer, from Useless Virtues

The Doubter’s Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense by John Ralston Saul

Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris

Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book, nonfiction by Walker Percy

Love in the Ruins: Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, a novel by Walker Percy

Thomas C. Oden’s introductory essay to Parables of Kierkegaard 

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “Good Country People,” short stories by Flannery O’Connor, from A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories

A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction by Ron Hansen

Quiet Photography – Bet Giyorgis Rock Church (via John Andrew Downey II Photography Blog)

Outstanding photos of an historic church in Ethiopia.

Quiet Photography - Bet Giyorgis Rock Church As previously mentioned, I travelled to Lalibela in Amhara state, Ethiopia to photograph this historical town.  I knew the inclement weather would be challenging but it was just good to get out of Addis Ababa for a couple of days.  I spent almost three hours wandering around Bet Giyorgis, an isolated Orthodox Christian church hewn from solid, red volcanic rock.  It's the off season, so for this wet Friday afternoon, I was the only foreigner at th … Read More

via John Andrew Downey II Photography Blog

‘Evangelicalism tends toward message, even propaganda, rather than discovery and art’

This was an exciting discovery from a page on Philip Yancey’s website:

Evangelicalism tends toward message, even propaganda, rather than discovery and art.  Look at the passages preached on in evangelical churches: most come from the Epistles, which represent only 10 percent of the Bible.  What about all the rest—poetry, psalms, history, story?  Sadly, evangelicals tend to neglect them.

‘Preachable Paintings’

Scott Emery has a short but interesting post on “The Raising of Lazarus” by Caravaggio. He used the painting in a recent sermon. Read the post here.

In the classroom: horror movies as harsh moral lessons

One of my creative writing students wrote a vivid, immediate, gruesome short story. At the end of our workshop discussion about the story, I turned the conversation to horror movies as moral lessons.

I asked how many had seen the horror flick Hostel. About a third of the class had seen it. I hadn’t, but I knew the basic idea.

Another student, referring to the starting point of the movie, said, “I’m not going back-packing in Europe anytime soon!”

“What’s the premise of Hostel?” I asked the class. “Trying to hook up with strange girls in a strange place!”

Some of the students made the connection.

I mentioned I had once written an article about horror movies, in a general sense, serving as morality tales:  “The idea is, teenagers are alone together in a way their parents don’t want them to be, and just when things get interesting, the boogey man kills them,” I said.

More of them seemed to get it.

“You don’t want Jason running you through with a big knife, so keep your pants on!”

They laughed.

“So on that note, have a great Spring Break!”

They laughed even harder, and eagerly left the classroom.

Christian apologist Blaise Pascal had some good tips on writing

From Blaise Pascal‘s posthumous collection, Pensees:

“The last thing one discovers in writing a book is what to put first.”

“When one finds a natural style, one is amazed and delighted, for where one expected to see an author, one discovers a man.”

Apply this when trying to write about other people, real or fictitious: “The more intelligence one has the more people one finds original. Commonplace people see no difference between men.”