Category Archives: art

Down With Evangelistic Art!


“When art is used as a tool for evangelism, it is often insincere and second-rate, devalued to the level of propaganda. I would call this a form of prostitution, a misuse of one’s talent.” — H.R. Rookmaaker 

Also see Auden Explains Poetry, Propaganda, and Reporting.

‘The Nostalgia of the Infinite’ by Giorgio de Chirico


I’m grateful to have seen this at the MoMA earlier this week. De Chirico’s work gets at something in me. I first saw his work at the MoMA back in May, but only three of his paintings were on display, and “The Nostalgia of the Infinite” was not one of them. I could see it, though, on the screen of the audio guide. It was in the MoMA collection, just not on display at the time. Ugh! But during this visit, graciously provided by a friend of a friend, I found several of de Chirico’s paintings in a small gallery room, and the tower I had wanted to see back in May was present. 

Since May, I had read a bit about de Chirico and was surprised to learn this particular style of de Chirico’s — called metaphysical art — was short-lived, about three years. He founded the movement, Scuola Metafisica, in 1917 with Carlo Carra. They later had a falling-out.

In 1919, de Chirico described metaphysical art in this statement:

“Everything has two aspects; the current aspect, which we see nearly always and which ordinary men see, and the ghostly and metaphysical aspect, which only rare individuals may see in moments of clairvoyance and metaphysical abstraction. A work of art must narrate something that does not appear within its outline. The objects and figures represented in it must likewise poetically tell you of something that is far away from them, and also of what their shapes materially hide from us.” 

(I found the quotation in this great old Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms, published for the first time in the U.S., as a 3rd edition, in 1964 by the New York Graphic Society.) 

Chat

My Shirt Imitates Art


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At the Museum Of Modern Art today.

Mondrian and My Shirt.

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Ancient imagination: bronze dragon


Photos taken at the British Museum on Dec. 30, 2009.

Photos taken at the British Museum on Dec. 30, 2009.

Bronze Dragon1-IMG_9503

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

Creativity and prayer: An interview with author Ellen Morris Prewitt


Ellen Morris Prewitt‘s work has appeared in several literary magazines, including Image, North Dakota Quarterly, Texas Review, Brevity, and Relief. Her book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, will be released by Paraclete Press on April 1.

LiturgicalCredo recently emailed Prewitt a few questions, and she graciously replied.

You started this new practice of making crosses after 9/11. How did you arrive at the idea to make that first cross, what was it made of, and what did it look like?

Earlier, before September 11, when I’d found my personal life in disarray, I’d picked up the pieces – literally – and begun making vignettes from the scattered debris. I used whatever was at hand to tell small stories, and the frame on which the pieces were glued was an integral part of the story. When I needed something more after 9/11, the cross was the “frame” I turned to. One of my earliest crosses was made from the louvres of a shutter I had used as a dog gate, with fabric glued onto the crossbeams. My first “outdoor” cross was a three-pointed stick I found in my driveway. To adorn it, I threaded straight pins through tiny fake pearls and added leftover silver trim to make a scepter for what I named a “Royal Diedam” cross. It is hard to adequately describe how halting these early crosses were. They were very complicated, with many things stuck and glued onto them. Interestingly, over time, as the practice has deepened, the crosses have grown simpler. The principle of using whatever I find discarded in the world is stronger than ever.

You say that Making Crosses teaches the reader how to make a personal cross. What kinds of things can a personal cross represent?

A personal cross can represent whatever the person brings to God while making the cross. My motto is that these are not “Nicene Creed Crosses: I belive in God the Father, God the Son, . . .” but are “Lord’s Prayer Crosses: Give us this day our daily bread.” As a result, we’ve seen in the workshops pain, celebration, delight, deep insight – so many, many things. One of my most personal crosses was entitled, “It may be the Trinity, but Only Jesus had to Die,” a cross embedded with nails and staple “tombstones” which came out of my grief at the fully human sacrifice Jesus made for us. I love the description below of a cross one my workshop participants made, “Dancing in the Wind”:

My relationship with God is never static; it is like dancing with the wind: sometimes gentle and warm, or breezy, playful and impish. At other times – when I try to lead the dance myself – I struggle just to hang on under the cold, fast wind. Then God coaxes me back into the rhythm of life.

– Evelyn Baker, workshop participant

I am setting up a website, http://www.makingcrosses.com, that offers a “cross making community” where you can become a member and share your cross making experiences. I am hoping that folks will join in the community, and we will see even more fully what a personal cross can represent.

How is making a cross similar to praying? How do you think understanding comes from doing?

I think of cross making as a type of prayer, if you define prayer as spending time with God, which I do. It is very interactive prayer, to me, because you are asking and asking and God is answering and answering. Many of the questions are along the lines of, what am I supposed to do with this? When God tells you, there usually comes with it the “why.” “Because I want you to celebrate gratitude.” “Because the beauty is always tempered with the sacrifice that brought it.” The understanding is very much wrapped up with the physical thing you are creating; much of the explanation lies in the visual. Sometimes the understanding doesn’t come in the two-hour workshop; but participants have stopped me later to say, now I know why.

Also, it’s interesting to me how my focus on thrown-away material that the world considers worthless has affected the rest of my life. I’m not sure I would have been so taken with the “sustainability theology” if I hadn’t been practicing seeing all the world as God’s creation in making crosses. That is a level of “understanding from doing” that I could not have predicted, but for which I am grateful.

Have you witnessed others being transformed by this process of making a personal cross? What kind of transformations took place?

I have seen people quietly amazed at the difference in where they began in the cross making experience, and where they ended up, the road between being paved with the workings of the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen the most wonderfully creative crosses made by those who consider themselves uncreative people. I had one woman tell me if she’d understood exactly what we were doing, she wouldn’t have come, and how much the experience meant to her. I also had one woman for whom the cross making just didn’t take; interestingly, she was from the arts community. In general, this is my favorite part of the cross making workshops: when people tell the story of their crosses, looking with wonder at the crosses they have created, rejoicing in something that they didn’t know about themselves.

I also have to say that, for me, the most basic transformation is that I am here, talking about God in public. For most of my life, that would not have happened. Because of this, I warn readers that cross making may affect your life!

How does the process of making crosses relate to your work as a writer?

Someone once told me that all writers should have a creative outlet that doesn’t involve words. In a way, the cross making is that for me, an alternative process of creating that doesn’t depend on linear, analytic thinking. More profoundly, it is a practice I go to when I need quality time with God. When I’m making crosses, I get away from what has become my work – writing – and I go to something that has so little worldly purpose. I guess you could look at the cross making as a “taking in,” where writing is a “letting out.” The similarity is that, in both instances I rely on God to navigate. I can do this in cross making, I can do it in writing; I hope one day to be better able to do it in all aspects of my life.

Visit Prewitt’s Web site or view the Making Crosses page at the Paraclete Press site.

Identifying the crossroads: The purpose behind LiturgicalCredo.com


I spent Monday morning at the tiny All Saints Episcopal Church in Avenue, Maryland. I was there for the funeral of my grandfather, Col. Colin F. Burch, Jr., a flight instructor in WWII and an early engineering hand in the space program and Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Many of my ancestors are buried in the churchyard. Today, I was thinking about tombstones as crossroads between our lived experiences and our memories, between the seen and the unseen. Tactile memorials usher into our minds incorporeal images of the past. In the process of remembering, we reclaim and reevaluate and reinterpret the past, and perhaps, create new, meaningful works for today.

-Colin Foote Burch

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