Tuesday afternoon we had a Visual Art Presentation by painter Ed Knippers, longtime Image collaborator and CIVA member. Ed is teaching the painting class this week.
Ed's work features the human body. It is because of our bodies that we can offers ourselves as living sacrifices to God, and it is through a physical body that God identified himself with us through Christ.
He doesn't work from models. All of what he paints comes out of his mind, from a life of keen observation of the human form, how it moves and bends. Most of the figures in his works are nude. His use of nudity is meant to catch the secular world off guard, to get people to rethink their rejection of the faith. He says the god they reject, we'd reject too.
After his wife died, he began using a cubist metaphor to depict another realm of reality, that world behind the veil. He also uses various symbols in his paintings. Ladders represent our attempts to escape from here. Circuses symbolize our tawdry attempts at transcendence; we're all performers.
When asked how he knows a painting is done, he replied that there is a sense of presence; it has its own being. "When I come into the room, I realize I'm an observer, not the creator." He quoted Matisse who said, "A painting is finished when, if you add one mark, you would have to repaint the whole thing."
Tuesday evening we had another Visual Art Presentation from assemblage artist Barry Krammes, who is teaching the assemblage class. Assemblage has been explained to me as "3D collage using found objects." Image's feature article on Barry says that he "uses found objects to create miniature worlds with cathedral-sized impact."
Some of his artistic influences have been De Chirico (particularly his juxtaposition of the ordinary with the extraordinary), Manet's Olympia, and Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights. He also loves integrating works of literature, e.g., Alice in Wonderland, into his art.
He has done a series of pieces whose titles all start with the word "Of" - "Of Calamities" was inspired by a hurricane that destroyed a carousel, "Of Monotheism" is a meditation on holy war, "Of Wandering" deals with ideas of pilgrimage, "Of Innocence" reflects the vulnerability of children caught in circumstances beyond their control, "Of Longing" was inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night which reflects the latter's desire for union with God. And there are many others.
Barry said, "The goal of any artist is to create images that etch themselves on the museum walls of the viewer's mind." His intention is to leave the viewer with questions that linger. He hopes that casual looking will lead to active meditation and engagement with the world.
Last night, Lauren Winner, who is teaching the class on Memoir, read from her books Girl Meets God and Still. She claims that Still is not technically a memoir even though everyone calls it that, but admits that perhaps she's just being defensive because people tell her "You shouldn't write two memoirs before you're 36."
She finished by reading us a sermon of hers on the Ten Commandments, riffing off some rabbinic stories and teachings. The main idea running through it was that the Ten Commandments begin with the Hebrew letter aleph, which is a silent letter. God prepares to speak the commandments by silencing everything else.
Later that evening, after worship, we had Open Slide Night. We saw pinhole camera images by Wenda Salomons, encaustic art by Jess Greene, paintings by a couple of other people, an intriguing building by an architectural engineer, and "tombstone art" by a quirky guy who visits the graves of poets and artists and does his own combination of photography, collage, and assemblage on the tombstone. He brings along all kinds of props: a book cover if it's an author, or a photo of the artist, something symbolic to respond to that person's work, etc. He arranges these items on or around the tombstone and photographs it. He also likes to play with remaking the epitaphs using the technique of "found poetry" (framing the photo in the camera in such as way as to cut off some words and reveal new ironic meaning in what's left). He sometimes uses chalk to draw right onto the tombstones, pointing out that it will wash off in the next rain, but he does admit he's careful to make sure nobody is looking if he does that, as some people might think of it as desecration of a grave. His presentation was morbidly funny in an oddly uncomfortable sort of way. But it had us all laughing.
Today is a free day. Some folks have gone off to see the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, and another group has gone to see the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, the largest collection of Russian icons in North America. But I skipped out to do some writing and visit some friends in Amherst.
One of the other pleasures of the Glen this year has been the awesome piano playing coming from the lounge in the dorm where we're staying. As one of the pianists among us put it, "If God puts a baby grand piano in your dorm, you can't ignore it" (or something like that; she's now deleted the tweet so I can't verify it).