paul simon

2019.17

Some weeks you just have to punt. This is one of those weeks.

I have a ruled composition book to jot down bullet points for a weekly post. There is a page that has “April 24:” written and underscored on it. There is nothing written underneath it. I have a folder in my notes on my phone for “Writing”. There’s not much in there either.

            Easter was a mixed bag of emotions for every Christian around the world. The holiest day, celebrating the greatest sacrifice and victory, tempered with news of over 350 people being killed, some of whom were targeted for the very thing we all were celebrating. I woke up to news of the Sri Lankan bombing. Others experienced it in real time. Even more probably had their morning services out of the way before it happened. This is the part of our calling that on most days Western Christians have the luxury to push to the margins. That comfort is a double-edge sword that simultaneously allows us to sleep but also threatens our faith. Our security makes our faith soft, like a person that needs medication for mental health that stops taking it because they feel good, all the while forgetting that it’s the medication that makes them feel that way. I rarely think someone might shoot up my church. There was a church shooting in Nashville less than 2 years ago and I know a family that was in it and had to provide medical aid to the wounded but even that doesn’t make me fear for much. That said, we have to live with the knowledge that the profession of our faith puts a target on us. It’s not unique to Christianity. Anyone that declares themselves anything risks attack.

            Currently I am reading St. Augustine’s City of God and a history of the Orthodox Church. Couple that with a daily reading of anything in the New Testament and that fear of not being loved by the world around you turns to vapor. None of this is new. It is a faith born into one of the most decadent, hedonistic empires the world has known. It spreads underground where it is made illegal by dictatorial atheistic governments. It was overrun by competing ideologies and survived. Whether threatened by violence or the recent Western weaponization of public shaming, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone. That contemporaneity that allows Easter of the year 50 to feel closer to us than Groundhog Day of 2015 not only allows us to share in a message of eternal love but also strengthens us to share our anxiety related to exterior forces across time as well. Long story short, it’ll be ok:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Quote for the week:

“You deserve less”- Trenton Doyle Hancock

Lyric for the week:

“These prayers are a constant road across the wilderness” - Paul Simon “Cool Cool River”

Currently reading:

The Book of Luke

1 John

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity by Timothy Ware

The Discarded Image by C.S. Lewis

2019.11

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           I spent most of last week working on the large piece that occupies all of my available wall space. After five days, I achieved what I think is the base layer for this piece.

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             To celebrate, I immediately covered it up with dropcloths and I am not going to think about it for a while. A number of precedents run through my mind when I am working on it, particularly the bathers painting of Matisse’s that the Art Institute of Chicago owns.

Henri Matisse: Bathers by a River, oil on canvas, 1909/1910, 1913, 1917

Henri Matisse: Bathers by a River, oil on canvas, 1909/1910, 1913, 1917

There is a great book (catalog?) built around that painting called Matisse: Radical Reinvention 1913-1917 by Stephanie D’Alessandro and John Elderfield that uses it and a few other pieces as a way to map out Matisse’s reworking of paintings and return to themes and compositions. (Get a used copy). It is encouraging to see someone like Matisse pick at a piece like that, off and on, for 7 years. Not to say that he could not scale up quickly. The Dance and Music pieces are probably not the result of someone that lost sleep trying to make them. That is not a criticism. They are paintings that look like Beatles records: never stale. Forever youthful. More than anything, I like that Matisse took a rejected painting from what was a simplified body of work and used it as a laboratory for new ideas in a period of his career filled with experimentation. And then, in the way that only Matisse and handful of others can manage, one day, he just decided it was finished. There is little about it that feels more resolved than it might have looked a month before he called it. He could have said it was finished a year prior or he could have worked on it another 10 years.

            Anyway, I am taking a break from the big work. When I figure out another way to play around with it, I will remove the dropcloths and dive back in.

            Instead of the behemoth, I have started collaging heads again. Both of these projects gave me the opportunity to think with my hands in a way that traditional drawing and painting do not. It is more interesting, less repetitive and calculating. I push pieces around, cut them, add, remove, etc. I can cycle through a lot of ideas quickly and not waste anything. Hopefully the heads will lead to new paintings or constructions of some sort. After I glued 20 years of scrap drawings onto the large piece, I started looking around to see what else was piling up in the studio that could be repurposed. I have a lot of scrap wood that could be used for future projects- reliefs or sculptures.

            Spring may have arrived in Middle Tennessee which means I have returned to my daily walks. I stuck with the previously-discussed Rhythm of the Saints pacing for a bit but that gave way to Steve Reich today. That sentence makes me wonder if Paul Simon and Reich ever hung out. It seems like too natural of a fit to have never happened. If “You Can Call Me Al” can come from Paul being at a dinner with Pierre Boulez, then I would hope that Paul and Steve have had some talks over the years. 

            I am about halfway through the audiobook for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I realized I had read or listened to about 1/3 of it a long time ago but never finished it.  

            Netflix has a documentary about Arshile Gorky streaming right now. It is a tough watch.

 

Currently reading:

In Xanadu- William Dalrymple

St. Augustine: City of God

The Book of Mark

Hebrews