Friday, April 29, 2011

Deep calls to deep

When it comes to art, I'm not I'm not overly critical--I tend to think most things are ok even if they aren't really my style.  (I say this because I've had conversations with a number of artists who seem so jaded that they can't enjoy much of anything.  This is not true of me).

Nevertheless, it's not often when I find myself stunned to such stillness in front of a work of art that I forget to breathe.  And yet, this was my state of being when I visited the Huntington Library exhibition "Three Fragments of a Lost Tale" by the sculptor and filmmaker John Frame.  Over the past five years, Frame has  hand-crafted dozens of small sculptures ranging in size from 3.5 to 32 inches tall, with most of them measuring in the 8 to 12-inch range.  Not simply inanimate objects, these sculptures are a complex cast of characters for Frame's yet-to-be-completed stop-motion animation film "The Tale of the Crippled Boy."  A twelve-minute montage of scenes is at the artist's website--I highly recommend that you check it out. 

 I can't exactly say what makes me drawn so strongly to these tiny friends (for so it is that I have begun to think of them).  It's deeper than the fact that Frame's work incorporates so many of the media and materials I love:  craft, theater, puppetry, found objects, wood, stop-motion animation, miniatures, etc.  It seems as if I have known them all my life yet have never met them, as if they will reveal things about me that I've been wanting to know.  They exude longing and melancholy; these are emotions that have been my close companions, and perhaps that's why I feel such kinship with Frame's creations.

More funds are needed in order to complete the film.  The scenes that have been assembled for presentation as of this time barely hint at the larger story, which, from what I understand, will not be told using standard, linear narrative techniques.  All the better, for the soul is not linear--it follows circular orbits, overlaps itself, is in more than one place at the same time.

I need this story.  I don't know why, but I know I do.

"Three Fragments of a Lost Tale" is on view at the Huntington Library's Boone Gallery through June 20.

All photos were taken by John Frame; I borrowed them from the Huntington Library website.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Space to Lament

The frenetic pace of urban life doesn't lend itself to reflection.  Maybe that's one reason creating and encountering art has become so important to me, and why my art often aims to engage the viewer in a way that encourages a pause, an engagement, an exploration, and hence, reflection.

The Wall of Lament before the service

For the Good Friday service this year at Pasadena Mennonite Church, I designed three physical spaces that allowed for this type of thoughtful interruption.  At one of the "stations," I used a curving wood divider for a kind of "wailing wall" where I attached pictures from the last few days' editions of the Los Angeles Times.  (It was not difficult to find images that lent itself to this theme).  Like the historical Western Wall of the temple in Jerusalem, people were invited to write prayers and laments on small pieces of paper, and to add them to the wall (in Jerusalem, people fold up the prayers and stick them between the stones of the wall).

After a reading of the crucifixion narrative from the Gospel of John, interspersed with songs, people were given time to visit each of the three stations.  As the artist, I was trying to keep an eye on the stations as well as participate in the meditative time--not really possible, so I did neither very well.  However, after the service I collected the slips that people had put on the wall, and a day or so later spent time reading through them.  They ranged from single words to simple sentences to poetic phrases, combining into a evocative plea for restoration, both personal and global, specific and all-embracing.  A few contained pictures, two were written in non-Roman characters.  I share them below, so that we may add our "amens" to this outpouring of sincere expressions of doubt, grief, and faith.

...and at the end of the service
For the impotence of our love, of my love;
For the shallowness of my self-givenness;
For the insecurity of my hopes;
For the fruitlessness of my life;
For the rage of my righteousness,
Forgive me Lord.


I lament so much illness and disease in the world.  So many struggling to live in broken bodies and disturbed minds--

All the people hurt by war and violence

For the hopes of people who have risen up in courage and risked everything and in some cases have lost everything.  When will Justice and Peace come to this earth?  When will we stop murdering the earth?
For all the people here who just don't care or don't pay attention, or don't do anything, or are too scared or too busy or too hopeless.
For those who try but find their personal issues get in the way, for those who fight each other on the quest for justice and peace.
Heal our world, O God, heal long?

The cycle of death continues...pain begets pain and there feels like no hope at times...

Peace in Lybia
    in Bahrain
    in Egypt
    in Syria
    in Palestine
    in Tunisia
    ...(something written in Arabic)

For M and her addiction, especially to hopelessness
For A and her laments, complaints

Not stopping climate change


For those in fear,
all who feel unloved,
all who suffer violence.

I feel sad that people don't have enough money to stay alive.

For prejudice disguised as theology
for rejection cloaked in intellect
My parents' divorce,
my mother's re-marriage,
disrupted relationships

    Violence &
Prioritizing war & defense spending OVER taking care of the poor, hungry, & marginalized


I pray for all of the broken people who say they aren't broken.  They push it all away when they need you most.  Show them, God, what it is like to be healed through you and not broken.  We need you.

I lament that there are so many who cannot see a good and loving God when there is so much pain and suffering in the world.

For victims of natural disasters--
    for sadness, discouragement, despair

For endlessly deep and unreachable despair

For cancer

I lament my shallowness.  I lament my selfishness.  I lament my sins.  I lament my one-sidedness.  I lament when I forget the cross.  I lament not being Christ-like.  I lament my lack of patience and my temper.  I lament...I lament...I lament...I lament...

I lament my brokenness of spirit that makes me pessimistic, judgmental, and angry.  I lament all suffering--
God be with us.

For the brokenness and hatred that causes people to do violence to others, destroying humanity and creation in each person.

broken families

the way the modern world forgets how war and violence affect all of us/
the way kids learn that violence and war are good and okay.
ignorance about these and many other issues

the sick
the lonely

I want to remember our brothers and sisters who have died serving Christ as they were called.

So many suffering.
So many hungry.
So many without  homes.
We seem to be going backwards.
Give us eyes to see your light in the darkness.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.  Amen.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Peace Weekend

It's all coming together for next week(end)'s activities promoting peace.  For over 9 years the US has been waging the vague and expensive "War on Terror." This year we celebrate the 9th Annual Palm Sunday Peace Parade on April 17th. More information on the Parade is below, as well as these related events.  Come and take part--it's good for the soul!

Thursday, April 14, 2011; doors open at 7:00 p.m.; talk begins at 7:30
Peace Activist James Loney speaks at the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena.

James Loney is a Canadian Catholic Worker who has worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq and Palestine for years. On November 26, 2005 he was kidnapped in Baghdad along with three others. The widely publicized hostage crisis ended March 23, 2006 when Loney and two of his friends were rescued in a clandestine military operation lead by British Special Forces. The American on the team had been killed two weeks prior to rescue.  Mr. Loney discusses his experience in this new book, Captivity, which will be available for purchase and signing after the talk.  Follow the above link to get to the event on KPCC website.  The event is free, but tickets are required.

Saturday, April 16, 2011, 8:00 p.m.
Pasadena City College - Sexson Auditorium
PCC's Combined Choirs and Orchestra perform Ralph Vaughan Williams's cantata Dona Nobis Pacem

Dona Nobis Pacem is a dramatic musical work highlighting the tragedy of war and the promise of peace. Words come from the Latin mass, the poetry of Walt Whitman, and the Old Testament Prophets. You haven't lived until you've heard this work!  I will be singing in the chorus.  For a preview of my two favorite movements, you can go to this post on YouTube.  (Note:  it's a coincidence that this event was scheduled on Peace Weekend, but it's certainly appropriate!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011
11 a.m.  

Pasadena Mennonite Church, 1041 N. Altadena Dr., Pasadena, CA
James Loney speaks at PMC's Sunday morning worship service

9th Annual PALM SUNDAY PEACE PARADE 3:00 p.m.
Gather at Messiah Lutheran Church 570 E. Orange Grove Bl., Pasadena for a festive march to the Paseo Colorado celebrating and promoting peace. Music, puppets, banners, flags, and palm fronds make this parade a joyful witness to the Prince of Peace. James Loney will be the special presenter.

An explanation of the Peace Parade's philosophy and origins is explained in a post by Bert Newton on the World Together blog.

For last year's parade, I made this peace dove puppet, and he was a big hit!  He even became the profile picture for the Palm Sunday Peace Parade Facebook page.This year, we'll have a whole flock of birds made at workshops I've led over the past two weeks.

More information on the Thursday and Sunday events can also be found on the Peace and Justice Academy's Peace Parade page.