I returned this week from a wonderful arts conference/retreat in the Colorado mountains, a much-needed time to unplug from work and engage with nature, to meet and worship with other Christians from around the country, and to reaffirm my sense of calling to online arts ministry. Eric came with me, so we took a few extra days there for scenic walks and drives, which included the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway, the Flatirons, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, Pikes Peak, and Garden of the Gods. So much beauty! Here’s a charming little stone church we spotted outside Estes Park, built in 1939.
We also visited the Cadet Chapel at the United States Air Force Academy, which I will share about in a separate post.
And as is my practice whenever I visit a new city, I spent time at a local art museum: the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The size and quality of its collection exceeded my expectations, with many fine works of Native American (Pueblo, Plains, Plateau, and Great Basin), Hispanic and Spanish colonial, and twentieth-century American art. I particularly loved the santos galleries, which feature religious folk art of the Southwest, including two monumental altarpieces. Below is a retablo (panel painting) and a bulto (sculpture) from the santos tradition.
José Rafael Aragón is the most highly regarded classic santero from early New Mexico, so I was already familiar with his work (note the visual influences on contemporary santero Vicente Telles, one of whose Crucifixion retablos I own). The chandeliers in Aragón’s painting are like those found in the chancels of New Mexico churches, and the vertical branches that fill the spaces between the figures are also standard elements of church decoration.
Patrociño Barela I was not previously familiar with, and I found myself so captivated by his work. (If you are too, be sure to check out this online solo show of his.) I’m not sure whether to interpret his Anuncio de la Nacimiento de Jesus as an Annunciation image, with Gabriel announcing Christ’s conception to Mary, or a Nativity image, seeing as the babe appears to be ex utero—in which case the top figure could be either an angel or God the Father. I can’t identify the object Mary is holding. (A piece of fruit?)
Lastly, here’s a unique Pietà image by the modernist painter Marsden Hartley. Could that be God the Father supporting Christ deposed from the cross? Maybe it’s Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea, but I rather like the thought that the Father held his Son in love during this time of his immense suffering and death.
EVENING DISCUSSION: “Idols and Taboos: Modern and Contemporary Art and Theology Today”: This free public event, consisting of two lectures and a panel discussion, will take place May 23, 2019, at 6 p.m. at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The presenters are James Elkins, who will be discussing the distance between avowedly religious art and the disciplines of art history, art criticism, art theory, and studio pedagogy, and Thomas Crow, who will be discussing “the generally inverse relationship between grandiosity in a work of art and its intrinsic theological import,” as well as art’s susceptibility to idolatry. A panel discussion will follow, moderated by Professor Ben Quash, and all are invited to gather afterward in the Lobby Bar of the historic Palmer House (across the street) for further socializing and conversation.
SONG: “Oh Death”: This Easter, CCLI released a video of Kaden Slay, Melanie Tierce-Slay, and Ryan Kennedy of People & Songs performing Stephen Marti’s “Oh Death,” written in 2017. Those three-part a cappella harmonies are so sweet.
SONG: “How Great Thou Art / Whakaaria Mai”: On March 23, the Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter John Mayer began an extensive world tour at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. He opened the show quite unexpectedly with “How Great Thou Art,” a tribute to those killed and injured during a terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. [HT: Global Christian Worship]
Standing center stage for the opening was Te Wehi Haka, a Maori performing arts troupe who, to begin with, quivered their hands; known as wiri, this important Maori movement represents the world around us, from the shimmering of water on sunny days to heat waves rising from the ground to wind rustling the leaves of trees.
The first notes that sounded once Mayer took the stage were from a putatara (conch shell trumpet). Then Isaiah Sharkey entered on electric guitar, playing that familiar Swedish hymn tune. Mayer sang the first verse and chorus of “How Great Thou Art” in English, and then New Zealander Bella Kalolo sang “Whakaaria Mai,” a popular Maori hymn set to the same tune (but lyrically similar to the last verse of “Abide with Me”):
Tōu rīpeka ki au
Rā roto i te pō
Hei kona au
Titiro atu ai.
Hei au koe noho ai
your cross to me.
Let it shine
there in the darkness.
will be looking.
In life, in death,
let me rest in thee. [source]
The song concluded with the two vocalists harmonizing on the English chorus, after which the Maori dancers performed a kapa haka. Literally “line dance,” kapa haka involves aggressive facial expressions and body movements, making heavy use of foot stamping, body percussion, and grimace. Although the dance appears combative, it is actually performed as a mark of honor and respect.
I was confused why a Christian hymn was chosen to pay respect to Muslims, but from what I can tell, “Whakaaria Mai” is very popular at New Zealand funerals for people of all faiths and was performed too at the National Remembrance Service at North Hagley Park in Christchurch. Mayer said Kalolo chose the song (he had never heard of “How Great Thou Art”) and coached him on it.
PHOTOGRAPHY: “Photographer Captures the Magic of Childhood in Enchanting Portraits of Her Young Sons”: Polish photographer Iwona Podlasińska regularly follows her two young sons around with her camera, taking spontaneous snapshots of precious moments spent reading, exploring the outdoors, looking through a bakery window, waiting for a train, feeding birds, and in a number of other ordinary ways. In postprocessing, she transforms these shots into “something between dreams and reality.” “I try to capture real situations but with a hint of children’s imagination,” she says, “turning everyday scenes into magical images straight from a fairy tale.”
Podlasińska joined Flickr as a hobbyist several years ago, not really intending for her page to get any traffic. But she soon started receiving many questions about how she shoots and edits her photos, which she took as a challenge to start teaching. Now she teaches workshops around the world and online. (She doesn’t accept clients for photo sessions; she says she doesn’t like that kind of forced environment in which children must be posed.) “My goal is to share my passion,” she says, “and show other mothers and photographers how to see magic in everyday life.”