Archive: Questions From Art Class, Jeff Thompson

Inspired by Jake, I’m going to pull some stuff from old writings, journals, papers, etc that I’ve done and post them here. Below is some rambling thoughts from my journal after my first Art Appreciation class at Wheaton College with Jeff Thompson. But before that, an explanation of my history with art.
Though my mom painted all over our house (literally), I’d never been a big fan of ‘formal’ art. One particular event scarred my art appreciation. Sometime during middle school my parents got a membership to The Art Institute of Chicago, and in doing so, received tickets to view the Monet exhibit when it came through one summer. They dragged us along and I had the terrible experience of waiting for nearly three hours in a line as we wove in and out of exhibit halls waiting to see Monet’s work. Some of the art while we waited was cool, like a painting that nearly looked like a photograph of a man’s face, but others where ridiculous like a massive black canvas with a random digital clock time painted on it. There where also drawings and sculptures that my kid brother could have easily done. When we finally arrived at the famous Monet (sarcasm, but remember, I was a middle schooler), I walked through the 50+ paintings of haystacks in less then a half hour and a fell asleep on a bench at the end of the exhibit. That experience forever scarred my appreciation of art… now back to Thompson’s class.

Here are my notes after my first evening of class:

So artist are people who try to express, communicate, through language, not just words, but body and audible and written and more. They try to communicate the perfect embodiment of human kind. God is an artist. He perfectly embodied his divine nature in the person of Jesus Christ. Thompson is a crazy guy, truly an artist in the stereo typical sense. He’s off the wall with his comments, and yet was quite linear in what he talked about today. He gave some bible verse today, about the rocks crying out and things like that. I appreciated it a lot. The goal is to develop more my appreciation for art and so far so good. Though we haven’t really looked at very much art. His advice to us is when we see an artist encourage them. Listen to them, look at them. But are we all artist? Do we all in some way embody artistry? Or has God put this desire for expression in only a few of us? That is a question worth contemplating for a while I think. But I wonder, what benefit is it for the kingdom to spend hours and hours practicing to play a small part in a ballet that is attended by the very rich? The rich need Jesus too, don’t get me wrong. And I certainly believe God can use all things to bring people to himself, like the worshipful communication that one might see in a ballet, but isn’t there other ways? More direct, or applicable ways to bring people to Christ? I wonder. What would the world be like with out art? God is certainly an artist, with words, with creation, with people, with everything. Are we to be like him in that attribute and create our own artistic expression? Are we to encourage extravagantly expensive artistic activities and individuals spending countless hours expressing themselves in this way? Then again can you draw a line down the middle and decide which art is worshipful expression and which art is superfluous? Can you? I think maybe we just can’t. Well that’s all for now.

Those were real questions, and though I had some of them answered during the course of the class, a lot our still floating out there. Any thoughts?

Now That’s Creative!

Here are a few stories of creativity I’ve read recently…

  1. With all the foreclosures there are a lot of neighborhoods with houses with rather unpleasant plywood covering the doors and windows. An artist in Chicago took advantage of the opportunity and began offering his boarding contract services with a twist. Basically he puts boards on windows, but he paints the boards to look like windows and doors, rather then just boring plywood. He’s done it to a few houses in my part of the city and is hoping to get a big city contract. I’d sure like to see more art in the neighborhood. –Star Tribune
  2. There’s this guy Steve Lambert, who is pretty awesome. He runs the Anti-Advertising Agency. They are responsible for stuff like PeopleProducts123, and this video (which I’ve shown before)

    There’s a great interview with Steve in Gelf mag.
  3. And the last one is this pastor from Detroit named Harvey Carey. He spoke at Sanctuary Covenant recently and he mentioned one of their creative activities. The men of the church go camping every summer. They get their tents and lanterns and they set up in front of the drug houses in the neighborhood. They hangout, cook s’mores and basically keep any business from happening. And when they drug dealers move out to a new location, the church camp out moves with them. He said they’ve shut down 15 drug houses that way in the past few years.
  4. We need more creative stories.

Blasphemy or Not? You Decide!

Okay, this will be a terribly undeep discussion. Aaron sent me a link to WorldNetDaily the other day and I read the article, commented and then browsed a couple of the links. From what I gather, WorldNetDaily is a christian news website (I think it used to be a magazine?), so one of it’s article titles struck me: “Obama aide says he didn’t mean to blaspheme Jesus”

The title doesn’t strike me because it has anything to do with politics, but that it seems to imply that they think this guy blasphemed Jesus. I clicked the article to see what they considered blasphemy; wouldn’t want to show up in one of their articles myself. Here’s what they said:

(Subtitle of article) Stopped using ‘gay’ video piece after Christian confronted him

[Larry Lessig] denies he had blasphemous intent by including in his lectures a video of a ‘gay’ Jesus Christ sashaying nearly naked down a city street to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” only to get run over by a bus.”

From what I gather what’s blasphemous is:

  1. The writer at WorldNet finds the way Jesus is depicted in the video as ‘gay’.
  2. Lessig’s showed the video (not made by him) to others.

But, here’s what’s crazy about this to me:

  1. From what I can see in the video and the article, the only person insisting Jesus is ‘gay’ is the WorldNet author. The character in the video is certainly expressive, but it is quite simply reinforcing a stereotype to say that his personality in the video is ‘gay’.
  2. WorldNet news actually shows the video on their website article! They have a concise youtube video embedded in the article, available for you to see the whole thing. If Lessig’s blaspheme was in showing the video to others, then WorldNet is just as blasphemous.

So, I guess the decision is up to you. Is the video blasphemous? And if so, are Lessig’s and WorldNet news both guilty? (And I guess I might be guilty as well in suggesting you should go watch the video)

Book Review: My Beautiful Idol, by Pete Gall

Conveniently for my weekly book reading, I got hooked up with the Ooze blogger program, and now I get books shipped to my door every once in a while to read, enjoy and review. The first, My Beautiful Idol, by Pete Gall, I received last week and finished in a few days.
The book was basically a memoir, sort of like Blue Like Jazz in style. It sort of seemed like I was reading a series of blog post from a really good writer. Gall is brutally honest about his mindset and his experience, something I know must have been difficult to do. I appreciated it though, because I think it lent insight, and in a small way, opened the door to honesty for those in the ‘Church’ who are living with the facade that they have it all together.

There where two sections I really liked. The first is his analogy for Evangelicalism as a high school track meet. Its a long quote which I don’t have time to reproduce here, but I think it’s brilliant.

The second section was about a friend of his mother’s dying from cancer. Also a heart wrenching piece, that you’ll have to read the book to hear.

I really appreciate Pete and Zondervan for giving me the opportunity to review the book.

If We Are Just Giving Money Away, Why Not Try Reparations

My wife had this brilliant thought the other day (this occurs most days, the really brilliance is when my brain stays focused long enough to remember it): “If the government is just giving away money with this Economic Stimulus package thing, then why not at least give it to the people it was once promised to.” Brilliant.

Okay, so I know it’s a little late for the suggestion, but it’s worth dreaming about. The government is giving $600 to every person who made over $3000 and filed their taxes this year. Now, I don’t think it would right years of slavery and oppression, but it seems like it would be a small gesture in the right direction.

I believe the Economic Stimulus is a $168 billion bill, and at the 2005 census there were 40 million Black and Native People’s living in the USA. If you just split the money that way you’d have $4200 per person, and that included children.

It’s a shame that the term, “40 Acres and a Mule“, instead of being a honest attempt to right the terrible injustices of our history, is just one more indication of how the people of this country have been oppressed and mistreated. It was another unkept promise, one of many from the past and just another of the many to this day. I know this one might spark some controversy too, but I had to throw it out there.

What Should I Read About: Foreclosures?

I posted on the topic of foreclosures early this week, mostly with a brainstorm idea on what I think could help remedy some of the problems low income neighborhoods face. It was met with some thought provoking challenges, that I’m trying to consider. That being said, I would love to read if anyone has written or read other posts about Foreclosures, the housing crisis, and particularly what the role of the church and/or us as individuals should be in the midst of this. Any ideas?
If so add them to the list below, just post the URL (and your name or the name of the article) below…

And feel free to comment below or above with anything else you think I should read.

Six Sentences: The Triumphal Entry

A month or so ago, while browsing the blog of one of the amazing writers for Geez Magazine (which I’ll be reviewing on Saturday), Chris Cocca, I learned about a site called 6 Sentences. The site basically contains stories that are six sentences long, and they are quite good. Anyways, it seemed like an excellent writing exercise to help improve me writing abilities, so I gave it a shot. I’m going to try this or something similar (maybe some spoken word) at least once a week, and I just might post it. Here’s my first story.

Triumphal Entry

She sat on the kitchen counter in faded jeans and a plain white undershirt, her hair pulled back in an unassuming ponytail, her knees pulled up to her chest, a few tears trickling down her cheek. He leaned back and took another swig of milk, straight from the carton, trying to let her words settle in. She’d fully expected him to hit her, not because he’d ever been physically aggressive before, but her story was so outlandish, she’d imagined only the worst. “Was it James…” He questioned out loud, partially to himself, but also giving her a chance to come clean, “Matt, maybe?” Her tears came down again, hard now, she hadn’t expected him to believe her impossible story, she almost wished the truth was as simple as he thought, but her heart still broke as his questioning gave indication that her hopes for the future were quickly slipping away. It was over, before it had even begun, and all that awaited her now was a life as an outcast, whispered about at the market, ostracized by her community, left alone to raise her child, that bastard child.

Continue reading Six Sentences: The Triumphal Entry

My Solution to Foreclosures and Slum Lords

Okay, this isn’t necessarily my solution, just the most recent thing I’ve come up with, but it would take a LOT of effort for it to happen, and there are probably a great many problems to it as well (my more conservative brethren can speak up now). But, here’s my idea.
I think urban centers that have experienced the negative affects of absentee landlords (many slum lords) and now the recent foreclosure crisis, should make homesteading mandatory in those neighborhoods. What homesteading means is that a home must be owner occupied, they must live there. I slightly looser option would be that all owners of property in that zip code or neighborhood must live in the same neighborhood. Basically, this would mean you can only own property in the neighborhood if you lived in the neighborhood.
One of the primary things I believe this will do is create a vested interest in the community. Many of our problems today from slum lords to sweatshops exist because we are able to distance ourselves from the injustices we often passively (or actively) contribute to and participate in. Requiring all owners of pieces of a community to actually be a part of that community would create geographic proximity that would build awareness and sensitivity to the problems within that community.
As it relates to the foreclosure problems currently, it would force banks to liquidate the properties in a community, rather than being able to sit on vacant houses in hopes of riding out the low parts of the real estate trend. And, those properties would then be available to people who are interested in living in that particular community and not a wealthy investor who is interested in the bottom line rather then the interest of the people in the community. This would more then likely drop the value of the property in a neighborhood considerably, since those interested in purchasing and living in the neighborhood might not have the financial means to offer what the previous market values might have been. However, the benefits of increased homeownership in a community, vested interest, and the possibility for individuals to build equity would far outweigh the loss in property value.
It seems this sort of thing has been done in a few cities before, but the goal was more for a sort of ‘urban renewal’ that brought middle and upper class folks back into cities. It in effect pushed the people of the neighborhood out and basically gentrified the neighborhood to the degree that the original people of the community were no longer there. I think efforts toward this sort of required homesteading would need to be done sooner in a city facing a lot of abandon and foreclosed houses, so that the original community isn’t displaced.

I haven’t thought through all the ins and outs but it seems like, with the right planning, it could be a very beneficial solution to many urban neighborhoods.