In collaboration with The Federation's Art Action Day marking one year since Trump's inauguration, my paperworks class made small collage books that engaged some aspect of culture deemed important to them. The group urges that art is essential to democracy and this little project allows each student to put their voice out into the world on particular topics. Students picked themes of multilingualism, homelessness, immigration, religion, among others.
Students collected collage materials, assembled them into this easily reproducible low-brow book form. We then scanned them, had multiples printed via a photocopier. Students are then to "shopdrop" them around the city. Shopdropping is defined as "To covertly place objects on display in a store. A form of "culture jamming" s. reverse shoplift, droplift." This seemed like a good subversive form of dissemination that connects to the theme of the work and Art Action Day. Students are to then document the shopdropping process with their phones.
Tomorrow, on Art Action Day, I will post images of the books themselves and the shop dropping.
This past weekend in church, one of the readings was Romans 8.12-25. In it, I saw something new that I had never seen before even though it is a passage I have read and heard countless times during my life. It may even be one of those that I might even be able to recite part of from memory. It is curious to me how these things happen. Now Christians explain this as the Holy Spirit illuminating the scriptures. Which I do believe happens, however anyone who spends enough time with a text has the possibility to read it with “new eyes”. All those things that we encounter in our lives between the readings come into play and activate in our most recent reading to suggest the possibility of new depths of or alternate meanings. Whatever it is, I appreciate the new ideas and possibilities.
So here is the passage:
12So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. 18I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
I think, looking back on it now, I likely read this passage in a way was about human struggles and the hope that comes from faith in spite of current circumstances. Now, without looking, Paul is writing to encourage and teach those living in Rome dealing with a pretty crappy situation struggling under persecution. This is all pretty standard. What was new for me is how creation is bound up with humanity in this struggle.
Look at verse 19-23 again.
Creation awaits salvation too! It languishes awaiting its freedom. Again, looking back on it, that I think I conflated humanity as part of creation, which it is, but verse 23 articulates an important rhetorical distinction (23and not only the creation, but we ourselves). This distinction that Paul sets between humanity and creation is an important one. We see, that creation suffers awaiting the same freedom from bondage that humanity awaits. This was an unbelievable thought.
Over the recent years, with my interest in place and shifting theological emphases, I’ve come to think more about the relationship between humanity and the earth very differently. Often, for a variety of long held philosophical reasons firmly rooted in Protestant thought, the physical is diminished in favor of the spiritual. The logic goes that since “we” will fly away from this physical earth, it is of no real lasting significance. Tragically, the position of caretaker from Genesis becomes one of dominance and misuse rendering it a disposable reality to be mined for all its worth to fuel our economies.
As I think about this further, this action only amplifies the groaning. Perhaps what has allowed this idea to emerge is my recent time in the oil fields of North Dakota. At the beginning of this month, I spent 2 solid days, driving through some of the most beautiful landscape of North Dakota which has now become a sprawling oil field. Land is being drastically reshaped, gouged, drilled, drug, and about any other manner of soil movement you might consider. I cannot help but to see the groaning of the earth around me when I drive out there.
While the Psalms retell the laments of those who cried out, “How long?” I fear this is the cry of the earth as well?
After a very busy day yesterday with a lot of help from my niece Brittany, the exhibition is up and looks great. The conference starts this evening with the first plenary speaker and people have been trickling into campus. I am so thankful to CTS & Creighton for allowing me this little artistic experiment within a theological conference. I am also in debt to the artists who have shared their work with me and made this a great looking exhibition.
I have put together a hastily edited and unedited collection of images from the show into a gallery below. I will update names and piece titles when I have more time.
Today I am packing the artwork for the Formation Matters exhibition that I have curated for joint meetings of the College Theology Society (CTS) and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion (NABPR). This exhibitions represents the culmination of years (since CTS's meeting at Regis in Denver in 2006) thinking and discussions on how to include art into the conference discussions. Back in 2006 the theme was on art and beauty (a natural connection to host an exhibition) but alas no actual visual connection was made beyond the standard conference presentators and presentations (of which I was one).
The Arts Media Literature and Religion section does a wonderful job at providing a venue for discussing such matters. My hope with the exhibition is to dovetail this group and offer a first hand, or primary source, kind of opportunity for conference goers to connect their research and thoughts to the work and vice-a-versa. This year's conference theme is Teaching Theology and Handing on the Faith: Challenges and Convergences. For the exhibition, I have chosen for focus the chosen work on ideas of memory, tradition, and formation (I will say more about these areas in the coming days).
As I mentioned, I have talked to CTS folks about this for a few years now and I am so excited to see it come to fruition. I am so thankful for Creighton and CTS for allowing me to experiment with this little venture. Over the course of the week, I will be posting more updates, information on the artists, and images from the gallery.
2 weeks ago I took my Advanced Photography class out on a little field trip to this wonderful little church near Rugby, ND. With the help of Dan Smith, an area photographer who knows the region well, got us permission to enter the church and a nearby homestead. There are many abandoned houses and buildings in ND. I have mixed feelings about them. They are great photographic material...detail and decay. But there is much more to North Dakota than a decaying set communities on the upper prairies.
This past month has been a busy and exciting one with two solo shows up simultaneously. Tomorrow, the show Concrete Abstractions at Minot State University will come down and I will make the 3+ hour drive out to pick up the work. Minot State has 2 galleries, one in the art department and one in the library. This exhibition was in the library. It is a unique but quality space for displaying. As Micah Bloom shown with his images below, the reflective surfaces mirror nice angles. (A special thank you to Micah for his photographs...leave it to the photographer (me) to forget to shoot images of his own show at the opening). I am immensely grateful to Minot State for the opportunity to show my work, much of which has not been seen beyond the walls of UND's art department.
As I said a few weeks ago, it is MFA season here at UND's Hughes Fine Art Center. Last week Meghan Duda presented her work. Influenced by a range of artists from the New Topographics to Gordon Matta-Clark, Meghan's work considers the ubiquity of the suburban home. When Meghan and her husband relocated to Fargo a few years ago, she was struck by the possibility of horizontal expansion has shaped the suburban housing areas of Fargo. Home shapes follow a few rough patterns in theses new developments. And yet Fargo is not alone in that respect. Several of her images come from Utah as well.
As someone who shares her interest in the New Topographics, I was immediately struck by (at least what appears to me) a strong lineage with several members of the group, namely Stephen Shore and the Becher's. Her connection to Shore is in subject matter while her connection to the Becher's is in matter of typologies of suburban homes as well as their rigorous system of grids within their installations. Following this method of Becher's typologies, Duda has laser cut the houses from the image thus breaking up the picture plane. By floating the image off the back frame, she is able to accentuate the break and absence with the lighting and shadows. On others, she has used the laser to etch detailed house floor plans over the image.
Another one of the key factors in her images is that she also draws upon the objective or sense of detachment so often associated with the group but extends backward strongly to Ed Ruscha. Like the New Topographers, she attempts to stay neutral...balancing between critique and endorsement.
For the most part, I have held my tongue on issues related to the University of North Dakota's nickname (at least on here). But recently I have become increasingly agitated by the continued arguments about the Fighting Sioux nickname. When we moved here 4 years ago from Sioux Falls, SD I knew that it was a controversial issue, but I had no idea how divisive it really was...and has been for some time. Recently, the state legislature overturned a November law that erased the nickname. So with the nickname now in effect once again, the NCAA has come with sanctions, UND risks not being fully accepted by their new conference, and has taken a further kick in the teeth by my home state's university. University of Iowa has uninvited UND to its April track meet. I applaud their decision. I hope to see more of the same from other schools siding with the NCAA as pressure mounts risking UND's precious hockey teams perhaps public opinion will shift as well. I do lament the cost this takes upon the student athlete. As a former athlete I know the amount of hours and commitment one puts into a sport and to have that taken away seems unfair. But until this issue of the nickname is settled, with the nickname being done away with, expect more sanctions and more invitations revoked. I for one am thankful for U of Iowa and their determined stance. It's not hard to do, but it makes me proud to be an Iowan.
Back in 2011, my fellow student at the time decided to put together a small suite of image from many of North Dakota's printmakers. For the past year, that collection has been traveling around the state at a variety of locations and venues through the North Dakota Art Gallery Association. The show actually has made its second stop in Minot this month with a visit to the Taube. Minot Daily News covered this visit as well as the one to Minot State back in November.
Traveling sites include:
James Memorial Art Center, Williston, ND;
Bismarck State College Gallery, Bismarck, ND;
University of Mary, Bismarck, ND,
Northwest Art Center, Minot, ND;
The Art Center, Jamestown, ND
Cando Art Center, Cando, ND;
Taube Museum of Art, Minot, ND;
Northern Lights Art Gallery, Mayville, ND;
Bismarck Art Gallery, Bismarck, ND
Since I was a child I have had a strange fascination with war. I would ask for picture books and check them out of the library as it was one of the few things I would read about. I had youthful plans of joining the military, but what once was a naïve patriotism has in the past 10 years become soundly checked by a growing theology and pacifism. But while I strongly disagree with war, I am still fascinated by its machinery and history.
This summer I had the opportunity to explore a bit further in the beautiful land of our northern neighbor: North Dakota. I had never been much beyond Bismark. But this year brought two trips to Turtle Lake, ND and north through Minot on our journey home. One of the nuggets of knowledge that I grew up knowing was the presence of the nuclear silos across ND. It never really seemed strange to me rather a matter of fact. And yet this summer when we started passing them on the road, they were startling to me. They had been part of my mental understanding of the world but I had never had the opportunity to experience them. What seemed strange was how near they were to the road and family farms. For me, the farm I grew up on is a sacred space and I would imagine that for many in my wife’s family, the homestead is sacred as well. And yet, the missile silo just down the road for them has become a common place. To my pacifist leanings, something like that in my “backyard” would qualify a profane space. A profane space I was still attracted to and would jump at the chance to tour and explore if I had the opportunity. What are we to do with place like this that really can serve little good? Should we consider them as profane because of what is housed in the ground? or because of what it represents? or has the potential to do? If this place is profane, can it be redeemed? And then how?