Gail's Book Nook

Friday, October 29, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Art and Spirituality


Ah, the tangled webs we weave

Right, Copper cross, geode, stained glass

Connecting art and faith began for me in the 70’s as I linked new theological insights regarding women in biblical history and interpretation with the work of two contemporary women artists, Judy Chicago and Sister Corita Kent. At that time I embraced the women’s movement and the feminism which espoused equality and inclusion in secular and religious life. I still do. As inclusive language became the norm in public life, I longed for the church to utilize it in worship and conversation including references to the feminine imagery for God found in the Bible. I became acutely aware that visual images and words, read and spoken, influence self image and behavior and inform an understanding of the world and faith.

Left: Now we see in a mirror dimly...

The works and words of artists Judy Chicago and Sister Corita Kent profoundly influenced me as a woman and an artist. Viewing Chicago’s The Dinner Party at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1982 was a revelation. I came to realize the importance of women’s work and history and experienced “AH-HA” moments of joy and excitement related to the artistic techniques of embroidery and ceramics connecting the beauty of the female body with women of history who struggled for equality and justice. Chicago’s collaborative approach to art making, so like women’s work around the world, reflected a quality of church and community life I desired. Her feminist views were controversial; her art expressions of female sexuality did not conform to traditional artistic forms. By and large, my enthusiasm for her views and art fell on deaf ears. Judy Chicago’s book, Embroidering Our Heritage, The Dinner Party Needlework remains a great read for those who sew, create in ceramics or are inspired by creative expression, and who would enjoy a “refresher course” in Western women’s history and heritage.

Sister Corita Kent (1918-1986), a teacher, artist and gentle activist elevated the art of serigraphy (silk screen) to a fine art medium and taught new ways of seeing, making, and living. She was what I would call a “free spirit.” Corita’s philosophy of teaching creativity encouraged artistic experiment using all mediums of art. Ronald Steen, a noted art and museum historian, described Corita’s art as a reflection of her spirituality, a commitment to social justice, hope for peace and fascination with life and the wold around her. Kent’s posters featuring huge bold streaks of colour and words spoke to the social issues of the day: the war in Vietnam, hunger, amnesty for prisoners. She was a quiet and cautious protester, not engaging in acts of civil disobedience, but speaking volumes through her art. Buckminster Fuller described his visit to her art department as among the most fundamentally inspiring experiences of his life. Although Kent died in 1986, Learning By Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit by Corita Kent and Jan Steward continues to be a source of inspiration. (from or a public library)

Lately, Sister Wendy Beckett, a contemplative nun, living in solitude on the grounds of a monastery in Norfolk, England, has been like a personal mentor for understanding spiritual insights in the world of art. She makes a distinction between “religious art” and “spiritual art”,
observing that they are not synonymous. I understand what she means. I’ve observed “religious art” in church settings and art galleries that fails to inspire while some contemporary art touches me deeply.

Beckett’s years of art research and expertise are reflected in BBC produced DVD series available for purchase online and borrowed from public libraries. As an artist and Christian I have found her book Sister Wendy Beckett on Art and The Sacred especially helpful. Her thoughtful
insights about 65 contemporary works of art are celebrative commentaries of the transforming power of art and prayerful meditations on the presence of the divine in our everyday life.

The art and lives of Judy Chicago, Corita Kent, and Sister Wendy Beckett nurture my spirit and inspire my art. The spring 2008 theme of Geez, holy mischief in an age of fast faith, a magazine published in Manitoba, was Art in an Age of Brutality. This issue shakes up traditional art
opinions. I commend this magazine to those who wonder about non-traditional views of church and Western culture.

For me creating and viewing art is evocative of the phrase in Revelation, “Behold! I make all things new.” Creating art outside the lines is my preference. I am thankful for the Good News that encourages new possibilities, invites us to sing new songs and enables personal transformation. That gospel gives me permission to create works of art that extend beyond traditional boundaries using a variety of media and artistic styles.

Image and the Spirit by Karen Stone is a useful book for individuals and groups seeking to renew a spirit of creativity, imagination and joy. (Book Room, PPC)

Published by permission from Women's Perspectives Magazine in Canada.

Carolyn Boyer is a teacher, artist, writer, grandmother and elder in St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Looking Out the Window: Welcome K. Dawn Byrd


It’s great to have K. Dawn Byrd, author of Killing Time. She'll be giving away a mouse pad with the image of her book cover on it.
To enter to win leave a comment with your email address (U.S. residents only). I'll select a winner on November 3rd!

First, tell us how your story originated.

I've always been an avid reader and planned to write a book one day. When I began work as a counselor in a jail, I thought that would be a neat setting for the book. I began to jot down notes about the environment such as sights, sounds, and smells. Before I knew it, my heroine had formed in my mind, begging me to tell her story.

What a worthwhile job! Tell us about your journey from idea to publication.

This book didn't go through rejections because I never sent it out. I did enter it in some contests in order to get feedback. It finaled in the Duel on the Delta last year. An agent took a look at it and said that she really liked my writing, but was afraid it might be hard to sell a book partially set in a jail. It was then I realized that there's such a thing as writing to market if you want to sell. About that time, I became friends with Michelle Sutton and she recommended one of her publishers to me, Desert Breeze Publishing. They liked it and the rest is history.

Great story! What about you? Would you share three things about yourself that would surprise your readers?

I own two hairless Chinese Crested dogs.
I love sour things....pickles, lemons, sour candy.
I used to ride a Harley, but gave it up in order to have more time to write. (My husband always wanted to stay out way too long and take the scenic route home. He still has his bike, but I don't miss mine at all.)

What are you working on now and what's next for you?

I'm working on three proposals requested by a publisher at the ACFW Conference. As soon as they're ready, I'll be editing the two books I've just signed contracts on for next year with Desert Breeze. They've been absolutely wonderful to work with.

Congratulations! I look forward to hearing more about your new books.
Thanks so much for visiting. Do you have any parting comments?

Thank you for hosting me on your blog! For those of you who love Christian fiction, please check my blog for weekly book giveaways. I interview 3-5 authors a week who give away their books.

Where can fans find you on the internet?
I'm also on Twitter (kdawnbyrd) and facebook (K Dawn Byrd.) I am the moderator of the Christian Fiction Gathering facebook group (!/group.php?gid=128209963444) If you join this group, you'll get reminders about the weekly book giveways.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Looking in the Window: Remembering a Lizard in the Sand

I carried the blue canvas stadium chair to the beach and planted it in the deep, white sand. A baby lizard lay in the seat. My husband, Rick, flipped it out with his hand and turned around to set up his chair. Tail and all, the tiny creature measured only one to one-and-a-half inches. Trying to move, it writhed in the grained earth.

Bright sunshine lit up the fall day, but the shore felt chilly to my bare feet. He must be cold. I stared at the lizard. His little arms and legs so thin; his fingers, like short pieces of thread, wiggled frantically. “Now you’ve done it.”

Rick sat down.

“He can’t travel on the beach,” I said.

Rick stood. Using his foot, he scooped up a large amount of sand with the lizard atop it. He took several steps, and the sand filtered to the ground, so he flicked off the lizard and repeated the process. At first the little reptile squirmed as though he tried to escape. But after a while he lay very still while Rick picked him up and moved him. At last Rick reached the fence in front of the dunes, where sea oats and vines grew. But Rick's foot wouldn't fit through the fence.

“I’ll get a piece of a vine and put it up to the lizard. He can grab hold of it,” I said.

Rick raised his dark eyebrows. “You can try.”

I poked a stem at the lizard’s feet. He lay like a stone. I tried again and got the same result. Finally, on the fourth attempt the lizard wrapped those tiny legs and arms around the vine and held on tight. I threw him over the fence into a patch of greenery. As far as I know, he’s enjoying his new home.

When I’m over-burdened and bogged down with problems or unpleasant situations, I often feel stuck like the lizard. I turn this way; then, that, trying to escape. My mind spins so fast thinking of possible solutions, but I get nowhere. I think if I just work a little harder, I can handle things. Eventually, I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. But I’m still writhing around in the sand. It isn’t until I ask for God’s help that I get relief.

Matthew 7: 7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”