Category: symbolism and arts

Arts and Education

Artist tend to get solipsistic if not connected to thinkers or education. They need a context for their creative processes. Cistern gazing (getting lost in one’s own process) or over insularity are central shadows in most arts communites I’ve lived in. This is why i think historically, artists have hung out with thinkers. The two are meant to occupy the same cafe.

The teacher and the role of priest or prophet go together. In Jesus you see both aspects. Clear thinking is essential for artists to be near, so that they do not turn their process in on themselves or towards some form of hedonism. Celebrity is not a high enough goal. Artists want to express something meaningful–even the zeitgeist of their time.

Having worked with the arts for many years, i see several reasons for a need for clear exchange between arts and education. One is that educational institutions tend to have resources to held nurture and birth creative projects. Another is that education needs the life and innovation artist bring. There is also a spiritual dimension which artist should carry which is desperately lacking at most educational settings.


arts and the church

The arts need the church. The church needs the arts. Neither needs religion, but the true living Body of Christ, which contextualizes creativity within the nature of Reality itself. The art world and the church are meant to dwell in the spiritual Kingdom of God–their true context! They are also both to be part of a full expression of who God is.

The creative aspect–whether individually or collectively–represents an aspect of God Himself, and a vital, life giving aspect. You can trace the divorce between this aspect of God and the other aspects by looking at church history. It is not just that the church stopped trusting the arts or even supporting artists after the reformation; it was something more subtle, and far more threatening for both artists and the church. It would be analogous to the Levites, in Jewish history, leaving all the other tribes once having crossed the Jordan in the opening scenes of the book of Joshua.


Regathering Meaning

I’m still looking at this idea of God’s restoration of the symbolic realm of communication. Here I am looking at true associations versus false ones. The notion of renewing the mind, includes renewing the image center of it, or the imagination.

People, things, places each have meaning clusters around them. To reattach the true cluster of meaning around each thing is part of God’s restoration of the earth. On a city level, each city has come to be associated with certain ideas–Paris, for example, is associated with romance, passion, beauty etc. Berlin with might or strength, decision making. A false association placed on Berlin from the war is abusive use of power. But we can see that this is not a true association. The fact that it is mighty or powerful city does not necessarily mean it is also an abusive city.You see in our time a real battle in the realm of what things mean. Jesus is the light, which in part is the understanding of what things mean. He is working to reattach things to their true meaning clusters, so that it is clear, that, for instance, woman’s body is not associated with evil. Or bread with death.


The Symbolizer

All things symbolize. Learning to encounter God through the symbolic can become a core part of our spiritual lives! To know him through art, cities, nations–to read them as expressions of aspects of His Being is such an exciting adventure of life and exploration, which allows us to see one another and our world as part of God’s art!

God wants us to be able to read the symbols of our personal lives as well as the symbols of our world. People create symbols, as we are made in His Image. To learn to read symbols is a worthy journey, not just for artists but for each of us.

For some time, i have been exploring the relation between cultures and symbols. My father studied anthropology–collective rituals and the desire humans have to make communal symbols, which can be shared and understood. At university, i also studied religious symbols and the need each culture has to make symbols of transcendence.


Transformers- Artist in Disguise

Finding a context for your gifting isn’t easy. For artist who want a larger more spiritual or transcendent context, the art world doesn’t offer much, and unforturtunately, the church is often also silent. But there is a metaphysical house or spiritual structure being built globally, that excites us with a true context into which to create our works of art, and inspire the cities and nations with a fresh Voice.

We are part of a global collaboration which is really about downloading heaven onto earth through the arts. In this way, our art provides a space or container for The Divine. Some say, art always does this. But with the pressures of commerce and fame, one rarely sees an artist truly being motivated by “building a house for God to dwell in.” But I think there is no lower context which is truly inspiring to most artists. Arts were meant to change the world. Change begins with changing the heart, or spirit or the way of seeing the world.

The arts invite the spiritual realm. Through art we are able to touch something transcendent. Not necesarily religious but definitely more than meets the eye–something spiritual! Everyone desires that their life have meaning–art declares that indeed life does mean something, and that we are in an important metanarrative which matters in the universe. We are part of a story that God is telling! The symbolizers know this, and sense that there is something other which helps interpret our lives as more than jobs and tasks, which tells us our lives symbolize something purposeful, something greater.


ArtHouse Austin opening for Jen Mickelborough

The last year we’ve been working on a local space for artists to work and show/perform here in Austin. We’ve been so privileged to have some dedicated friends who were willing to come all the way from the UK and New Zealand to help us get the space off the ground, and instigate a creative community.

So we’re really proud to announce our first opening this Friday, of the textile art and paintings of Jen Mickelborough. Many of you who read this blog know Jen–who came here with her husband Fran via New Zealand and are returning this month to the UK. It has been amazing watching her beautiful, vibrant pieces come together over the last 3 months. If you live in Austin, you are welcome to join us!


making time to write

A lot of people have asked me about writing recently, especially how to make time for it and what it takes to write a book. I genuinely enjoy writing, and always have since I was a child. So I always processed my thoughts first through writing, and then through other things. (I used to make up plays and songs, and always set up stages as a kid… I’m not sure where this performing part of me went but I did try being in two bands when I was in my 20s.)

Anyhow, writing for me is a second nature. But there is a difference between writing spontaneously and writing in a more disciplined way. And I think the disciplined part is what people want to know about. It’s not easy. There is something about writing that seems inherently solipsistic; when you sit down to do it you have to get past all the thoughts in your head that say, “I have to be doing something else right now” or “someone else needs me”. No one else can do it for you, and you have to be alone to do it.

Usually when I sit down to write, the first ten minutes to an hour are filled with every thought but the thing I want to be writing about. I have sat in front of my computer just staring for as much as an hour, maybe typing one word, erasing it, and typing again. The dreaded writer’s block.


a memory from the pilgrimage trail

A few summers ago a bunch of our tribe went on “pilgrimage”. Which basically started out like a lot of our traveling trips: We’re all sitting around the table having tea or coffee, someone mentions a place they’ve never been, then someone throws in another place, and pretty soon we have a map sprawled out on the floor and we’re figuring out how to get from point A to point B… and in the middle of this Andrew will be talking about going to Istanbul just to try out the outdoor spa baths, and Derek is figuring out how to get to a remote cafe for the best coffee in the whole world, and Debbie is already packing her blankets.

The summer of our Spain pilgrimage, Derek was telling us about the beauty of Santiago de Compostela, a small Catholic coastal town rumored to house the bones of St. James, a town which he visited in his early 20s. I think he was living in Israel at the time but I can’t say–even as his wife I can’t keep up with all the places he’s lived.

And someone was saying about how this town was the final destination of an actual medieval Catholic pilgrimage trail that thousands of people walk every year. And pretty soon we were researching the pilgrimage route online, and figuring out all the places we would stop along the way. As anyone can tell you that summer was a bit crazy. Some of us ended up in Paris, others in Milan–Derek and I even squeezed in a trip to Krakow somewhere in there. But we all ended up on the Spanish pilgrimage trail, miraculously, at the same time, for about 8 days. It felt like a month, it was so hot. Only Jessica walked the entire pilgrimage trail.

We all had something we took home with us; for some of us it was the friends and the adventure of it all. For me, I keep going back to this one memory. After those 8 exhausting, heat-filled days, a few of us pulled off the road and went to Bilbao, where we knew the fantastical Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum was. And we weren’t disappointed. It is really an amazing museum. And Bilbao is one of those gems of a town… like Krakow… or Antwerp… or, um, Tulsa (where I haven’t been yet but would like to)… something like that. Not obvious, not a place you read about, but a hidden gem.

And specifically, what I remember about the museum was this entire room of Alexander Calder mobiles. I don’t think I would ever want to see them anywhere else, because that experience is perfectly etched in my mind as one of the most magical displays.

It was a big, tall white room, and so quiet–and not a museum quiet but the kind of quiet you hear in a playlot before children arrive. Where the sound of what-will-happen is already in the air. And these mobiles are the most delicately machinated things, each hinge and color so intricate and light. To watch them was like hearing music without sound. I had never “heard” music before by looking at sculpture or painting, but these sculptures were so happy, so musical–in my mind, I could hear fingernails tapping, harpsichords, chimes, laughter. And I wanted to stand there forever, because they had so much joy in them.

And yet they weren’t silly; they were designed by a mathematical genius, anyone can see that. They were mysterious in how they balanced because as you stepped close to them you felt as if they would topple over under the weight of the metals and seeming imbalance of their limbs.

Even as I write this, I feel like I’m standing in that big room. It was a moment alone, just me and these silent things that wanted to chime but only in my mind.

laws for the fashion world

Very good news indeed.

If you follow fashion at all… (and I love to!), we are in the midst of all the fall fashion weeks. The major ones are New York, Paris, Milan and London. But there are other significant fashion weeks in major cities happening at the same time.

Madrid sparked an international fashion controversy this week by banning models who have less than an 18 Body Mass Index (which is calculated by your height and weight). Someone that’s 5’ 6” and 120 pounds has a 19.5 BMI. Already this is thin. Some of the world’s most famous models have as little as a 15 BMI. Most nutritionists recommend nothing less than 20, less than that and you are short on fat AND muscle, and prone to all sorts of diseases—heart failure, osteoporosis, liver failure.

The mayor of Milan was inspired by Madrid’s move, and decided she is considering pushing a similar law into effect for Milan fashion week catwalks. This would have a major impact on the fashion world, as Milan hosts not only some of the world’s most influential designers (Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Versace, to name a few) but also would turn away the top models, unless they put on weight.

Now Edinburgh, which is a rising fashion city, decided to follow suit and this week put a similar ban into effect.

I am praying that this helps stir up deeper conversation and some new directions for modeling agencies—and above all helps transform the beauty ideals, especially for young women. It’s just a beginning but I am so happy.

“Super-skinny models to be banned from Edinburgh catwalks” in The Scotsman

“Skinniest Models are banned from catwalk” (about Madrid)

“Milan fashionistas fear Spanish skinny model ban” from Milan