The Encounter Gallery is showing through December 2019, in the Christian Life Center at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. We had a Sunday Morning opening a couple of weeks ago and lots of folks stopped by to look and chat between and after the services. I met Robert Virkus and we had an interesting conversation about the art work and some of our favorite artists. Above is the installation on the south wall.
The church is usually open during the day and they often have extended hours. But I recommend calling ahead to make sure the Christian Life Center is unlocked and available for viewing.
Northwest Bible Church Christian Life Center 8505 Douglas Avenue Dallas, TX 75225 469-453-7777
There’s something reassuring when working with scissors and glue. Not only familiar, but also easy and fun. For me, there are fewer pretentious thoughts to making great art and lots more smiling and fun. It never fails when we’ve set up an art-making night that everyone gets busy and I just stare at whatever materials we’ve collected and all my great ideas just fly away, It feels like the everyone else is moving on and doing their thing and I am completely out of ideas.
Most of the materials we were using were from cereal boxes saved for this purpose over the last few months due to our recent collage experience with Michael Albert. The colors and font designs are fantastic and probably the results of millions of dollars of advertising campaigns. The cost is basically nothing, and it’s keeping some packaging from going straight to the dump. Ok, so it’s just a little bit of packaging that we’re temporarily keeping from the garbage, but it’s a good feeling to recycle even a little bit. It’s especially a good feeling to make something fun and use basically no money at all in it.
Here’s what I finally came up with. It’s a sort of psychological portrait of a small part of our marriage. It’s also using what was available and not being fussy about it. The pepperoni pizza bird on the left is me, the popcorn bird is she. It would have been more accurate if my bird had been made of fried chicken, but a suitable pic was not available. The popcorn bird is entirely accurate. My lovely wife loves popcorn. It’s the go-to snack while amazon prime binging.
I love this picture. It’s a bit out of order. We almost always eat, and talk, and pray together before the art-making. The spot on the couch by Phil is occupied by Wendy who is right there skyped in on Melissa’s cell phone which was pretty cool. The conversation that I remember most about this evening is the idea that we have to keep taking risks and focusing on truly important things. Whether it’s with new art-making ideas, new relationships, or more time spent praying, reading, and applying scripture to our lives. Someone said that we need to rid ourselves of those time-consuming activities with which we are pre-occupied and move forward with the vital things. And stop worrying about whether or not we and they will be accepted.
At Art and Faith in July, Mac Browning showed us how to take a loop of wire and sculpt a twisted-wire tree. I’ve admired Mac’s beautiful trees many times and it was very interesting to get a feel for what goes into one of his creations by trying to make my own. Mac was thorough and patient and getting started was easy. However, the wire twisting itself was not easy. It takes a combination of strength and dexterity to get what you want. It always gives me a great appreciation for what another artist does when I try a new technique for the first time.
Sometimes making art requires intense thought. When I’m painting a portrait, I have to concentrate completely. If I zone out and begin thinking about something else, I make color, value, and composition choices that just don’t make sense and have to be re-worked and fixed and it wastes a ton of time. It’s happened many times. It’s nice to have something that is not quite like that. Maybe Mac has to concentrate and not lose focus to make his trees, but for me, it was nice to work on something and carry on a conversation at the same time.
Art & Faith is on the 2nd Saturday of the month. We eat, we pray, we make art.
Terri and I hung out at the Crystal Bridges Art Studio in Northwest Arkansas a few weeks ago with Michael Albert (michaelalbert.com). Michael has been doing collage for a number of years and his works are both colorful and whimsical, and yet insightful and serious too. Michael has a number of favorite texts, narratives, speeches, scriptures, and such which have meant a lot to him over the years and he has committed them to collage, as well as some of them to memory. I thought that was pretty cool.
So, while Terri got to work on her collage, I hung out with Michael and as usual asked a ton of questions. He’s on an “Art-demo and Workshop” Tour across dozens of U.S. cities. Most of his stops are at libraries where he leads folks, mostly kids, in activities using art, but also discussing and leading conversations about a number of those texts and stories that are so important to him. I asked him how he chose the libraries, and he said that he had written and published a book. He looked up which libraries carried his book, and just called them up and told them what he was doing. So, he has been driving from city to city for a number of weeks, maybe months now, visiting small towns and big, and getting to know people. Once again… very cool.
He calls his collage work “cerealism” because so much of it is found in the packaging for cereal boxes. So, it’s a lot of fun to see the images in his art, originally on cereal boxes I know well from my childhood. It’s sometimes a bit educational, if not sobering, to see how he uses the text in his work. Some of my favorites were Psalm 23, the preamble to the Constitution, and the Gettysburg address. There’s lots to choose from though, he’s a well-read guy.
Terri chose to make her version of our state flag. She had some symbolic fun and included some numbers in the work that are personally very important to her. I thought it turned out very nice.
I have a tradition of working on self-portraits whenever I’m at making-art demos, working in new media, and I don’t know what else to do. So, I sat down and did a 30 second self-portrait sketch in pencil, and then started cutting up cereal boxes. I decided to do a layering technique, whereas Michael and Terri both do more of a mosaic effect where they cut the shapes out to piece them together like a puzzle. I overlaid mine, one on top of another, and got more of a 3-D effect, which really worked for the self-portrait.
When we were finishing up, Terri asked me where the grey was in my beard. I really was taken aback. It turns out that my self-portrait is not a bad likeness, but it’s more life-like to my appearance 30-years ago, than it is now. While I was making the portrait, I was actually thinking of myself with dark brown hair. So, I blamed it on the cereal boxes and told her that silver was not really a cereal color.
There are a few important things to me about going to these art-making studio demos. I love to meet artists who are doing their creative thing and are willing to share their time and ideas with me. Michael was so generous, gave us some fantastic posters, and talked about his creative background and experience. It’s really nice to just listen to artists talk about what inspires them. I think occasionally it rubs off and something important and perhaps philosophical might find it’s way into my art or my creative habit.
But, it also allows (forces) me to try something new besides oil painting. The painting is so serious and these different media allow me to relax and just have fun. Try cutting up some cardboard packaging like a 6 year old and make something out of it that’s meaningful. It’s fun. These new media really stretch me and push me into something new. I’m terrible about making art in front of other people. I like to be alone, alone, alone. But, in the middle of the chaos at the Crystal Bridges Art Studio there’s nowhere to hide and you just have to go for it. Give yourself permission to have some fun and be silly.
This is my latest work in the Encounter Gallery series entitled “Disciples Serve the Five Thousand”. I was talking with my friend Takiyah about my narrative portraits and that I had started out painting almost exclusively my own family members, mostly because they were willing. I said that as I looked back over my paintings, it occurred to me that my family was awfully white. Takiyah laughed and said “well, my family is awfully black!” I asked her if there was a gospel story that she most identified with and characterized her and her history. She said that the one that most often came to mind was the feeding of the 5,000. She told me about growing up fairly poor in the Los Angeles area, but definitely not realizing that they were poor. She recounted a few of the numerous times that her family was unexpectedly confronted with the Lord’s abundance. This idea of abundance is central to Takiyah’s experience of God in her life. He has supplied her and her family’s needs abundantly and continually. There were powerful stories from her childhood in which her family was blessed with abundance that could only have come from God. As I listened to her stories, I thought of my own history. My father had a good job, and worked steadily throughout my childhood. I never really questioned or wondered where the groceries came from. I realized early on that Dad was paid regularly, and the money went into the bank, and that was how we bought the groceries. I knew then that God provides, even in this way. But Mom and Dad were very frugal, and I never really got a sense of abundance or unexpectedness. Our abundance was more a sense of “enough” and “steady” for which I’m very grateful. This very consistency was and is a gift from my Dad. The groceries always got bought, so that meant that Dad was working, and God was providing both.
But Takiyah’s experience was different and in its own way glorious. God has continued to provide for her in an abundant and sometimes an unexpected way.
While meditating on the story of the 5,000, I began to think about how much labor it would have taken to distribute a dinner of fish and bread to so many men, women and children. Thousands of meals delivered across a hillside next to the lake would have taken so much effort. I imagined that as Jesus multiplied the fish and bread, his disciples saw what was happening and quickly realized what it would take to serve this crowd. They loaded up with plates of the newly created meals and went throughout the crowd, handing out delicious food to everyone who was there. I set the scene on the northeast shore of White Rock Lake with the skyline of Dallas just barely visible in the distance. I pictured the disciples as seasoned diner waiters and waitresses with arms full of plates of baked fish and rolls headed up the hill to the people. This was a day of extraordinary and unexpected abundance, and Jesus’ many followers and disciples were there to serve. It is the perfect story of Takiyah’s experience with the unexpected abundance from God.
“Disciples Serve the Five Thousand” is currently on display with the Encounter Gallery series at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Watson Hall (in Dallas) until August 22, 2019.
24 Feet is installed in the sanctuary of Saint Cecelia’s Catholic Church through Pentecost (Sunday, June 9). Father Moreno asked that we install it in the sanctuary over the exit door so that the congregation will see it as they leave the service. It took quite a bit of expert maneuvering of the hydraulic lift. My friend Robert and I held and attached the painting, while Alberto ran the lift. It turned out to be a stunning place to hang this painting.
St. Cecelia’s Catholic Church at 1809 W. Davis Street in Oak Cliff is a new church building in an established parish. The older church was hit by lightning in 2007 and burned. This beautiful and spacious new church was then built and dedicated in 2011.
Art & Faith met Saturday evening and as usual shared a wonderful meal and caught up on recent life events. We also discussed the meaning of Jesus’ scribbling in the sand and response to the woman caught in adultery and we prayed together.
Denise Hohulin gave a wonderful and unique photographic presentation on The Texture of Light. She passed around a number of photos that were so interesting. I had been looking forward for some time to see how she set these up. Denise only uses a few hand held lamps, or an open window to let in the sun for the light source. Then she uses a number of glass vases, champagne glasses, bowls and other objects to get these shots. She showed us how to manipulate the light source and the glass vessels to achieve some remarkable patterns and textured surfaces layered on textured surfaces. .
It was interesting to see how the smallest, most infinitesimal movement in the glass led to completely different and unexpected patterns. We played around and came up with some novel approaches to creating textured shadows on surfaces and walls. It was also fun to imagine an exhibition of light, darkness and shadows and what might be required to make it work. Most of all we gained a bit of insight into Denise’s creative mindset and catch up with her latest work.
Art & Faith was at the UTA Glassblowing Hotshop last Saturday evening. We received a very special invitation to watch Jon Reed and friends do what they do with hot glass. They stretched, formed, textured, blew, shaped, and reheated their glass countless times. The results were 3 gorgeous vessel created from initial blobs of molten glass.
Watching glass blowers is better than a movie. It’s a live performance with suspense, plot, drama, choreography, and great characterization. The final reveal can be shocking. We were privileged to watch 3 artists at different stages in their craft form and blow glass. When one artist was on point, the other two were busy helping behind the scenes with numerous tasks. I’ve watched videos of glassblowing before but did not appreciate the many activities that were happening “off-screen” which were vital to the success of the project. It is definitely a team sport.
Then we enjoyed some excellent pizza at Old School Pizza and Suds which is its own form of team sport.
Art & Faith met recently for black powder night. Okay, we didn’t actually use real black powder. That stuff is even more dangerous than what we used, which was synthetic black powder from the local sporting goods store. Even so, it’s incredibly difficult to find. Gun stores don’t carry it. I called 16 gun stores in the southern Dallas cities looking for any kind of synthetic black powder. Only one thought she might have some in a warehouse if I could wait a week. I couldn’t, since it was already Friday, and we had Art & Faith that Saturday evening.
So, we finally located the synthetic black powder – thanks to Veronica. She’s one of our artists and she loves to use black powder in her artwork. It’s always handy to be friends with women who know exactly where to get black powder!
It is very therapeutic to use fire. This technique uses fire to draw. It felt primal, and earthy, and good. Plus, there are some real meditative moments when you carefully shape and shift the powder on the board before lighting it up. There are lots of videos online of folks making amazing drawings with black powder. Watch them for inspiration. But, it is definitely a whole lot more fun to do it yourself. Whatever you do, don’t use the actual black powder if you happen to find any. My friend Jason, who has done a lot of black powder shooting, tells me that it is very, very dangerous. What we used was not so much. But, it’s still fire. And it’s still cool. Some day I’ll go back and finish the self-portrait. But, we had a great time and made some great memories.
As always, be safe. Don’t ever do this indoors. Always wear protective eye-wear and gloves!!!
The Confessor (self-portrait)
Oil on canvas,
30″ x 24″
This is my entry into this year’s Southwest Dallas Arts Festival which had the theme “Healed!”. In connection with spiritual and physical health and healing, I’ve been thinking about James 5, especially the two “one another’s” in verse 16. This seems to me to be encouraging confession among all of us “one another’s” as opposed to confession to a priestly class. This work was made thinking about that idea.
The Confessor and The Listener
Both Oil on canvas
Both 30″ x 24″
The painting on the left is a self-portrait, painted in late April. The painting on the right is my friend Paul and was finished around 20 years ago. I keep some of my older paintings in the stairwell in our home, so I see them every time I go up or down, which is many times a day. I have great memories of painting “Paul”, because my first art teacher and mentor was very enthusiastic about the unusual composition and how it turned out.
I think that Paul is listening to something that is very troubling. I imagine him to be on the receiving end of a confession, so he’s a perfect “Listener”, to my “Confessor”. That’s why I hung the 2 paintings in the festival exactly like this. It was also interesting since they were done so far apart. They are speaking to each other in a spiritual way (confession), but also across a couple of decades. The painting of me turned out pretty intense. I seem to be staring down my friend Paul, daring him to respond to my confession. But after I finished I reflected that confession itself, to our chosen “one another“, is a very intense and frightening idea. Perhaps the withering glare is somehow appropriate.