Issue #241 | May 9, 2012
Over the past decade, poet Jean Hollander and her husband, Dante scholar Robert Hollander, have produced an acclaimed translation of the Divine Comedy, drawing on Robert's scholarship and Jean's poetic sense. Joan Acocella of The New Yorker called their translation "beautiful...more idiomatic than any other English version I know," and credited Jean's ear with allowing the verse to sing. The city of Florence gave her a medal. Knowing that background, it's hard not to read Jean Hollander's original poetry in light of Dante. Like the old Florentine, she finds surprising, illuminating correspondences between theology and the particulars of the natural world. Layering up images that are at once soaring and intimate, capacious and humble, she somehow makes transcendent realities recognizably human. Her voice is confident, lucid, and bright, laced with musicality and gentle humor. She invites us to journey with her to new places—and to see old ones as we hadn't seen them before.
If you are going to be anywhere in the vicinity of New Haven, Connecticut between now and September 16, you owe it to yourself to get to the Knights of Columbus Museum. The goal of your visit is an art exhibition of paintings by William Congdon, accompanied by excerpts from "Meditations on Holy Week" written many years ago by Joseph Ratzinger (now known as Benedict XVI). There is an utterly fascinating story behind this show. Though he is all but forgotten now, Congdon was one of the rising stars of the art world in the mid-twentieth century, associated with Abstract Expressionism and the action painting of Jackson Pollock. To quote the exhibition materials: "His first one-man show, at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1949, was lauded by reigning art critic Clement Greenberg who credited his paintings with having 'real painterly emotion.' In 1951, he was profiled in LIFE magazine and heralded as 'A Remarkable New U.S. Painter.'" Then he more or less disappeared from the art scene. What happened? Among other things, Congdon moved to Italy, converted to Catholicism, and joined the Catholic lay movement, Communion and Liberation. Though he abandoned the art world, Congdon continued to paint—and his conversion did not induce him to abandon his cutting-edge style. His semi-abstract paintings were often crafted with an impasto knife, a method that created dramatic gestures and incised expressive lines within the work. His early subjects were largely urban and conveyed a sense of modern alienation and isolation, but after his conversion he turned increasingly to landscapes and religious subjects. Congdon's rendering of traditional biblical scenes was always probing and creative, never falling back on cliché or sentimentality. The pairing of his works with texts by Ratzinger makes sense for a number of reasons, including Ratzinger's close friendship with the founder of Communion and Liberation, Luigi Giussani. IMAGE published an essay on Congdon's work by art critic Peter Selz way back in issue 14, which we've put in its entirety on our website. This is an artist whose reputation deserves to be much greater than it is, so please spread the word.
When taking on an ambitious country-gospel-bluegrass project, it's all in who you know—or, in Julie Lee's case, whose kids you babysit. Her March release, Julie Lee & The Baby-Daddies, takes advantage of her convenient clients Kenny Vaughan (guitarist for Marty Stuart and Lucinda Williams) and Mike Bub (The Del McCoury Band). That's not to say Grammy award-winning musicians had to hire her for date night childcare in order to get on the album, of course. Additional contributors include American country star Alison Krauss, who lends sweet harmony to the hymnal "Unto the Hills." Bluegrass veteran Tim O'Brien, who has worked with Steve Martin, Garth Brooks, and Nickel Creek, sharpens Lee's easygoing sound with the mandolin and bazouki (both instruments in the lute family). Other notable musicians pop in and out through the album, yet their contributions remain understated; they never steal Lee's thunder. The merit of the album lies not in the impressive contributors, but in Lee's crooning and her brilliant combination of musical styles, ranging from sweet to solemn. Surprises abound--"Little Ballerina" features the darlingest dissonant rhythm guitar you've ever heard. The weary "Uphill" sounds like something off The Decemberists' doleful alt-country collaboration The Hazards of Love. The jazzy rendition of Carly Simon's "Older Sister" steals the show with tight harmonies, lap steel guitar accents, and doo-wop background vocals. The variety of sounds on this album will win fans from among those who normally eschew country music—that is its incredible charm. Just in time for summer, Julie Lee & The Baby Daddies is not one to miss: after a listen, it will have you crooning along, too.
Order this CD today!
Here's a collection we're confident poets and people of faith will keep by their bedside for years of re-reading. The work of editors Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler, A God in the House gathers conversations with nineteen of America's leading poets, reflecting on their diverse experiences with spirituality and the craft of writing. "I don't think many of us have what is called perfect faith," writes Fanny Howe. "We go with the sun, up and down, and live half-stunned by emptiness and the effort to stay on a horizontal plane in a circular situation. However, it may not be mad to hope that we are safe." In this spirit of possibility, the poets reflect widely upon prayer, religion, holiness, inspiration, death, justice, and—of course—poetry. Contributors include Li-Young Lee, Jane Hirschfield, Carolyn Forché, Gerald Stern, Joy Harjo, IMAGE contributors Christian Wiman and Gregory Orr, and many more. They reflect perspectives Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, Native American, Wiccan, and agnostic—generously, artistically, and with deep respect for the unsayable. "I don't think in terms of being an atheist or not," writes Grace Paley. "I would just say that we live in mystery, and the making of this world is simply great and mysterious." Gregory Orr writes, "I have faith that when the emotional, imaginative, and spiritual life is activated inside a person, when one becomes fully human, feeling and caring deeply, this represents a resurrection of some kind.... I choose to believe this has something to do with the beloved...that figure that exists independent of the self, that figure that calls us into relationship with the world...." Burgeoning with insight and incandescent prose, A God in the House is the rare book in which a celebration of religious diversity blossoms into unity: a chorus of voices for life, for awe, and for the sheer delight of language.
We have a friend at IMAGE who says that when someone begins an introduction by identifying himself as a Christian, her hands move in opposite directions: her right hand moves forward to extend a warm greeting, while the left sneaks back to flip on the crap detector in her back pocket. Our friend will love Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us, Phil Madeira's latest curated work of music out of Nashville. It's likely you have never heard of Phil Madeira, but if you've ever heard Emmylou Harris, you have probably heard him play. Madeira is a musician's musician, and the roster represented here reflects those relationships: Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Shawn Mullins, the Civil Wars, and more. The album began with a simple premise: "What if Jesus were love?" Madeira, who was in the first Phil Keaggy Band during the 70s, dropped out of the Christian music scene years ago—before it commercialized, peaked, and became derivative—and began pursuing musical projects and companions who, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of it, shared his sense of the brokenness of the world and our calling to do something about it. Mercyland is eclectic and Nashville-centric: country, blues, jazz/country, and bluegrass are all represented. Madeira's involvement is at the center as well: he acted as both executive producer and music producer, his performing credits ranging from accordion to slide guitar to vocals. There are a range of performances here, and not every track will appeal to every listener, but overall this is a strong collection. What makes this album truly remarkable is that, through all of its eclectic work and temptations to cynicism, the yearning human spirit—spurred by a hunger for mercy—comes through, loud and clear.
Pick up this album today and listen for yourself.
Dick Davison's Heavenly Architecture in Dallas
"The visible world, reality as we perceive it with our eyes, is indeed a great mystery," says Dick Davison, professor of visualization at Texas A&M College of Architecture. "The more one pursues the understanding of things visual, the more one is awed by the subtlety and complexity of visual reality as well as the apparatus, namely the eye and brain, that processes that information." With Heavenly Architecture: Concepts and Construction, Davison explores how this subtle complexity might reflect the divine. His work is lush and seems to approach the geometric with playfulness, never fearing to forgo its rules and spiral into something heavenly. The architecture he imagines conveys incredible spaciousness. "Davison's work is fresh and bright," said Scott Peck, museum curator. "These are mindscapes...exploring other realms, the realms of the spirit world and dimensions of the multi-verse." Davison's scholarly interests include design communication, drawing, painting, and color theory. He has taught art at the Texas A&M College of Architecture since 1981. Co-coordinator of the Department of Visualization's graduate programs, he holds an undergraduate degree in environmental design from Texas A&M, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of California, and an Master of Fine Arts from Washington University. His work will be showcased at the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas through June 22. For visiting information, visit the museum's website.
Call for Papers: Contemporary Arts and Worship
Arts & Christianity Ireland is seeking abstracts for their upcoming conference, "Risking Mystery: Contemporary Arts and Sacred Worship," to be held October 20, 2012, at Avila Carmelite Retreat Centre in Dublin. The fourth in a series of conferences focusing on contemporary arts and Christianity, this conference is interested in submissions from across all artistic disciplines as well as relevant theological papers. The conference, while primarily aimed at contemporary artists, seeks to speak also to pastoral leaders, theologians, and members of the public interested in the intersection of faith and contemporary arts. In conjunction with the conference, there will be an exhibition and a recital/performance. Some questions to consider: How do we speak of mystery in relation to contemporary arts? How is sacred mystery revealed/explored/expressed in contemporary art? Is there an intersection between worship and contemporary arts in mystery? Do contemporary arts have a role in unveiling sacred mystery in places of worship? Abstracts of no more than two pages double-spaced for 35-40 minute presentations should be submitted along with cover letter and C.V. to Donna Mae Linton.
Two Summer Arts Courses at Regent College
The first, "Drawing, Close to God: Regarding, the Vocation of the Artist," is a three-week intensive studio drawing class to help you explore and develop your understanding of your vocation as an artist. While the class will include some technical instruction in drawing, the majority of the focus will be on engaging various projects as a way of searching for and identifying aspects of a personal aesthetic and, ultimately, vocation. In addition to studio work, the time in class will include discussions and critiques. Additional work outside the class will primarily be devoted to individually driven research and drawing. This course is intensive, and will require at least five hours of in-studio time per day, including class instruction time. The second class, "The Interplay of Christianity, Arts, and Culture," will explore for two weeks the complex relationship between Christianity, culture, and the critical function of works of art as "bearers of meaning." It will focus on the challenges of contextualization, using case studies from Asia, Africa, and North America to investigate that critical interplay. Some of the case studies will be drawn from an exhibition of contemporary art by seven Asian and seven North American artists curated by the course instructor. For more information on these summer courses, click here.
Taproot Theatre Presents Leaving Iowa
Full of laughs and reminiscences, Taproot Theatre takes you on the ultimate family road trip in the regional premiere of Leaving Iowa. Remember those family vacations you tried to forget? Don's memories of family road trips come to life as he travels cross-country to scatter his father's ashes. Packed with rollicking good humor, this celebration of family reminds us that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Written by Tim Clue and Spike Manton and directed by Karen Lund, Leaving Iowa opens on May 18 and runs through June 16, with previews on May 16 and 17. For more information about the show and ticket prices, visit Taproot Theatre's website.
100 Saints You Should Know at Pacific Theatre
Oh, we of little faith. Meet Theresa, a former wild girl turned freelance maid who has been struck with the surprising desire to learn how to pray. She seeks out Matthew, a faithful priest who has been struck in turn with the realization that he is no longer able to pray. He runs to his long-suffering mother Colleen—a woman who can't not be a hostess. When Theresa goes to find him there, she brings her daughter, Abby, a classic troubled teen who wears apathy and shock value like everyday garments, and Garrett, the grocer's son who enjoys long walks with a flask. Crackling with life, 100 Saints You Should Know is brash, hilarious, touching, and brimming with recognizable characters. It plays May 4-26, Wednesday-Saturday at 8pm (with 2pm matinee on Saturday) at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver, B.C. For tickets and directions call 604.731.5518 or visit Pacific Theatre's website.
ImageNews -- The Scoop on Our Programs
Glen East and West 2012 Registration Now Open!
It’s already here: Registration for the 2012 Glen Workshops! East at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA (June 10-17, 2012); West in Santa Fe, NM (July 29-August 5, 2012). The Glen Workshop, a weeklong event combining the best elements of a workshop, an arts festival, and a symposium, has been a cornerstone of the IMAGE community for many years now, where participants practice and strengthen their craft and vision. In 2011 we celebrated the first-ever Glen East, and next year our faculty lineup is even better than ever: Glen East features classes with songwriters The Welcome Wagon, playwright Arlene Hutton, mixed media artist Barry Krammes, poet Gregory Orr, novelist Erin McGraw, as well as two nonfiction classes (with Lauren Winner and Scott Russell Sanders), Frederica Mathewes-Green with a seminar on icons, and Kathleen Norris presiding as chaplain. Glen West boasts the return of poets Robert Cording and Betsy Sholl, fiction writer Bret Lott, painter Kim Alexander, songwriters Over the Rhine, illustrator Barry Moser, and welcomes new faculty: photographer Michael Wilson, spiritual writer Susanne Antonetta, and director/screenwriter Scott Derrickson with a film seminar. This year's theme for both events is "The Generations in Our Bones: Art as Tradition": Does belonging to the tradition of religious faith change the way we respond to our literary and artistic influences? Is it possible to balance strength with humility, to develop our own voices while still engaging deeply with the great traditions that have equipped and formed us? Please note that class sizes are limited, and a couple are already more than half full: don't wait too long to register!
Find class descriptions, videos, and registration information here.
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If you like reading about great new art and writing inspired by faith in ImageUpdate, and you're ready to get down to reading and seeing the stuff itself, it's time to subscribe to Image. Each quarter our editors comb the world of art and letters to bring you our favorite new work--work that respects transcendent mystery as well as the gritty truth of the material world that bears the divine imprint. A one-year subscription gets you four beautifully produced issues delivered right to your door. Ninety percent of the journal's content is not available on our website, but only through what we call "the sacrament of print." Click here to get the magazine Terry Tempest Williams calls "evocative and inspiring" and Bret Lott calls "the most meaningful literary journal being produced today."
ImageUpdatePublisher: Gregory Wolfe
Managing Editor: Tyler McCabe
Layout: David Rither
Contributors: Shauna Hagreen, Anna Johnson, Tyler McCabe, Mary Kenagy Mitchell, Taylor Olsen, Stuart Scadron-Wattles, and Gregory Wolfe.
ImageUpdate is the biweekly e-mail newsletter from Image, a quarterly print journal that explores the relationship between Judeo-Christian faith and art through contemporary fiction, poetry, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, music, and dance. Each issue also features interviews, memoirs, essays, and reviews.
ImageUpdate brings you news about books, CDs, organizations, websites, conferences, exhibitions, and tours--all of which inhabit the intersection between faith and imagination. ImageUpdate will also notify you whenever a new issue of Image is printed, an Image event is upcoming, or new content is posted to our website.
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