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Issue #52 | June 15, 2004


The Good Life by Erin McGraw
Artist: Christian Vocation in Postmodern Culture
Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination
Austin Echo
Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art

Message Board
Realizing the Sacred. Through Participation in the Arts
Fourth Annual Oneiros Press Poetry Contest
Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture

The SPU MFA: It's Official
The 2004-5 Milton Center Fellow: Linda Wendling
Subscribe to Image online
Share ImageUpdate with a friend





ImageThe Good Life by Erin McGraw
Erin McGraw's short stories have appeared over recent years in great journals like the Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and Image-and finally they're all together in one volume, making for a magnetic, quick-reading, and satisfying book. Her wry, devastating new collection is called The Good Life-a title both wistful and ironic. Skeptical, smart-mouthed, and observant, Erin McGraw's people don't suffer fools, flakes, do-gooders, oversimplifiers, or sentimentalists, but they keep meeting them, frequently under their own roofs. McGraw writes about people getting under each other's skin. Engaging as car-wrecks, her stories are ferocious little moral exercises, and the lesson again and again is humility, new eyes, transformation through weakness, and more humility. In nearly every story there's a turn where the weak become strong, the first become last, the bottom rung goes on the top, the underdog becomes terrifying, and always at the expense of the smart-mouthed, quick-minded character, who is also the character you have the most sympathy for. A self-help guru is undone by her own family; an AA sponsor undone by her sponsee; bitchy dance students, dieting priests, and hapless seminarians all come to the ends of their ropes. Like Mrs. Turpin, McGraw's proud, flawed, flippant characters share the redeeming virtue of still being soft enough to be changed-though they themselves are usually surprised to find this out.

To read about Erin, visit her Artist of the Month page.

ImageArtist: Christian Vocation in Postmodern Culture
Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, is pleased to announce Artist: Christian Vocation in Postmodern Culture, an art show and conference. The event runs from September 10-11, 2004, at Hendrix College. Works of art by Edward Knippers, Ted Prescott, and Krystyna Sanderson will be on display for the Show Opening at 4pm. The conference will take place the following day, with featured speakers Gregory Wolfe, Krystyna Sanderson, Ted Prescott, Art Pontynen, Edward Knippers, and E. John Walford. Cost of registration is $25 for non-students, and students may attend for free. Please note that late registration (after July 16, 2004) will increase to $40. To register, please send your name, address, email address, and applicable registration fee to: Artist-as-Vocation Conference, Hendrix-Lilly Vocations Initiative, Hendrix College, 1600 Washington Avenue, Conway, AR 72032. Confirmation of your registration will be emailed to the address you provide.

E-mail your questions to the conference organizer, Rod Miller, at [email protected].

ImageWalter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination
Reprinted in 2001, Walter Brueggemann's seminal work, The Prophetic Imagination, continues to have both a theological and cultural impact on readers. In recent years, it was voted as one of the "Top 100 Religious Books of the 20th Century" by a large panel of regular contributors to Christianity Today. First published in 1978, the book is both a biblical study and social critique from a prophetic perspective. Brueggemann views the prophetic ministry, modeled after Moses and the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, as one that nurtures, nourishes, and evokes a "consciousness and perception alternative" to that of the dominant culture. After describing the tradition of Moses and the alternative community of Israel, he suggests: "Prophetic ministry has to do not primarily with addressing specific public crises but with addressing, in season and out of season, the dominant crisis that is enduring and resilient, of having our alternative vocation co-opted and domesticated." This "addressing" is done in two ways. Prophetic criticism, as seen in the grief of Jeremiah, speaks against the culture. Brueggemann calls this "Royal Consciousness," or announcing that something is wrong. For only in the empire, he writes, "are we pressed and urged and invited to pretend that things are all right." Prophetic energizing, as seen in Isaiah, calls for the prophet to offer hope to the culture. "The hope-filled language of prophecy, in cutting through the royal despair and hopelessness, is the language of amazement." It is a language of hope that celebrates newness in the face of odds -- just as prophetic grief is an antidote to numbness, so prophetic hope is an antidote to despair. Walter Brueggemann is currently Professor Emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. In November 2004, Fortress Press will publish Brueggemann's latest work, The Book That Breathes New Life: Scriptural Authority and Biblical Theology.

For more on Walter Brueggemann, click here.

ImageAustin Echo
After years of developing their own musical paths, Paste Records recording artists John Austin and Erin Echo have released their first album as a duo. Produced by friend and collaborator Glen Matullo (John Mayer and Indigo Girls), the April 2004 release is an acoustic-based journey into varied aspects of human life and love. "I wanted to make a simple record of good songs," Austin says, "that document the emotional terrain of a love relationship at different stages along life's way." Though known for his lyrics, Austin says, "The music usually comes first, and then I write pages and pages.finishing a song, I think I pretty much know how to do. But I don't know where they come from." Echo summarizes the process: "All I know is there are little pieces of paper all over the house." That both lyrics and music hold a central place is much evidenced in such songs as the opening track, "Effortlessly Beautiful," and the Mark Heard-like "Rainbows Will Fade," a song investigating the heartbreaking pessimism evoked by the loss of dreams. On "Losing Oxygen," Austin and Echo meld their harmonies in such a way as to call to mind a subtle, less twang-laced Buddy and Julie Miller. Austin and Echo, who are also married, first met in Chicago in the early nineties-Austin performing in local clubs and coffeehouses, Echo studying music. Like a good song, the relationship took time. Reminiscing about the eight-year journey to marriage, Austin recalls the advice of Heard, producer of Austin's first album The Embarrassing Young. "He was really impressed with her. In fact, he said, 'Why don't you just marry Erin?' I should have listened to him." Having collaborated on Echo's debut album, as well as four out of five Austin albums, the duo furthers their musical partnership on a project featuring many other well-established musicians, including Brandon Bush (Train) and Don Peris (Innocence Mission). Austin is currently co-writing with Columbia Records artist Shawn Mullins for Mullins' forthcoming album.

To hear samples of Austin Echo, check concert dates, and learn more, visit their website at

ImageHand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art
by Jean-Louis Chrétien
At once a philosopher, theologian, and award-winning poet, Jean-Louis Chrétien brings a unique voice to the conversation about a fundamental question: how do our responses to art shape our lives? In his new book, Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art, he explores the question from the unique vantage point of his diverse disciplinary background. Chrétien explores how responses to art-words, gestures, expressions, and silence-can shape human life, while at the same time making us aware of its limitations. To do this, he calls upon a broad range of poets and painters such as Keats, Manet, Rembrandt, and Delacroix in order to probe their mysteries. Here spirituality is not peripheral but central: chapters like "How to Wrestle with the Irresistible" and "From God the Artist to Man the Creator" integrate spirituality in a rich and insightful way. Calling upon a wide swath of figures from within the Judeo-Christian tradition, Chrétien takes the reader on an enlightening walk through philosophy, theology, and aesthetics. Though the text's theoretical elements at first glance seem daunting, Hand to Hand is very readable and eminently practical-in Chrétien's words, the book is "a dialogue with the works and what they look upon."

For more on Hand to Hand, click here.




If you have information other ImageUpdate readers might find interesting, share it here! Do you have a question that you hope a member of the ImageUpdate community might have the answer to? Ask it here. Have your messages posted by sending an email to [email protected].

(For a complete catalogue of continuing events and announcements supplied by Image Update readers, check out "What's New Elsewhere.")

Realizing the Sacred. Through Participation in the Arts
Sometimes artists are still observers, watching and seeing the interaction between people, things, and ideas. Sometimes artists are active participants in the struggle, wrestling with ideas and media and themselves. From October 1-4, 2004, Realizing the Sacred. Through Participation in the Arts will offer focused study for individual spiritual growth in Painting, Drama, and Musical Composition. Using the Old Testament stories of Jacob, participants will work to make the sacred real in their art, to realize their struggle with the sacred and to realize that their struggles are sacred. Instructors include Erica Grimm-Vance (Figurative Painting, Encaustic Technique), Jan Mittelstaedt (Computer-generated Musical Composition), Jane VanBoskirk (Creative Drama), and Lynn Miller (Pastor, Retreat Leader, Ecclesiastical Designer). Retreat participants will meet with Miller in the mornings for leadership and devotions, attend workshops throughout the day, and will gather in the evenings for special programming including dramatic readings and musical performances. There will be a special time for participants to share their individual work. This event will take place at the Menucha Retreat and Conference Grounds in Corbett, OR, and is sponsored by First Presbyterian Church of Portland, OR. Deadline for registration is September 1, 2004, or until all spots are filled. Registration is limited to 15 persons per workshop. To reserve your space, send non-refundable deposit check for $100 to: First Presbyterian Church, c/o Candace Primack, 1200 SW Alder Street, Portland, OR, 97205. Detailed information will be sent upon registration. Costs include all meals, lodging, and workshop fees.

For more information on the retreat, including accommodation costs, email Candace Primack at [email protected] or call First Presbyterian Church at (503) 228-7331.

Fourth Annual Oneiros Press Poetry Contest
Oneiros Press announces its Fourth Annual Poetry Contest! Previously published poems are acceptable; under 30 lines. $5 for the first three poems, $1 for each additional poem. Make checks out to Stephen Frech, and mail the materials to: Stephen Frech, Oneiros Press, Department of English, Millikin University, Decatur, IL 62522. Michael Ondaatje will act as Judge for this year's contest. Deadline is June 30th, 2004. Limited edition, letterpress broadsides are included in special collections at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, the Newberry Library in Chicago, SUNY Buffalo's Poetry and Rare Book collection, and others. The broadsides are as follows: Ai Tormenta de Muerte: Hurricane Mitch, November, 1998 Series 3, Vol 1; Lawrence Ferlinghetti Deep Chess, Series 2, Vol 1; Albert Goldbarth In the X-Ray of the Sarcophagus of Ta-Pero, Series 1, Vol 1; Thea Kuticka Hurricane Linda Strikes the California Coastline, 2001 Winner Series 2, Vol 2; Jane Mead Lack, the Willow, Series 1, Vol 2; Barbara McGrath Shift, 2000 Winner Series 1, Vol 3. All are signed and numbered (in a run of 150) and sell for $50 per broadside.

Questions: [email protected]

Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture
From November 18-20, 2004, the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture will present its fifth annual fall conference, to be held on the University of Notre Dame campus. The theme this year is Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture. Among the keynote speakers will be Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image. The conference will examine the variety of ways in which the fine arts can help build a more genuinely Christian civilization in an era that is increasingly post-Christian in its character. This conference will focus reflection on the fine arts and their place in a culture of life. The Center is especially interested in attracting to the conference as many working artists as possible, both to speak from their own experience as artists and to illustrate their commitment to their crafts through live performance and exhibition. The Center welcomes the submission of abstracts drawing on a wide range of moral and religious perspectives and academic specialties. Possible themes to be explored include art as cultural formation, the relationship between art and religion, the various Christian approaches to art, and many other topics which can be found on the conference website. One-page abstracts for individual papers should include name, affiliation, address, and e-mail address (if available). Session presentations will be limited to twenty minutes. Proposals for live performances, panel discussions and artist-meets-critics sessions are also encouraged. Deadline for submissions is July 30, 2004. Notification of acceptance will be mailed by August 31, 2004. Abstracts should be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, Epiphanies of Beauty, 1047 Flanner Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556.

For a complete list of themes to be explored and other conference information, click here.


The SPU MFA: It's Official
Our host institution, Seattle Pacific University, has officially approved a new, low-residency Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Image will be playing a central role in the program. For those of you who want to know more about the program: be patient. We are now putting together web pages, brochure copies, etc., etc. You'll be the first to know when that sort of thing is ready. In the meantime: please spread the word. Ours will be the only university-sponsored MFA that incorporates the Christian faith into the curriculum - a first in Christian higher education. If you know someone who might be interested in applying for the program - scheduled to begin with the first residency in August, 2005 - have them send an e-mail with their contact info to us: [email protected].

The 2004-5 Milton Center Fellow: Linda Wendling
The Milton Center @ IMAGE is pleased to award its 2004-5 postgraduate fellowship in writing to Linda Wendling of St. Louis, Missouri. With twenty applications this year, competition for the fellowship was particularly fierce. Wendling completed her B. A. in English, summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri in 1990. She has earned both an M. A. in English and an M. F. A. in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri in St. Louis. Wendling is a Best New Writers of the South winner, a Heartland Fiction Prize winner, and a Ploughshares "Emerging Writers" nominee. Her stories and novel excerpts have appeared in River Styx, Microfiction: An Anthology of Really Short Stories, and New Stories from the South: The Year's Best. Wendling currently teaches writing and editing courses at the University of Missouri, where she has been a faculty member for the past ten years. She has been an instructor at the St. Louis Writer's Workshop since 2000 and works as a writing coach and consultant. An active member of St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship and co-founder of the Mennonite group Flat Mountain, Linda has been involved in St. Louis life for many years. We are looking forward to welcoming her to Image and Seattle Pacific University this fall.

For more information on the Milton Center and its postgraduate fellowship, go to:

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Publisher: Gregory Wolfe
Editor: Brenna Thompson
Layout: James Williams
Contributors: Mary Kenagy, Matt Malyon, Brenna Thompson, James Williams, 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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Copyright © 2004 Center for Religious Humanism. All rights reserved.