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Issue #96 | April 15, 2006


Half/Life: Jew-ish* Tales from Interfaith** Homes
Lives of the Sleepers by Ned Balbo
The Third Annual Denise Levertov Award Goes to: Kathleen Norris
Joy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art
by Sister Wendy Beckett
September 12th Named Best Feature Film

Gallery Watch
Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak’s Chornobyl
Avoda: Objects of the Spirit

“The Church Has Left the Building”
Seeing God: A Call for Entries
NYCita: At the Crossroads of Theatre and Faith

Message Board
Call for Entries for Religious Art and Architecture
Crisis, Catharsis, and Contemplation
April Arts Festival at Fuller Seminary
Download FREE Dana Gioia lecture
A Request for Poetic Assistance: Envisioning the Resurrection

Register Now for the 2006 Glen Workshop!
Image Forum: Let Your Voice Be Heard!
Subscribe to Image online
Share ImageUpdate with a friend
Changing Your Email Address?




Joe Iacovino in September 12th


ImageHalf/Life: Jew-ish* Tales from Interfaith** Homes
Laurel Snyder grew up in Baltimore with an Irish-Catholic mom and a Jewish Socialist dad. Though her parents raised her Jewish in a pretty casual sense (to “make things easier at the holidays”), she found herself drawn early and irresistibly to belief—in stories, in traditions, in passionate friendship. Though the object of belief fluctuated, the pull remained. After her parents split (she was eight), she found a way to create for herself what she calls a half/life, one that weaves in both strands of her childhood. As a young woman, after graduating from the Iowa Writers Workshop in poetry and becoming a regular contributor to the irreverent interfaith website Killing the Buddha, she discovered that she wasn’t the only one. In fact, the more she looked, the more she found that she was surrounded by people who had complicated relationships with their own Jewish identities—either because they were, like her, from mixed homes, or because of some other combination of identities: Jewish and gay, Jewish in Texas, etc. Eighteen of these voices are brought together in the anthology Half/Life, edited by Snyder and just out from Soft Skull Press. The collection is confessional, full of sweet, homey details and notes of trauma and frustration. It’s both nostalgic and irreverent, by turns serious, peculiar, sad, and searching. The writers are mostly youngish, and most approach the question from the same angle: with personal narratives beginning in childhood, a dawning sense of unease, and now, in young adulthood, varying degrees of hard-won peace. Pieces by one or two writers from earlier generations—or else pieces that focused on figures other than the writer—might have offered some interesting contrasts. The picture of half-Jewishness that emerges does end up feeling a little homogenous. Still, the voices are full of wit, emotion, and intelligence. Most haunting is the way that through it all, you sense in these young people the persistent tug—through the ancient stories, traditions, words, foods, prayers, and habits—of the God that called Israel.

Visit Laurel Snyder’s blog for more on the book—and her life—at

ImageLives of the Sleepers by Ned Balbo
Throughout Lives of the Sleepers, Ned Balbo finds the critical moment when cause engages effect—when life, beyond our control, tips into a kind of living death, or adoration siezes us with a blind grasping after the beloved until, suddenly and mysteriously, we are brought back to our senses. Guided by ancient mythology, Balbo creates a netherworld of human longing stretching from classical poetry to the scientific age. If that sounds like another poet who is haunted by the voices of the past, it’s no coincidence. Lives of the Sleepers leans on such masters as Dante, Virgil, and Petrarch—not to mention The Tibetan Book of the Dead. (Alfred Hitchcock is also thrown in for good measure.) Less an updating than an homage, this collection gracefully brings poetic idylls of desire and redemption down to earth. The quiet turnings of leave taking and lovemaking in our own lives bring old muses to life: “May/ She still be laughing while she parts / Lank wet hair in the mirror, shirt / Unbuttoned as she stands, skin wet / where a few drops trail.” Balbo’s affection for moments like Beatrice finally hearing Dante’s plea for her help, listening “past the music of the spheres—that slow, celestial humming—for his voice,” makes the classical contemporary. Petrarch’s entanglement with Laura is unraveled by a scientific equation, only to be embroiled again in the ongoing mystery of human relationship. The Christians in the title poem, persecuted by Rome and sealed away like first century Rip Van Winkles, awaken into an unfamiliar world. There they face the gravity of their loss—the stripping away of the familiar. This is an experience not far off from the leap of faith, which involves leaving old, comforting things behind. Lives of the Sleepers is a search for places of emergence, from past into present, fear into hope, sleep into waking—or, as it may happen, back again into the realm of dreams.

For more on Lives of the Sleepers, winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize for Poetry, click here.

The Third Annual Denise Levertov Award Goes to: Kathleen Norris
Every year Image and the Seattle Pacific University English Department present the Denise Levertov Award, named after one of the twentieth century’s finest poets, to an artist or creative writer whose work exemplifies a serious and sustained engagement with the Judeo-Christian tradition. This year’s recipient is Kathleen Norris, award-winning poet and spiritual writer whose work is at once intimate and historical, rich in poetry, meditation, exasperation, and reverence. Her first non-fiction book, Dakota: A Spiritual Biography, was named the New York Times “Notable Book of the Year,” an arresting exploration of the day-to-day that reflects upon the self, social and spiritual community, and a landscape as astonishing as it is unforgiving. Since Dakota’s release, Norris has continued to draw together the ordinary with stirrings of mystery. Her portrait of the monastic life in The Cloister Walk follows in the path of Thomas Merton, unfolding the daily habits of devotion and discipline, with gentle attention to the lives of the saints, Emily Dickinson, and the realities of loneliness, celibacy, and monogamy. Her newest release, The Virgin of Bennington, accompanies Norris in confessional mode as a young woman entering the New York art world of the ‘60s and ‘70s, before her move to South Dakota. Part “pondering visionary,” part “news reporter,” Norris writes so as to mingle the dust of daily life with language “as refreshing as a rain that drenches parched soil.” Kathleen Norris is the author of Dakota: A Spiritual Geography and the bestsellers Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith and The Virgin of Bennington. Her seven volumes of poetry include Falling Off and Little Girls in Church. Norris has been in residence twice at the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and has been an oblate of Assumption Abbey in North Dakota for nearly twenty years and divides her time between South Dakota and Honolulu, Hawaii.

Held in partnership this year with St. Mark’s Cathedral and co-sponsored by the SPU Department of English and MFA in Creative Writing program, the Levertov Award presentation and reading will take place May 24 at 7:30 pm in the nave at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Norris will give a lecture entitled, “The Relief of Hearing Language: Readings with Commentary,” and read from some of her upcoming work following the presentation. The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, click here.

ImageJoy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art
by Sister Wendy Beckett

Sister Wendy Beckett became an unlikely media star in the 1990s when a television producer overheard her explaining some paintings at a museum. He asked her to do a series of short TV spots—basically filler between programs—based on glances at single works of art. The rest is history. She cut an unusual figure in the worlds of broadcast media and high art: there’s the old-fashioned nun’s habit and the buck-toothed grin, of course, but also her obvious intelligence, lack of pretension, enthusiasm, and earnestness about great visual art. All these attributes somehow made her a quietly compelling guide. Beyond the television documentaries, Sister Wendy has published a series of books, the latest of which is Joy Lasts: On the Spiritual in Art. To be honest, this slim volume is more of a long essay, but it has a number of strong selling points, including quality reproductions of the artworks discussed. The conceit upon which the book is based is that the good Sister could discuss any work in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In typical Sister Wendy fashion she weaves between paintings from different time periods and national origins, mixing chatty personal responses with more objective art history and criticism. In this book she focuses on the “spiritual,” a term of approbation that she says is not always the same thing as “religious.” There are religious works that have no spiritual power and spiritual works that are secular in nature. So she can praise the honesty and passion of a Cezanne still life and question the sentimentality and unreality of a Domenichino The Way to Calvary. As she takes us for a virtual tour of some of the Getty’s highlights she slowly but hesitantly works her way toward the final work she discusses: El Greco’s Christ on the Cross. Her hesitation stems from the difficulty she has in facing depictions of the crucifixion—which is the kind of candid detail about her life that has made her such an endearingly human—and spiritual—guide to art.

To learn more about the book, click here.

ImageSeptember 12th Named Best Feature Film
A few ImageUpdate issues ago, we noted that one of the first films to confront 9/11 was also likely to be one of the finest. It looks like we were on the money. Just a few weeks ago September 12th was named the Best Feature Film at Willamette Week’s Longbaugh Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. (Think of the Willamette Week as the Village Voice of the West.) Film festival critics were impressed with the humanity and heart of the film. As one critic put it, September 12th is an attempt to look at 9/11 in a "fully human" way. We wholeheartedly agree. There is a classic, almost mythic simplicity to the film’s plot. At a memorial service for Lori Riga, a victim of 9/11, a man approaches the grieving family and asks if he can speak to the mother. But because the mysterious stranger is a lawyer, he is sent packing—just one more parasite on tragedy, the family concludes. The story then centers on Lori’s brother Frank, a ne’er-do-well who nonetheless remains haunted by his sister’s death and his desire to know who she really was. Talking through the wee hours of the night to her fiancé proves almost more painful that Frank can bear, because the portrait that emerges of Lori is of a selfish, ambitious person. Finally, driven by a desire for revenge, Frank seeks out the lawyer, prepared to take out all his frustration in an act of vengeance. But what he discovers when he hears the lawyer’s tale suddenly changes everything. September 12th was made on a shoestring budget by a community of friends who believe that the Christian drama is the human drama, that fidelity to the reality of our experience brings us closer to mystery and to love. People are starting to get the message.

To see trailers and purchase a DVD of the film, go to the film’s website here.

To go to the Longbaugh Film Festival website, go to

Gallery Watch

ImageLydia Bodnar-Balahutrak's Chornobyl - a Solo Art Exhibition
April 26, 2006 marks the 20-year anniversary of the nuclear plant explosion in Chornobyl, Ukraine. Ten years ago, Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak visited the Chornobyl Zone with a Ukrainian radio-oncologist for an officially sanctioned one-day visit of the radiation-saturated, fenced 40-mile wide circle northwest of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. What she saw and experienced, along with much material gathered and documented since 1986, is at the heart of the selection of artwork in her University of Houston-Clear Lake solo exhibition, Chornobyl. The exhibition features mixed media paintings that combine seemingly contradictory and disparate materials and processes-lead and gold, organic and inert materials, hand embroidery and torching. The thirteen works on canvas, wood, and paper, selected from several series begun after 1986 and continuing through 2005, evoke the Chornobyl cataclysm in its many manifestations. Accompanying the exhibit is the artist's essay, recounting her impressions of the Zone and reflecting on ways it influenced her ensuing artwork. Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak's solo exhibition Chornobyl is on view from now through May 31, 2006 in the Art Gallery of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, the Bayou Building , Atrium I, First Level. The gallery is located at 2700 Bay Area Blvd., Houston, Texas 77058. Gallery hours are 8 am - 6 pm Monday through Thursday, 8 am - 12 pm on Friday, or by prior arrangement. Visitor parking is provided in front of the Bayou Building. For further information, please call UH/CL at 281-283-3446.

Avoda: Objects of the Spirit
The Jewish Museum of Florida and Braman Family Foundation present 42 pieces of Jewish ceremonial art created by internationally renowned painter and sculptor Tobi Kahn. This exhibit explores the rise of spirituality in America and the personal relevance of ritual and tradition in daily life. Avoda: Objects of the Spirit will be on display from March 7 – August 20, 2006. The Jewish Museum of Florida is located on 301 Washington Aveune, Miami Beach, FL 33139. For more information, visit


“The Church Has Left the Building”: An MSA Conference in Seattle
Those who have followed the writings and works of Tom Sine over the past couple decades know that he has his eye on the future—but only to help us live more fully in the present. Sine’s organization, Mustard Seed Associates, presents “The Church Has Left the Building.” Christians from all over the world will gather to attend this event, to be held April 28-29 in Seattle at Trinity Methodist Church.

For more information, click here.

Seeing God: A Call for Entries
Seeing God, a nationally juried show sponsored by The Dadian Gallery of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion and the Washington Printmakers Gallery, announces a call for entries. Selected artists will have their work shown at the exhibition from October 23, 2006 to December 15, 2006.

For more information, click here.

NYCITA: At the Crossroads of Theatre and Faith
Join Christians in the Theater Arts June 15-17, 2006 in New York for a fast-paced journey to the intersection between Christianity and theater. A first-rate group of scholars, pastors and artists will offer intellectual challenge each morning in plenary sessions at Calvary Baptist Church 123 W. 57th Street in the heart of New York City. The afternoon will be reserved for a variety of excursions into the city. Over the weekend, we'll explore every facet of theater, faith, and the experience of working and living in the Big Apple.

For more information, go to, email [email protected], or call 877-277-CITA.



























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].

Call for Entries: 2006 IFRAA / Faith & Form Awards Program for Religious Art & Architecture
The Annual Religious Art and Architecture Design Awards Program is co-sponsored by Faith & Form Magazine and the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture (IFRAA), a professional interest area (PIA) of the American Institute of Architects. The Awards Program was founded in 1978 with the goal of honoring the best in architecture, design, and art for religious spaces. There are four primary categories for awards: religious architecture, liturgical/interior design, religious arts, and sacred landscape (just added last year). Entries are welcomed and encouraged from architects, designers, artists, and consultants. Any person responsible for the original work of art may enter regardless of project location (worldwide), project size, budget, or style. Award recipients receive significant recognition, including printed and framed citations, recognition at an IFRAA awards presentation, full-page coverage in Faith & Form’s Annual Awards Issue, and project board exhibition at the AIA National Convention. The application deadline is May 26, 2006; the entry submission deadline is July 7, 2006. For information about eligibility, submission requirements, or other questions, please contact: Ann Kendall, Faith & Form Awards Program at [email protected], or via phone at 206.938.6202, or fax 206.260.1447.

If you are interested in subscribing to Faith & Form Magazine, please visit

To view more information about the IFRAA call for entries, please visit

Crisis, Catharsis, and Contemplation in Australia
Crisis, Catharsis, and Contemplation is a landmark exhibition of contemporary art installed in the neo-gothic side chapels, confessionals, and sacred spaces of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia and St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. The exhibition includes works by both religious and non-religious artists, ranging from the ambivalent to the devout. Their video projections, light and sound installations, stained glass, sculptures, drawings and paintings sensitively engage with the Cathedral space and enter into an artistic dialogue with the gothic architecture. The works compete for attention while calling for a rediscovery of meaning in the original nineteenth century stained glass, carved stone, and architecture. The exhibition invites reflection on the often fraught relationship between art, Christian faith, and the Catholic Church. Curated by David Rastas, Crisis, Catharsis, and Contemplation has been kindly supported by John Garratt Publishing, the Catholic Development Fund, the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and Artes Christi. The exhibition opens on April 28, 2006 at 6 pm and runs through May 18, before moving to St. Mary’s Cathedral. St. Patrick's Cathedral is located on the corner Albert St. and Gisborne St., East Melbourne, and is open every day from 9 am - 5 pm. Admission is free. For photographs of the work and further information, contact David Rastas at +61 407 047 887, [email protected], or Ishmael Bryce at + 61 3 9421 6726.

April Arts Festival at Fuller Theological Seminary
Join Fuller Seminary April 24-29 for a weeklong festival of the arts featuring lectures by Makoto Fujimura, visual artist and founder of IAM; Bill Dyrness, co-director of Visual Faith; and contemporary art critic Dan Siedell. Artists and laypeople from all backgrounds are invited to celebrate and discuss the diverse and enriching ways that we worship God through art. The week also includes concerts with hip-hop artist the Ambassador, the “dazzlingly sweet” and enigmatic pop music of Half-Handed Cloud, and a performance of “In C” by composer Terry Riley. The festival is co-sponsored by the Arts Concerns Committee and the Brehm Center, a center for the study of worship, theology, and art at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Please visit or call 626.304.3789 for more information about the schedule of events.

Download Dana Gioia’s "Artist as Reconcilers" lecture FREE
If you’ve never had the chance to hear Dana Gioia, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, speak, prepare to be wowed. Download and listen to his keynote talk from the International Arts Movement's "Artist as Reconcilers" conference, held last month at Cooper Union University in New York City. Go to iTunes (download from under "Launch Music Store." (iTunes is separate from your web browser.) Once iTunes is downloaded and open on your computer, select "Podcasts" from the top bar. Search for "IAM" and click on the subscription for "International Arts Movement." Gioia's lecture and two others will download to your computer at no cost. Other lectures by Dr. Miroslav Volf, Rev. Ian Cron, Rev. Tom Pike, Betty Spackman, and Makoto Fujimura are available for members. Please visit for more information.

A Request for Poetic Assistance: Envisioning the Resurrection
I need major help from someone who has the poetic gift. I am working on a book in which I argue that many people of Christian faith are working from two seriously flawed images of the good life and better future. On the one side, many of us uncritically embrace the images born of modernity that power the global consumer mall. These are images of the individual pursuit of more, of ever expanding consumer choice and a constant search to experience the new. Alternately, many Christians tend to embrace images of a disembodied future in the clouds, largely divorced from our real lives and the real world. I have written some very rough prose that seeks to draw on ancient prophetic imagination and offer an alternative to both of these visions. The imagery is of a great resurrected multicultural community coming home to a restored creation. It envisions people of different cultures joining in a mountain ascent, celebrating a future in which justice comes for the poor, healing to the broken, and peace to the nations. The challenge is how to contemporize and concretize this kind of imagery in a way that connects with both our real world and our real lives ... and that isn't Pollyanna-ish. What I am reaching for is what Walter Brueggemann calls "a new reason for being," really trying to give readers a new, compelling reason to roll out of bed Monday morning, that offers a new focus for their entire lives. If you would be interested in giving me a hand, I can send you a copy my ragged prose to start with, and we can begin a conversation. Please contact Tom Sine at [email protected].








Register Now for the 2006 Glen Workshop!
“Love and Affliction: Art and the Paradox of Suffering”
July 30 – August 6, 2005

The Glen Workshop is Image's illuminating conference on the arts and religion, where participants practice and strengthen their craft and vision in community. This weeklong event combines the best elements of a workshop, an arts festival, and a symposium. By exploring this year’s theme, “Love and Affliction: Art and the Paradox of Suffering,” participants will share a common ground for discussion during the week. Morning workshops are small enough to allow the faculty to give close attention to each participant—to beginners as well as those advanced in their craft. This year’s faculty includes illustrator Barry Moser, playwright Arlene Hutton, poets Scott Cairns and Jeanine Hathaway, Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist of Over the Rhine, fiction writer Bret Lott, mixed-media artist Barry Krammes, porcelain artist Ginger Geyer, and others. Afternoons and evenings at the Glen feature faculty readings, lectures, and presentations. Each evening concludes with an ecumenical worship service that incorporates the arts. This year’s musician-in-residence, Pierce Pettis, will be giving a concert as well as playing during worship throughout the week; Eugene Peterson will be the homilist. Free time offers participants opportunities for writing, conversation, hiking, and exploring the stunning scenery and cultural treasures in and around Santa Fe. Surrounded by the stark, dramatic beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Glen is hosted at St. John’s campus and is within easy reach of the rich cultural, artistic, and spiritual traditions of northern New Mexico. Please note that class sizes are limited: don’t wait too long to register!

If you are on the Image subscriber list, you’ll automatically receive a brochure. If you’d like to have one mailed to you, send us an e-mail by clicking here.

To register for the Glen Workshop, click here.

And for a personal perspective on the Glen experience, read Roz Dimon’s brief reflection here.

Image Forum: Let Your Voice Be Heard!
As a quarterly journal, Image doesn't have a "Letters to the Editor" section that you see in periodicals that appear more frequently. We've always regretted that, because through our pages--and programs like the Glen Workshop and the Image Conference--we've been striving to build community, to stimulate a larger conversation in artistic and religious circles, both in this country and around the world. Now, thanks to some hard work on our webmaster's part, we've launched the Image Forum, a full-featured online message board system. You now have the chance to post and respond to a host of message threads. Write a virtual Letter to the Editor. Start a thread in any of several different forums devoted to particular art forms. Share your work with others. Let us know how to make the Forum better. Let your voice be heard!

Subscribe (and a whole lot more) Online
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Publisher: Gregory Wolfe
Managing Editor: Grace Shalhoub Peterson
Copy Editor: Julie Mullins
Layout: David Rither
Contributors: Mary Kenagy, Julie Mullins, Grace Shalhoub Peterson, 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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