Community Conversations

Look at Our Fall 2019 Events

I believe that artists, through their gift of in-sight and sensitivity, open the way to the new, through images of our evolving moment in history.  Like the mystics, artists envision our new reality before others and are called to live into it in both image and in their lives, before it is enfleshed in society. 

Pat Irr, OSF

Are you an artist? A painter, a writer, an experimenter, an encourager, a collaborator, and/or a celebrator of the Intersection between Art and Spirituality? Are you inspired by spending time with artists who share this vision?

Anawim Arts encourages you a look at our expanded Schedule of Events for the Fall of 2019.

Here is a quick overview of the opportunities:

  • Join a four week Wisdom Writers Circle beginning September 5.
  • On September 22, spend an afternoon with Mystics Among Us exploring what it means to be a mystic and balance inward and outward expression.
  • In October, there are two options for experiential retreats – a day long retreat on October 15 in Wheaton, IL and an expanded two day retreat on October 26-27 in Frankfort, IL. Each retreat will offer the opportunity to “unleash the creative mystic in yourself, and express your soul through movement, art, writing, and circle sharing.”
  • And don’t miss the Fall Art Show that will open with an Artist’s Reception on November 10. The deadline for submissions is October 28.
  • New this year – In conjuction with the Art Show, we will be publishing a Fall Literary Journal on the theme of Wabi-Sabi. The deadline for literary submissions is October 14.

Wabi-Sabi: The 2019 Fall Art Show

We hope you have seen the announcement of our 2019 Fall Art Show. The exhibition will run from November 10 – December 15 with an Artists’ Reception on Sunday, November 10, from 3 – 5 PM.

The exhibit will feature pieces inspired by the idea of wabi-sabi. Tadao Ando explains that “Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered – reveres authenticity above all.”   Andrew Juniper says, “If an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy, and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.”

Visual artists are invited to submit up to three works for consideration. For more information see the event flyer.

We also invite all of you to join this community conversation about your experiences of beauty and imperfection by leaving comments below or submitting a piece that we could share as a part of this blog.

Here is the definition of Wabi-Sabi that Arlene Ashack, IBVM has provided.

Wabi
as beauty is humility, asymmetry, and imperfection, a beauty of disintegration, of soil, of autumn leaves, grass in drought, crow feathers.
 
Sabi
is a quality of stillness and solitude, a melancholy that is one of the basic human responses to and sources of beauty.
 
Wabi-Sabi
is the beauty of the withered, weathered, tarnished, scarred, intimate, coarse, earthly, evanescent, tentative, ephemeral.


If you have not stopped by the online Art Gallery lately, you are missing some impressive works by the artists that were featured in the 2018 Fall Art Show.

Gathering Around Poems

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was warm and sunny. It was such a perfect day that it was easy to forget that just a week ago we woke up to heavy snow fall, a disheartening sight for many of us who had been treasuring the warmer days and enjoying the budding daffodils earlier in the week. The snow kept many people home, but around twenty of us gathered to read poems – some by Mary Oliver and many original works – and to honor to ways that poetry captures a moment, a thought, a connection.

In the next week or so, we will be adding some of the poems to the writing gallery and invite you to take the time to interact with them. In the meantime, enjoy this beautiful poem by Kailyne R. Waters written as a reflection on our day, a poem which ponders how Mary Oliver might have reacted as she joined us.

What Would Mary Do
 

Not what she would say,
we have heard her speak, placing pen to words
opening our hearts to ourselves.
But what would she do?
 
We know. We’ve always known.
Life is, after all, no more than a tribute to remembering
Remembering to rejoice in this day, only.
 
This day, with friends gathering to honor the voice of spirit, 
the sound of mystical nature.
Probably less interested in hearing her own words, she would
direct us to dig deeper into the frozen dirt, in spring. 
The divine mystery of a brush stroke of winter, back lit
by the sun of April.
 
She wouldn’t say so, she would be polite and accept our
complimentary tribute.
But polite isn’t doing.
So, what then? What would Mary do?
 
Throw snowballs at us from her vantage point of peace?
Touch her frozen fingertips to the glass inviting us to play, to
step outside of phrases, verbs, and context,
where our voices and thoughts
swell. Where there is no room for natural light to heal us.
I don’t think so. Nature is a gentle teacher. 
Even the harsh bite of
ice to face isn’t mean to scold.
 
What then?
Step inside with us?
Yes, I think she would gather it all together 
and bring it to our wandering circle.
Gently, softly guiding us to
step further into the invitation of living.
 
Her smile, her patience to wait, as we shed and shake 
old nature from our shoulders. 
She would hold them in her arms, like coats from guests at 
a dinner party held in her honor.
Finally. 
We are plain but bold,
ready to accept all that is
our Creator’s embrace.


Kailyne R. Waters

A Journey in Lent

By Cari Shields

Last year during Lent I decided to keep a journal of meditations on the Stations of the Cross. I wanted to spend time with a question that I had heard from the Irish poet Pádraig Ó Tuama – “Is there a story that can hold me?” Ó Tuama’s commitment to story comes from his life as a poet, theologian and mediator working in Northern Ireland.

To see the full journal follow this link to Stations Journal

As I was working on the journal, I read a lot and looked at many artists’ renderings of the stations of the cross. In a desire to explore the work more personally, I decided to find my own expressions of the stations in my daily walks through the neighborhood where I was living for that season. I had transplanted myself to the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia for the first six months of 2018, to live with my daughter and son-in-law to assist with the care of their newborn twins while the parents went back to work. Beginning in late February, I took daily walks with the stroller up and down the hills of Germantown. These daily explorations got us out of the house and afforded me time for meditation as well as opportunities to observe the varied trees, shrubs and flowers as they changed from day to day and week to week.

The experience of meditating on the Stations of the Cross and looking for images drew me deeply into stories of suffering and faith as well as moments of beauty and revelation. The process of finding the pictures surprised me in profound ways as did much of the reading I did during that time. The first few images came as I was taking pictures of an old fence in the parking lot behind my daughter’s house. The wooden fence was old, worn, and covered with vines. The image of a cross presented itself easily and the top of one of the vine-entangled posts resembled a head bearing a crown of thorns. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, two instances of trees supporting each other readily represented Jesus’s encounters with Mary and with Simon. Looking for a fallen tree to depict Station Thirteen when Jesus is taken down from the cross was simple after a heavy snow storm of March 2.  A hollow space in a stone wall provided an image of the tomb.

Finding the image for Veronica wiping the face of Jesus proved more challenging and I set that search aside for a time. It was after I began to reflect on that station and to discover a resonance with what I was reading in Silence and Beauty by Makoto Fujimura that it became clear that I was looking for the face of Jesus represented by a worn image. With that in mind, I was able to spot the bark of a Sycamore tree and take close ups of the patterns. When I came home and began to edit the photos, there was one that had the hint of a worn away face and I knew that I had what I was looking for.

The most astonishing picture of the group was when I went looking for a nail driven into a piece of wood. I found a post outside of one of the houses on the block and took some pictures. The post was in the middle of a rose bush and I wanted the picture to have a little vegetation around it. It was not until I got back to the house and looked at the picture more closely that I realized that the rose bush had cast a shadow on the post, perfectly hinting at a crown of thorns. I am in awe of this picture as it was an image that was revealed to me rather than one that was planned. I am still not sure what to make of it.

  • I would love to hear from this community about your experiences of finding images or words in your work that were revealed rather than planned.

Below is an exerpt from the Introduction to the Journal. 

The Jewish artist, Barnett Newman, has a series of abstract paintings entitled The Stations of the Cross: Lema Sabacthani.  The powerful paintings are large with black and white lines painted on raw canvas. They evoke a hint of Jewish prayer shawls in their overall effect. In an article about the paintings, Valerie Hellstein writes,

For Newman, The Stations were not merely about Jesus’ agony but attested to the human condition. In his catalog statement, Newman wrote, “Lema Sabachtani—why? Why did you forsake me? Why forsake me? To what purpose? Why? This is the Passion. This outcry of Jesus. Not the terrible walk up the Via Dolorosa, but the question that has no answer.” In this moment, it is not just Jesus’ agony one faces with the Stations of the Cross, but as Newman explained, “each man’s agony: the agony that is single, constant, unrelenting, willed—world without end.”

This year during Lent, I decided to meditate on the Stations of the Cross. For the first few weeks, I did a lot of reading and meditating and writing, not really sure where I was going with this. Then it came to me that I was wrestling with a question asked by Pádraig Ó Tuama.  Ó Tuama is a poet, theologian, and mediator working in Northern Ireland. I heard him speak last month on a live feed from the Trinity Institute in New York.  He talked about working for reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants and included his own experience of challenging assumptions about who is included or excluded in God’s embrace. His use of story-telling in the work of reconciliation comes out of his own existential question – “Is there a story that can hold me?”

That is what I am asking in this study of the Passion of Jesus as expressed through the Stations. Can this story hold us? And how?  There are certainly other questions we could ask of the story. Is it true? What does it all mean? Why did Jesus have to die? What is the best theological understanding of the atonement? But using Ó Tuama’s question we ask how we let our lives be enfolded in the passion narrative.  How does the story create a context within which we can live our lives in this broken world? How can we live inside of the story even on days when faith is hard won or not won at all?

Reflections on Mary Oliver

When the poet Mary Oliver died on January 17, there were a few inspiring days on which many people’s news feed was lit up with friends quoting her poems and paying tribute to this poet who had inspired so many to take the time to notice the world around them with quiet generosity. We want to continue that connection and plan to host an event paying tribute to her impact on our lives and work. An announcement of that event will be coming soon. In the meantime, we invite you to share your thoughts and comments through this first of our Community Conversations.

Karen Kuchar, a writer and poet who serves on our Anawim board, writes:

Mary Oliver is a special poet who believed poetry “mustn’t be fancy”.  I love her work for its accessibility, picture-perfect images of nature, and her links to a deeper truth.  She has been an inspiration to me as a poet and a spiritual guide.  Often people think poetry is too hard to understand, but through her “not fancy” writing, Mary taught us all that poetry can be beautiful, deep, and understandable.  Her memory lives on in so many wonderful poems that have illuminated nature as filled with a deeper presence.

Mary Oliver’s poems speak directly to the intersection of art and spirituality.

Whistling Swans

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look
up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayers fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making
such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening
and understanding.
Rumi said, There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know, God’s silence never breaks, but is
that really a problem?
There are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don’t you imagine (I just suggest it)
that the swans know as much as we do about
the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.

from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

To listen to a rare interview with Mary Oliver go to Mary Oliver – On Being Interview

To read or listen to her obituary on NPR  go to NPR on Mary Oliver