Tag Archive: Art

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Two of my favorite artists, Minerva Teichert and Alberto Giacometti, share something wonderful in common.  Their work shows evidence of their process – the paintings they make show the careful layering of lines as they find shapes, refine them, and gain confidence as their respective creations emerge.  In showing the process, the viewer gets a glimpse into their minds and this becomes a tangible part of appreciation for the painting.  In effect, we the viewer are also helping make the painting alongside these artists.  I love that idea.

The viewer does help make the painting (sculpture, thing, whatever).  Every time we experience the creation of someone else, we take part in its completion – because whatever it is, that creation has been completed only once it gets inside our heads.  Maybe “completed” isn’t the right term, more “closer to completion”.  The work matures and becomes closer to its ultimate aim when we have it in our heads, participating and grappling with it on the level of our inmost selves.

There are pillars of art, the factors which not only make art “art”, but which also make art worthwhile, and one of these is the connection with audience.  A work is never truly complete until that connection is made, and sometimes the audience may very well be only the artist herself, and many times the audience produces a work different (and hopefully bigger) than the work intended by the artist, changing as the audience changes but still having a deep and resonant effect.  I imagine the original audience for Michelangelo’s Pieta “completed” the work in a different manner than today’s audiences do, but the impact is still incredibly powerful.

By connecting with the audience, the artist is able to hold a conversation of sorts.  Art is a communication of many vocabularies, in a language outside of language, but when a viewer allows the artist’s work to impact him or her, and hold it in the mind, the conversation becomes a real thing deeper than words.

Of course this has little to do with these process photos – I just thought it would be fun to show the different stages of one drawing (kind of like with Merciful).

The Christmas story is an ancient one, celebrating a promise of hope and bright futures.  I love to use these songs to teach my children what Christmas means to me – not flashing lights and sales, but the potential we all possess.  All human beings have the potential to become better, show mercy, and transform into beings worthy of the world we hope for.  As Ben Stein says, love and peace are the highest values, something which all of us can share.

The true reason for the season.

Were it not for thee I would not have created the heavens.

Hadith Qudsi

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Images from Wikimedia Commons

I am astounded at the rich diversity of sacred architecture around the world.  In his work Islamic Art and Spirituality, Dr. Nasr discusses that the primary purpose of sacred architecture is to allow us to reconnect with the original sacred nature of the God‘s creation – His handiwork is holy, and the earth and heaven as He made them are the most sacred.  The role of the holy site, then, is less to call heaven to earth and more to remind us to look beyond the veneer of impermanence and fleeting banality which we have placed over primordial nature.  The first and most holy of temples is the universe, and our structures of worship are built – when they are built by those pleading for heavenly guidance and direction, and consecrated by the faithful – to give us respite from the overwhelming wash of temporal mortality, and to return us to our transcendent and primordial connection with the Divine.

All ground is sacred, we just need help to remember this.

Building and Designing Stained Glass with the Gomms

David and Jeanne Gomm are stained glass artists, operating Gomm Studios.  They have been working with stained glass since 1983, including video rental stores, furniture design, yoga instruction, IT support, and numerous other interests–but all revolving in orbit around their attachment to stained glass.

What are your backgrounds?

Jeanne is deeply involved with yoga and environmental therapy, and David was a volunteer minister in Colorado after his flirtation with being a rebellious teenager.  Both of us have always worked (the ministerial work was during every free moment between hours at his full-time job), and have always devoted our energies to improving the value we bring to the table as employees and stained glass professionals.

Why stained glass?

Ages ago, we lived in a home in Denver which had a space over the front door demanding stained glass.  David bought the materials he assumed he needed at a local craft store and built the most hideous window in the history of the art form.  Shortly after, we moved to Missouri and on a whim took a stained glass class.  With proper instruction, we were hooked–Tolstoy said art is like an infection seeking to afflict others with beauty, and we were well and truly infected.

In the early eighties we began building windows for clients; we realized we had to provide additional income for our “habit” and opened what became a video rental chain, so our family wouldn’t be hit by changing whims in the glass market.  Both of us work with clients and design windows, David has a degree in industrial design and does CAD and IT work for schools, and Jeanne is a professional yoga instructor.

How is your work affected by your faith?

We are non-traditional Christians–both of us regularly do volunteer ministerial work in our community, and we are active in our faith.  We include some kind of personal and faith-building symbolism in everything we do; of course, we try never to be overt or offensive to the faith of the client, this is an expression of sincerity and devotion.  We always ask ourselves how the symbolism reflects and supports the patron, and they appreciate the extra “oomph” to their design.  Jeanne has put some of this energy into her first book of designs, Stained Glass Mandalas for Meditation.

In our art, the work ethic is vital.  We enjoy the creative process and building, watching ideas crystallize into reality as the work develops, and we enjoy teaching as part of the process.  But underneath it all is an awareness of principles like, are we giving fair value?  are we keeping our commitments and being honest with the client?  are we building windows which are structurally sound, meet building codes, and will last far longer than the client is expecting?  We do this because we believe it reflects James’ assertion that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-22).  This is our business, in and amongst all our supporting activities, because we also feel that creativity has to be connected with earning a living.

How does your work affect your faith?

At one point we had gone a couple months without a paying commission.  We were beginning to feel panicked and desperate.  A client bought one of our “Women of Faith” series panels, and we brought three more panels in the series with us when we went to install it.  We installed the first piece and there just happened to be spots for the others; we showed the client what they could look like, holding them in place near the first panel.  The client bought them all without caring about the price, and literally saved us and our business until things picked up again.

A flood of gratitude washed over us, and still comes when we think about the experience.  Doubt enters about what you do if you can’t make a living, and this client still has no idea the great blessing they were in our life, at just exactly the right moment.  After that experience, we realize that we receive blessings through our clients; we keep an attitude of mindfulness and gratitude throughout our work, and thank God for the blessings of every commission.

More information about the Gomm’s and their glass work is here.  They have a regularly updated blog and many other features on their site.  They also have videos on Youtube.com and instructional videos are available through Amazon.com.

Invite the LightImage by Gomm Studios

Invite the Light
Image by Gomm Studios

Video from Youtube.com, by New World Creations

Why are religious designs many times so complicated?

Are the artists showing off?

When building places of worship, artists would do their very best, not to show off but out of reverence and respect.  The well-made thing is both an object of beauty and a meditation.

Sagrada Familia DetailImage from Wikimedia Commons

Sagrada Familia Detail
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why so intricate?

The designs and patterns are there to share the gifts the artist is given, through his/her experience, training, and skill, but there is a much more important motivation.

Intricacy and detail provide an avenue of reflection.

Carina NebulaImage from Wikimedia Commons

Carina Nebula
Image from Wikimedia Commons

More from European Southern Observatory

The Creator‘s works are infinite and boundless; the intricacy and detail help the viewer catch a glimpse of what this means.  We can easily lose ourselves in the viewing, “forget” for a moment our egos, and become receptive to this amazing, astounding, impossible reality.  And hopefully, for a brief moment, we can rise above the limits and ceiling of human understanding.

Ceramic Tile Tessellations in MarrakechImage from Wikimedia Commons

Ceramic Tile Tessellations in Marrakech
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The artists aren’t showing off–they’re showing us a door.

My friend Malik’s post a few days ago regarding the amulet and talisman in the Muslim world made me curious, and I found some images of amulets from different faith traditions.  Rather than a thing which is magic in itself, most faith paths use amulets as physical reminders of hopes and desires which they pray God will hear.

Byzantine Menorah TokenImage from Wikimedia Commons

Byzantine Menorah Token
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Roman Amulet with Mithras and AbraxasImage from Wikimedia Commons

Roman Amulet with Mithras and Abraxas
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Christian Cross with St. ChristopherImage from Wikimedia Commons

Christian Cross with St. Christopher
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Muslim Amulet from EgyptImage from WIkimedia Commons

Muslim Amulet from Egypt
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Byzantine Amulet with Jewish, Christian, and Pagan ImageryImage from Wikimedia Commons

Byzantine Amulet with Jewish, Christian, and Pagan Imagery
Image from Wikimedia Commons

And learn how to make your own, here and here.

The object in and of itself doesn’t hold the power, rather the power is in the faith of the person making and using the object.  Belief provides the substance.

Lascaux Cave PaintingImage from Wikimedia Commons

Lascaux Cave Painting
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Fifteen thousand years ago our ancestors recorded important, sacred events on a cave wall in Lascaux in France.  These and other breathtaking images, vibrant with vitality and color, are the forerunners to the art form we recognize today as calligraphy.  The transmission of knowledge in many cultures and faith traditions is considered a Divine gift and sacred act, so perhaps it is natural that the written form is developed to amplify and transcend its meaning, and those who design and produce these works are revered and treasured themselves.

The oldest writing which has been found is recognized as being preserved on Sumerian tablets, and Cuneiform is acknowledged as the most ancient written language.

Sumerian Stone TabletImage from Wikimedia Commons

Sumerian Stone Tablet
Image from Wikimedia Commons

From these beginnings, finger painting and labored marks, every culture with writing has produced writing artists whose work is still breathtaking, regardless of whether or not we can read what was written.  Some of my personal favorites include Mayan calligraphy:

Mayan Lidded VesselImage from Wikimedia Commons

Mayan Lidded Vessel
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Japanese Illuminated Stories:

Yoko Protecting His FatherImage From Wikimedia Commons

Yoko Protecting His Father
Image from Wikimedia Commons

And Western Illuminated Letters:

Den Haag Manuscript, Elkenah and WivesFrom Wikimedia Commons

Den Haag Manuscript, Elkenah and Wives
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Richard Beasley, instructor in calligraphy, drawing, printmaking and painting for years at Northern Arizona University, taught that the calligrapher must merge the meaning of the words with the visual impact of the visual forms.  “Whether we choose to use the word craftsman or the word artist, both demand equal pedestals because each is only one-half of a total human endeavor.”  (From Art of the Letter:  Richard E. Beasley 1934-1992)  The calligrapher’s art transcends the limits of language by transforming the performance of writing into a sacred act.

Chinese Calligraphy

European Calligraphy

Indian Calligraphy

Islamic Calligraphy

Japanese Calligraphy

Mayan Calligraphy

A Beautiful Pinterest Page

Friends of the Alphabet Resources

Art Bismallah Calligraphers

It is easy for me to get lost in the swirls and swoops, the abstracted and natural forms, and the crystallized mystery of the calligraphic arts.  Richard Beasley’s insight echoes from the works of calligraphers in any culture, and I find myself admiring the care, craftsmanship, reverence, and artistry of these many scribes.  This final image, though, is my favorite, a thousand-year-old page from a manuscript crafted in Northern Africa, the magnificent Blue Qur’an; it speaks its sacred nature to whomever views it, without us ever having to be able to read its letters.

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Here are a couple videos regarding the ongoing 99 Names project:

MSAUU April 2010 Conference:  99 Names of Allah Part I

MSAUU April 2010 Conference:  99 Names of Allah Part II

Reflections of Islam from BYU Magazine

99 Names Sculptures

All of these are from Youtube.com.


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Photos courtesy of Emily Ellis, Dr. C. Lance Harding, Ph.D., and Wikimedia Commons

My friend Lance, Dr. C. Lance Harding, Ph.D., came to the 99 Names workshop as my “ringer”–he knows so much about the uses of geometry in sacred art and architecture, I knew that he could answer any questions which threw me.  Luckily, he never had to pull out his blue mavin card and was able to enjoy the workshop.  With his insight and experience with sacred art from around the world, it was a pleasure walking with him through the exhibit Beauty and Belief:  Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture, and he was kind enough to share his feelings about the exhibit.

1.  What is the basis of your interest in Islamic Art?

While studying at The Visual Islamic and Traditional Arts Department in London (now called the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts), I gained an appreciation and interest in the concepts behind Islamic Art.  At our school we studied the foundations of Traditional and Sacred Art from various cultures.  I was interested in learning some of the basic principles for combining religious belief with works of art.  The simple basic concepts found in Islamic works of art gave examples of how this could be done.  First, the making of Arabic Calligraphy from sacred writings into a visual art form in texts and in their mosques was an important way for teaching the “Word of God” to the Islamic people.  Christians did much the same thing in their hand written texts and also by making biblical stories the basis of their stained glass windows inside the cathedrals.  The Islamic use of geometric pattern, that represented the order and power of God or the “Fear or Awe” of God opened up a whole new world for me in terms of representing God’s Creation.  The beautiful Arabesque (or plant form) designs that are a major part of Islamic Art add a further dimension representing the “Love of God” and the Paradise of God–God’s grace and love for mankind.

2.  As you walk through the Beauty and Belief exhibit at the BYU Museum of Art, what is your overall impression?

My overall impression of the Beauty and Belief exhibit is that the people who created these wonderful works of art were master-craftsmen.  They did not separate their art from their craft.  Their objects of adornment and their daily useful objects often became one and the same.  These works of art must have been used to combine what they considered to be sacred with the objects of their daily life.

3.  How does your background, both as an artist and as a person of faith, inform your reactions to the exhibit?

I believe that my background as a Christian, and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has prepared me to accept the sacred art and teachings of other faiths and cultures.  My studies of art in other cultures in connection with my studies of Islamic Art has brought me to the understanding that all of God’s children have had access to divine inspiration and knowledge which was handed down to them either through their ancestors from God or given to them directly by God.  So, when I study and examine closely Islamic works of art, I see God in them just as much as when I examine Christian art or when I try to interpret Biblical Jewish art and architecture.

4.  Which piece or pieces are you drawn to most strongly, and why?

I am naturally drawn to those pieces in the Islamic exhibit that are derived directly from geometry and geometric form.  In London I studied ancient and sacred geometry and that was the foundation of ancient architecture and works of art.  I have always been interested in the basic order of the universe found in God’s creations as expressed in these types of art and architecture.  I see geometry and symmetry as the basis of all creation.  It is contained in all natural forms as well as being the basis of number, mathematics, science, and art.

5.  This exhibit is comprised of works made by artists who testify of their faith with every piece.  As a Christian how do you respond to this?

The concept of making art as part of your lifestyle has always intrigued me.  In the Islamic world they seem to have the ability to find the sacred in every day objects by turning them into sacred works of art.  This is what “Sacred” means–to make holy or to set apart and improve that which is routine in our lives in order to bring God into the scheme of things.  Faith is something that is meant to be put into practice every day in our lives.  Beautiful works of art represent and increase that faith.  As a Christian I see the basic Christian virtues of knowledge, temperance, patience, Godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity, along with consistency and endurance, incorporated into Islamic works of art.  (II Peter Ch. 1)

6.  How has this exhibit, and your work with Islamic art in general, informed your faith as a Christian?

The works of art in the BYU exhibit as well as the many other Islamic works I have seen and studied have given me the knowledge that there are certain universal principles that God has extended to all peoples and cultures, particularly those of the three Abrahamic traditionsJewish, Christian, and Muslim.  I have always been interested in the three Abrahamic religions.  Jewish and Christian teachings about God, related to the “Light”, the “Life”, and the “Love” of God, appear to match the three basic elements of Islamic art which are the “Word of God” (or the Light), the “Fear or Awe” of God (or the Life), and the beautiful Arabesque plant form designs (which are the Love of God).  I believe that the time will come as God’s influence returns to this earth, that Jehovah–Christ–Allah, different Names, but the true God of this World–He will unite all the children of Abraham and they will live side by side together in peace.

For March, Terra Nova Gallery invited a number of artists in the region to a combined exhibit of work.  Many of us know each other and have worked together, and all of us are friends to the gallery owner, David Hawkinson.  There were many amazing pieces by many people I admire; one of them is the sculptor Dahrl Thomson who loves working with alabaster, and another is pastelier Anne Weber.  The show was an eclectic collection of work, united by the shared joy of creating.  A wonderful exhibit!

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