Monday, January 30, 2012

Catholic School Week Art

Am helping out at a local Catholic school for Catholic School Week. I say "helping out," in fact I get paid for the three days I signed up for. Back in December, the head teacher, the principal, and I had a brain storm session and decided that, for an art project, a group mural was the way to go.

The idea is to give each student a square canvas of 8 inches, on which the student is to draw and paint a section of a larger image. In the end all of the squares are assembled in right sequence to form the complete image in the fashion of a tiled mosaic. In keeping with the Catholic School Week theme, the school wanted an image of The Lord, I suggested the Pantocrator icon (which I mentioned in this 2009 post), they agreed, the project was born.

Today was the first day. It was the first time I worked with kids since I started teaching at the university last fall. I found it a welcome change of pace. I stayed on my feet all day, was busy handing out supplies, straightening crooked drawn lines, wiping glue and paint off tables and my own sleeves, washing brushes and changing out dirty water, all the while kept watch of what to do next. But I didn't mind a bit of it all. I like the kids, and think they liked me as well. The preschoolers even made pancakes for me.

As I corrected the initial drawings on each canvas square, I introduced the students and their teachers to the tradition of icons, explained the rich symbolism in the gesture of Christ, use of color and Greek letters, and the basic theology supporting their use.

I'm posting the image of the original Christ Pantocrator icon situated in the Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria, on Mount Sainai, Egypt, circa AD 600, along with the altered, thematically simplified version which I re-created as a working model. Notice the lightly marked grids over the latter. Students have transposed the shapes and lines onto their individual, corresponding square. On Wednesday I will help them fill in the color.

I'm fully aware of the risk of posting my own handicraft alongside the exquisite ancient icon. If things don't look quite "right" in my version, the partial excuse is that I had to "bend" the proportion quite a bit to make the figure fit in the format consisting of 8"x8" squares. I've also since noticed that somehow I succeeded in making the Lord appear melancholy in the working model, whereas in the original He radiates sovereign beauty of the Pantocrator: the Ruler of the Universe.

To be continued: by the time the mural is completed, the countenance of the Lord will likely to look different yet again. I told the students that they are not expected to achieve perfection. The key is to do according to their best ability. I steal from Mother Teresa: "God does not ask us to be successful, He only asks us to be faithful."

Christ Pantocrator, Monastery of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Egypt

working model for Christ Pantocrator group mural, acrylic on illustration board, 24"x36"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Too Much Stuff

Stolen from The Anchoress, raise your hand if agree, I'm raising mine:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post Card from Paris

My lovely niece Christy, who is studying for her master's degree in Paris, sent this photo she took outside the Notre Dame cathedral on Christmas Eve:

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Perfunctory Sketch of a Young Woman who Thinks She's a Feminist

What do you do with a twenty-something who speaks, acts, mimics, all that Feminism mummery she has gobbled down from her arty grad school? It is so apparent that the real person is not there under all that parroting. The precious core of untrammeled imagination has been so thoroughly hijacked by an ideology that she speaks, acts, mimics like an Artificial Intelligence. Yet she thinks she is free, daring, enlightened, and ready to take on the ignorance of the unwashed old world. She has an overwhelming need to make fun of the religion of her childhood; she revels in mocking her parents' hangups with their ancient religion, at once appearing self-deprecating and rebellious. 

How much of her performance is motivated by her desire to impress others? How much to exonerate herself from what she obviously regarded, or thought regarded by her audience, an embarrassing upbringing she had no choice in? 

Mind you, I liked the young woman. Despite her lavish references to sex organs peppering every stage of the conversation, she is rather transparent to me. 

The performance (for that's really what it was) is a powdery veneer, of a particular brand of college Feminism. Beneath it hides someone who dares not to live. Perhaps she is too confused. Possibly she no longer knows herself. Feminism as it is, especially in college campuses, acts effectively as a contraception, separating girls from their selves, intimidating them into intellectual submission. There's the dormant, innate aggressiveness, even violence in its ideology. Its victims don't even know what has hit them. There are so many road-kills. 

I did not play cheerleader to the young woman's braggadocio. She might have construed my relative coolness as prudery. In fact, words like vagina, penis scare me as much as someone dressed in a grim-reaper Halloween suit do. What struck me was how dull it all was, how unremarkable the language, how inauthentic the mannerism, comparing to the potential liveliness of the real person hunkering underneath.

But then, I could have been reacting in fear too:  such display of artificialness, such robotic rhetoric, such parroting. Who knows, maybe the theory of Transhumanism isn't so far fetched. Or, maybe what I saw was just no more than a Kafkaesque nightmare starring a metamorphosing girl who thinks she is free. 

Fr. Barron on Hitchens

Fr. Barron's commentary on Christopher Hitchens and who God is:

My two cents on two things:

1. God is not a what, God is a who. God isn't a category, but a person, in the deepest sense of the word.

2. What came to my mind while reading one of Fr. Barron's commenters, who objected Father's characterization of CH's notion of God  as"sky fairy." The commenter emphasizes CH's seriousness in his conclusion that religion lead people to do stupid, dishonest, cruel things. I have no doubt religion was often the motivation for these things, but do people really think religion is the ultimate cause for these actions? Do they honestly, intelligently, believe that minus religion, human beings can be innocent of cruelty, jealousy, violence, and such? What inevitably follows that type of thinking is, and has been, massive social programs and revolutions intended for reconstructing human behavior. Without exception each of these experiments has led to coercion, mind control, oppression, betrayal, injustice, finally inhumanity and cruelty. To its credit, religion has employed similar measures, when the desire to reconstruct becomes fanatical, coercive measures are only natural.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yesterday's Painting

Toy Monkey, oil on board, 8"x11", 2012

Romney-McCain Team?

Rush Limbaugh on a possible Romney-McCain ticket. brilliant:

"A Romney-McCain ticket: The man who could not beat Obama teamed up with the man who could not even beat McCain."

Not Much

  • Wow, less than a week to back-to-work, to teaching, that is. There are syllabi to revise, to submit to the department secretary; and there are things to think, things I will say, spell out, to a new crop of students. There doomed to be some words like cold water on dreamy expectations. 
  • Has anyone heard of the book called The Gadfly? I'll come back to talk about what I know about it, and what it has to do with how much I knew of Catholicism, particular about priests and Confession as a teenager growing up in Communist China. 
  • Things suddenly are getting busy. I took down the ornaments off the tree, removed the garland off the mantle, wound up the string lights, packed away the red-and-green thingies and ready them for another twelve months attic life. 
  • At the same time I'm trying to keep up the daily painting routine. I'm painting light-hearted things, things "cute," even frivolous, making me feel like a "Sunday painter." I ordered twenty more miniature canvases to make a body of these things. I keep my fingers crossed that teaching won't get in the way. 
  • Tomorrow I'm headed to a gathering of females instructors, to discuss the prior-proposed idea of forming a student club for female student artists. Why female only? Don't ask. Suffice to say that I'm being collegiate and amiable in reparation to my ugly reaction when it was first proposed to me. (Words like "gender issues", or "gender studies" bring out the worst of me) Maybe something worthy will come of this. 
  • Once school starts, this blog will be hit-or-miss again. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kick-off to Another Year of Painting!

Toy Tiger: Red, oil on canvas (fresh and very wet!!), 5"x5", 2012
My first painting of the year is this little piece, destined to be my contribution to the upcoming spring fundraiser for the local art center. It was a hoot to paint, of course, such "cute" subject on such mini scale. I used a painting knife for the whole thing. The cloth toy tiger is a souvenir from one of my home-going trips in China some years back. This type of folk art motif is vanishing from China's craft scene - the commercialization and globalization have no use for such homey, traditional charm.

After painting the red tiger yesterday, I decided to follow up with another one today:

Toy Tiger: Yellow, oil on board, 8"x11", 2012
Needless to say the yellow fella was a companion piece to the red one. Don't you love the whiskers? And how about that palm-tree tail? The artist (mostly likely an elderly lady living out in a village where you practically find buried antiques by kicking the dirt underfoot) used what was she found in her sewing basket, a scrap here, few pieces of yarn there. This kind of indigenous instinct for formal harmony amazes me, always.

I'm on a roll - with painting. And, always, with love to share.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Work Completed

I posted the work-in-progress of this painting a while back. Well, it's been done and over. Last night I remembered to post the final version, only found out that I had not taken a photo of it. So here it is, on the first day of the year.

Some may notice changes between the two versions. But if one appears warmer in tone it was only caused by the lighting at times of photographing. The real change is in the composition. I had to "bend" things a bit, so to speak.

The painting itself is destined to be a gift to an elderly acquaintance of mine, who over the short period I've known her has shown me kindness and graciousness I have done nothing to earn.

Like most everything else with this blog, the timing is purely coincidental. There's no symbolic meaning for its presentation; it has nothing to do with resolutions.

Nor do I make resolutions any more. I'm learning to let things be, eat my daily bread, and trust all will be well.

Out here in my quarters things are plum quiet, plain, non-dramatic.

I'm getting rather intrigued by things plain and non-dramatic. There's a bottomless sense of mystery to things plain and non-dramatic.

All you need is to look at the Eucharist.

So with this painting let me wish you a plain, non-dramatic Happy New Year.