Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quick Takes

Between flu and the bustles in settling into the new year's routines and schedules, I have been dormant on the blogging front. Here are few quick takes -

  • The enrollment for one my painting classes is at full capacity, the other two shy of maximum cap. Our tiny studio is a jumble of easels and taborets (a furniture fitted with wheels for holding palette and carting all the painting paraphernalia), jutting into and against each other. Negotiating through the lot tests one's agility and patience. 

  • For the fourth year I'm working with a K-6 Catholic school on an art program for their Catholic School Week. Yesterday marked the first day of this year's project - so far, so okay. If I don't forget the camera tomorrow, I should have photos to share soon. 

  • Yesterday during the class with the first graders, the teacher sub inquired about my accent. I explained that I was Chinese. She said "I know. But it's not that. I don't know, but you sound like you might be from, like, Ireland, or somewhere." 

  • KDM and I were given Season One of the 24 TV series for Christmas. We're now officially addicts although we try to limit it to two episodes a day. Tonight we watched hours 9 through 11. The actions are getting red-hot (since it's only halfway through the clockwork, I assume the white-hot stuff are still to come) as the plots become impossibly thicker. For the first time I had queasy stomach and irregular heartbeats from watching. KDM reported similar reactions. I didn't have to refrain from dipping into the next hour - two were all I could stomach. 

  • It has not stopped raining since mid morning. We were under tornado watch for ten hours. When I got home no dog was there to give me the routine car-side welcome. I knew right away they had boarded Noah's ark - the mud porch. KDM said when the first thunders rolled in they beat him inside two by two. 

  • Ireland??

With that, Good Night from here.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Borrowed Light for a Murky Territory

This is an unstudied response to Manny's comment to my previous post and link to the current discussion on art at several Catholic blogs (including the Anchoress, Simcha Fisher, and Manny's own).   I say "unstudied" because I've only skimped through these pages and feel not equipped to enter the talk.Yet from experience I know there's a lot of confusion about the reality and duties of fine art in the context of religion. 

Generally, there is not much clarity around the narrow but easily contentious subject. If anything, most talks I've seen - heard - fall in the wooly and muddled category. I pass no such judgment on the above mentioned current discussions because I haven't gotten time to read them carefully (catching up on class planning just three days away from school opening). But a glance over the comment sections pretty much confirms my past impression of how uncertain and divergent the views are about the art thingie in the context of religion.

Melancholia by Albrecht Durer 

As I've noticed the term religious art being used in these discussions, I thought maybe it's helpful to first clarify the definition of religious art. That reminded me of an essay written by Maureen Mullarkey, an art critic of the first order in my estimation, whose intellectual vigor and honesty I hugely admire, and who is a very fine painter herself. The essay was written for the Catholic Crisis Magazine, titled  An Unmanifesto: A Proposal to Retire “Catholic Art”. Although I'm aware of the the nuanced differences between what's called "religious art" and "Catholic art," I recommend her essay for the close relatedness addressing the two things under discourse: art, religion. 

I also want to share a bit of where I personally have found clarity in seeing the relations between art and religion. 

Following my conversion my thoughts naturally turned to the same set of questions, among them "can there be religious art?" "how does an artist who's Catholic live up to her vocation?" Or, "does an artwork have to have religious symbols to serve the Good?" In other words, all questions in the realm of art and religion. 

In my search for validation of some privately harbored convictions for being a Catholic artist, and for a model who has the grits to endure misunderstandings and conflicts from within and without, I discovered Flannery O'Connor. The book The Habit of Being, the collection of her letters to fellow Christians, artists, friendly skeptics, has been a life saver to me. As an extension for her views of being an artist who's Catholic can also be found in her talks given to college students and other communities collected under the book title Mystery and Manners. 

Through reading Flannery O'Connor, I discovered the writings of Jacques Maritain, especially his book called Art and Scholasticism, which provides me with much needed insights into the reality of art from theological stand point. There's also a collection of his writings under the title The Responsibility of the Artist, available online. These together look into the relations between art and religion, as well as helps the artist understand where his craft stands in view of his religious belief. Maritain's view is honed from his scholarship of Medieval philosophy, therefore has deep Christian, specifically Catholic, roots.

These recommendations are meant to share a few resources which have been invaluable to me as a practicing artist. I hope they help further the discussion and deepen the interest and understanding of art for fellow Christians. 

Cheerios on a rainy, sloppy day in my land. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Ann Althouse
I've been reading Althouse for a while, and I'm liking her more and more, not the least for her occasional veering off the stressful political, legal, intellectual tracks onto something arty and flirty. Check her out.

Open Culture
A total windfall from an idle trolling one internet site or another, round about two years ago. I'm Facebook friend with the impersonal entity. The site offers an array of freebies, including movies, e-books, educational resources. I especially recommend this to my home-schooling friends (I'm talking about you, Jan). There are free lessons ranging from foreign languages (like, Mandarin Chinese!) to kiddy philosophy to art history. You just can't beat free.

Glittering Images by Camille Paglia
Paglia is a fast-talking, gasoline-breathing critic of fashionable culture. I've heard much buzz, including that coming from herself during this interview with PJTV's Glenn Reynolds, of her latest book Glittering Images. According to her, part of her intended audience is home-school moms. I haven't read the book, but from I've heard and read of it, I advise taking a grain of salt to her opinions. But over all, I suspect you would find her views and rants about art timely and liberating.

And for what it's worth (if there's such a thing as visual relief), a preview of my painting in progress, tentatively titled Door:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

To Manny

I apologize for the disappearance of your two comments on my previous blog post, especially when they streamed through the email traffic and arrived in my e-box smoothly. I've given the system settings a check-up and found nothing out of order. As you said this i-engine is a pit. I've had similar problems with commenting on other's blog. Sometimes I managed to wiggle through by using a different email account which seems on friendlier terms to that particular "engine."

Before the problem goes away, feel free to email your comments with return address so that I could reply.

Thanks for corresponding.

And, Happy New Year!