Art

Andres Amador: Earthscape Artist

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Above we see a drone-based digital image of a pattern that a contemporary artist has inscribed upon the sand of a beach. He is also an academically trained scientist, who has employed his gifts in a particularly sensitive way.

Now, why are some or all of those details important? Because we see here the abilities of Andres Amador, someone whose public art work may lead us to wonder about how this artist could have accomplished all this. Not only in the image above, those presented below, as well as those widely available now on the internet.

Well, what would it take for you or me to be able physically to produce such an image upon the sand on a seaside beach? To my surprise, it is only geological timing (the tides); an appropriate location in relation to that matter of the tides; and then only a couple of simple tools. These would include some common and small garden rakes, and perhaps also – in relation to the circular-based patterns – a metal or wooden spike, a long rope, and some kind of carving or scraping tool at the end of that rope. The invention of the small drone with a camera has also been of help.

But, clearly, it takes more than physical circumstances, geography, and available tools. It also takes a scientifically trained sensibility as well as a developed intuitive creativity. What Andres Amador has accomplished and still produces is not in any way simple. And yet, he provides frequent teaching sessions, open to all, inviting others to do what he does. Insight about this is provided by a short but compelling video produced some years ago by KQED San Francisco (see link below). I think that one way to summarize a principal theme in his work is that he seeks to see things “whole,” which for some folks is related to seeing what is “holy.”

In that video, Amador describes two reference points, or two sorts of impulses within him, as sources for his earthscape art. “The two main directions that I go with, in the art, are the geometric, which is very precise… So, it’s all about perfection.” Pattern can be imposed upon the ‘blank canvas’ of nature.

“The other side of it,” he says, “is the organic art, the art the feels like it is emerging from the location… the art that is telling me what to do next.” Pattern may therefore be in some sense received.

I find these two insights to be spiritually and theologically significant. We are able to impose pattern upon our lives, and often attempt to do this within the social world around us. At the same time, we may discern and receive pattern for our lives from within, whether from a divine or from a natural source, or through the gifts of others. Impose, and receive; both are important for our search to become whole.

God bless your continuing work, Andres, and especially for helping us perceive beauty in a fuller way.

 

Here is a link to the compelling KQED Andres Amador short video : https://www.kqed.org/arts/10134941/andres-amadors-earthscapes-art-that-goes-out-with-the-tide

 

Joining Mary’s Joy

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El Creco, The Annunciation (1600)

 

With three prior Annunciation images I have pointed to some aspects of the Annunciation to Mary: fear at an unexpected encounter with the divine presence; surprise and wonder about such a greeting; and, the opportunity to accept the significance of God’s visitation. Today, I want to highlight a fourth aspect of Mary’s experience of the Annunciation, her response of joy at having said, “Yes.”

It is not hard for us to admire Mary and her willing response to God’s initiative, at first in her life, and then in and for ours. But how easy is it for us to identify with Mary’s joy, reflected in the words we know as the Magnificat, her song of praise, with regard to the promise of Jesus’ birth?

For many of us, these 12 Holy Days may be a time in which we challenge ourselves to feel as ‘joyful’ as we think we should be – or, perhaps, to criticize ourselves for failing to experience the same. But what is ‘joy?’ I have an icon that depicts St. Thomas Aquinas, wherein he holds a text on which is printed, “Joy is the noblest human act.”

Joy at this time, as always, is not just a spontaneous feeling prompted by fleeting circumstances. Joy is actually an act, a choice, and a willing participation in divine initiative. For the word joy is related to the verb rejoice. God says to us during these 12 Holy Days – as God always does – I am come unto you to bless you, to bring you new life, to transform everything you think you know, and in ways you have yet to imagine.

Until we get to ‘the other side,’ and can ask Mary, herself, none of us will know what she really imagined would be part of her acceptance of God’s strange and unanticipated plan of redemption for our fallen and troubled world. What we can be most thankful for is at least one implied word that was part of Mary’s response to God’s initiative. She said, yes. With her beautiful example, and so many compelling artistic representations of the same, isn’t it a wonder why we so often find it hard to respond as she did.

In this last of the 12 Days of Christmas, let us say “yes” to God with Mary. And then, starting with the feast of the Epiphany, tomorrow, may we live into the real joy of that “yes.” Her uplifted hand, in El Greco’s painting above, says it all.

May our Lord, who was and is, and is to come, bless us and our loved ones during this holy time.

 

Saying “Yes” to the Gift

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The spirit of attentive openness is at the heart of a third aspect of Mary’s response to God’s call through the Angel Gabriel. God’s call often challenges us to live in a different way or try and be a different person, especially in our relationships with our family, our friends, and those with whom we work. Receiving this call, we can react at first in fear at what this call might mean in practice. We can also respond with uncertainty, wondering about our worthiness or suitability for what God may have in mind for us.

But we can also see that — in faith — we are able to go into the heart of our fear and find God’s power. Receiving God’s grace, we may move beyond relying on our own strength, and not depend upon our estimate of our own abilities and worthiness for what God may have in mind. We can then choose to respond to God’s gracious invitation into the Spirit’s redeeming work, just as Mary did, by saying, “Yes!” As John Lennon so simply captured the spirit of it, in the words of his famous song, “Let it be.” Or, as Mary said to God through the angel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy Word.”

This is the spirit of Mary’s response to the message of the angel as portrayed in the fourth Annunciation image I am sharing with you in these 12 Days of Christmas, in Trygve Skogrand’s photo-collage, pictured above. The artist has skillfully juxtaposed a traditional painted figure onto a contemporary scene. We see a simplicity and spirit of humility in Mary’s posture, as she kneels in her plain gown. In the plain ‘bed-sit’ room in which she prays, we notice her uplifted eyes. They are now focused on the divine source of the message she is receiving.

Attentiveness is key to meaningful perception, just as we found recently in the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent. John the Baptizer sends his disciples to Jesus with what should be our most persistent question, “Are you the One?” Are you the One for whom we are looking, and whom we are awaiting? Notice Jesus’ response: “Go and tell John what you hear and see…” For they only hear and see if they are attentive. This is one reason why the Church commends to us the season of Advent, in addition to Christmas ~ to encourage our attentiveness, so that we can hear and see, and then accept God’s Word to us.

“Let it be as God would have it.” Let things be as God wills. Let God be God! Perhaps nothing is so hard in our lives as to say those words in faith and in humility. Our pride objects! Our desire to be at the center of reality intrudes. But to say, “Let it be…,” in faith and in humility, is to return to the Garden of Creation Grace. And it is also to begin to live forward into the fullness of the Kingdom, as God would have things be, and as God will have things be..

May our Lord, who was and is, and is to come, bless us and our loved ones during this holy time.

 

The image above is a detail of Trygve Skogrand’s photo-collage, Bedsit Annunciation (an image I have shared before). This post is adapted from a prior post based on my homily for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 15, 2019, which can be accessed by clicking here. The Revised Common Lectionary, which provides the readings for Sundays and other Holy Days, can be accessed by clicking here.