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 :


Epiphany-Sensitive Landscape Artists

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Andres Amador

Christo, after the death of his wife, Jeanne-Claude

On the Sundays following the feast of the Epiphany (January 6), the western Church historically has focussed on God’s self-disclosure through nature. We find this theme expressed in the Epiphany Day Gospel featuring the visit of the Magi, or Wise Men, from the East. They followed the appearance of a star in the sky to find our Savior at his birthplace. Note how this contrasts with stories about guidance provided by the messages of angels, whether in dreams or as on occasions of personal divine revelation.

One of my favorite examples of this theme can be found in some verses by the Anglican priest, theologian, and poet, John Keble, for a Sunday in this Epiphany-tide:

When souls of highest birth
Waste their impassioned might on dreams of earth,
He opens Nature’s book,
And on His glorious Gospel bids them look,
Till, by such chords as rule the choirs above,
Their lawless cries are tuned to hymns of perfect love.

In my next two posts on this blog I will feature the landscape-based artwork of Andres Amador, as well as that of Christo and his late wife and collaborator, Jeanne-Claude. Amador is known for his ephemeral raked sand projects, and Christo with Jeanne-Claude are remembered mainly for their draped or wrapped fabric installations. Though the work of these three has taken very different forms, they have demonstrated a common and notable commitment to environmental sensitivity despite the fact that their projects have involved only temporary alterations of various landscapes or structures.

Among agnostic, secular, and even atheistic artists, many seem to recognize the power of the sublime in Nature. But also notice how even the pious John Keble – with his high sense of the authority of Scripture – was willing to describe the natural world around us as God’s “Glorious Gospel,” and as “Nature’s book,” written by the divine Author of Creation.

I have no basis for evaluating whether there is any theological grounding for Amador’s, or Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s world-views. Partly because such is not suggested nor asked for. Yet, I find the work of these three artists not only aesthetically pleasing, but also as theologically significant.

Why? Because God is either everywhere present in reality, however we conceive of it, and whether we are conscious of it, or God is not. I am convinced of the ‘yes’ answer. And so, for me, God is surely the source of the Beauty everywhere present in the cosmos. For traditional believers, there is no place where God is not.

Beauty can be found in this observation itself. There may be a transcendent source for the abundant beauty we enjoy in the world, and in people around us. But if there is, it does not require us to acknowledge it. The beauty we find everywhere – God’s beauty, I say – stands for itself. Remarkable!


Once again, I wish to credit my friend and former colleague, the Rev. Ralph McMichael, Ph.D., for his succinct and helpful delineation of ways of understanding the relation between nature and grace, in his teaching and writing. In this regard, his essay, significant to me within the book he edited, Creation and Liturgy: Studies in Honor of H. Boone Porter, continues to be very helpful. He is also the author of The Eucharistic Faith, a first volume of a new Eucharist-based systematic theology.

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.


The Beauty of Christ the King

Windows over the chapel altar; Church of the Incarnation, Highlands, NC


I wonder if you were looking forward as much as I was to the the new season of The Crown. As we saw in September, while viewing the various events related to the Queen’s funeral, the British Royal Family is a source of enduring fascination for many of us. And yet, I think we -as Americans- have a hard time imagining what it means to live within a monarch’s sovereignty. Since the founding of our country as a republic, the framework for our government has made it difficult for us to understand the significance of having a king or a queen. Especially when these roles are transmitted through heredity, rather than resulting from whom we designate through our political will.

All this is especially significant for us this week, having celebrated the feast of Christ the King this past Sunday. For consciously or not, we are prone to an ancient heresy. It is this: in believing that Jesus was an ordinary and yet a particularly spiritual human being who, by faithfully serving as the Messiah, was then somehow ‘promoted.’ That is, promoted above and beyond his human family, to achieve a semi-divine status. It is easy to mis-read the passion narratives at the end of the Gospels and come to this misunderstanding. For in one way or another, the Gospel writers – especially John’s Gospel – portray Jesus’ Crucifixion, and his subsequent Resurrection and Ascension, as the sequence of his royal ‘coronation.’

Yet, in a monarchy like that of Britain, coronation does not suddenly make the forthcoming king or queen into something that he or she was not before then. Instead, a traditional coronation is an act of public declaration of what he or she has always been, even if only implicitly.

In other words, through a public ceremony of coronation we do not make kings or queens. As we will see next year with King Charles, who we should note is already king, his future coronation will recognize in an official public way how he has already begun to fulfill his sovereign role. This is very important for how we appreciate ‘the mock coronation’ of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (23:33-43).

As Luke tells us in this passage, Jesus is crucified under an inscription that Pilate had written, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Judeans.”* The crowd at the place of the crucifixion protests the inscription. And following their lead, the soldiers mock him, saying, “If you are the King of the Judeans, save yourself!” They mock him while ironically mimicking the words of Satan during Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness.

The irony here is that, so far as we know, Jesus never directly said of himself, “I am the King of the Judeans,” which would have implied being a legitimate descendant and heir to the thrones of David and Solomon. But he died for having assumed this identity, an identity that was revealed in his teaching and in his works, and in his selfless fulfillment of the Scriptures.

Among the many things for which we can be thankful this week is the following fact. No one in the crowd at Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and none of us, makes or declares him to be the King. What we can affirm in faith is that his royal identity has always been in and with him. This fact has been revealed by God, whom he called his Father. For Jesus to be King in the sense of being the Messiah, the Son of God, means that he lived into the reality of God’s own abiding kingship of Israel.

May you and your loved ones have a blessed Thanksgiving.


This post is based on my homily for this past Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, which may be accessed by clicking here. I took the above photo (note the crown above Jesus’ head) after the first Eucharist celebrated by the Rev. Kellan Day in that chapel in 2019, and someone whose path to ordination I and my former parish endorsed most enthusiastically. I offer this post with continuing thanks for her recognized gifts for ministry.

*  “Judeans” is how N.T. Wright translates the word more traditionally rendered as “Jews,” with “Jews” being a contemporary translation that for readers may be misleading.

Note: John’s Gospel has the significant series of “I am” statements by Jesus, which may imply that he claimed legitimate succession from David and Solomon, but which do not approach anything like the political sounding self-identification that later condemned him.