Archive for March, 2007

Personal Altarpiece

March 19, 2007

Final altarpiece

The amazing thing about my degree at Fuller is the occasional option to work on creative projects in place of traditional academic papers. My Theology and Culture class was like this and I jumped at the chance to work on a painting piece.

My professor, John Drane, kept asking why the church is largely ignoring the alternate spiritual seekers (new age, crystals, Buddhist, etc) who are already in touch with a spiritual quest. The looming question about spirituality resonated with me, and made me look harder at what spirituality is, and the ways I incorporate it in my own life.

Candle sketch 4

He also brought up some interesting statistics. Did you know the candle industry is a 3 billion dollar industry? These aren’t just the emergency candles in the kitchen junk drawer! After I admitted to myself lighting candles is one of the ways I express my spirituality, I started to wonder about this strange mix of consumerism and spirituality. Drinking coffee with a good friend to experience community, or practicing yoga to find peace and centering with my entire body came to mind. These are both practices that are heavily marketed and available for consumption, yet help me live a Christian life.

Coffee Cup watercolor

I started to wonder what it would look like to paint each object as icons of my own spirituality in an altarpiece. My mind started racing, is this alright? Is this theologically sound? Is it heresy? Is it satire? Am I putting my junk on the altar before God to be cleansed/blessed? Probably a bit of all of these, but I needed to paint it and embark on the journey posing the question/making the statement as only art can.

When I didn’t get my project proposal back from my professor and the TA with “HEATHEN!” written across it, I figured I was ok. I could have piggybacked on the 168 film project using that for the assignment, but I really wanted to pick up a paintbrush.

It actually turned out to be a catalyst for an inter artistic struggle. Oof, and it was quite a struggle. Not only because it was hard to get back into the painting/fine arts mode after being in the world of film and academics, but the pressure I was putting on myself to crank out a solid piece of work. I had a few bad drafts which put me in a few funky moods, but thanks to the girls who live around me who listened to me vent about the plight of the christian artist (or the artist who happens to be christian) and encouraged me on, I was able to find peace and centering. This is not about me, duh.

Working on the iPod

So the next three nights, I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning painting away. It was a sweet time with a paintbrush, and I’m pretty happy with the final altar (considering I almost gave up on the whole project a few times). It’s not technically perfect, and if I did another draft, it’d probably get better. Yet due dates are due dates, and I turned it in. I’m curious to hear what people think and how they react to it. I’m pretty sure I’ll be submitting it to the gallery at Fuller for the Arts Fest week coming up in April to be part of that dialogue.

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Speaking of going to the movies…

March 12, 2007

amazing grace

Fuller’s Reel Spirituality Institute co-director and my Sundance professor, Craig Detweiler, is quoted in the USA Today about the recent Amazing Grace film release. He gives good perspective about the impact Christians can have in simply going to the movies. “The chance to support films that we may believe in is certainly preferable to (merely) protesting what we don’t like.”

Also interesting is the recent connection to film releases and social justice causes. The article sites Inconvenient Truth and Blood Diamond as examples for the recent surge of social conscience in environmentalism and the diamond trade. Amazing grace is to is tied to an effort by Bristol Bay Productions, amazingchange.com to end tragic modern day forms of slavery around the world. You can add your name to a petition to bring the issue formally before the US and other international governments.

Hmm…that was nice

March 12, 2007

Winter quarter is over, and I have to say, it was a good one.

Sundance
If you’ve been reading my blog, you can get a sense how much this class has impacted me. I found God in culture, and turns out he’s been quite present at the movies and with filmmakers for quite some time. Not only is film a culturally celebrated method of storytelling, I’m starting to agree that independent filmmakers are modern prophets who’s work holds up a mirror to our world and show us ourselves for better or worse. Go see a movie – and don’t feel guilty about it!

Theology and Culture
This was a solid class that helped ease the transition back into academic life after the jolting experience Sundance proved to be. I gave up taking notes on my computer so I could doodle as I processed the large vague concepts of spirituality that the wise sage John Drane passed on to us. I took the creative option for my final project and painted a triptych altarpiece of a coffee cup, candles and my iPod. I hope to post more about that in the next few days.

New Testament 2: Acts through Revelation
This class was a struggle for me. My Scottish professor, who unapologetically demanded biblical knowledge from his students, was ironically the same Drane I found so helpful in Theology and Culture. Yet his theology and holistic approach the canon was refreshing and affirming. I will always remember his story about making a wise cracks to his religion teacher in grade school to which his teacher simply asked, “Have you READ the bible?” In response to the challenge he picked up the good book, and hasn’t stopped reading since. I love the range of people Fuller brings in to teach, there is much to learn from each one.

So now I’m done with school and its only the Monday of finals week. While this meant a hellish weekend, I effectively have two weeks of Spring break. Since it’s been in the low 90s here, perhaps a trip to the beach is in order before I leave town to drive north.

quotable 3

March 10, 2007

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
the rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

-Barrett Browning, from “Aurora Leigh” as quoted in Rob Johnston’s Useless Beauty (p.26)

168 Film Project

March 4, 2007

Mark

After Sundance, my world was turned upside down. Thankfully, I wan’t alone. The others from Fuller Pasadena were just as moved as I was.

We had been challenged during our class time with the question, “Now what?” We had experienced God in films and conversations at the film festival in Park City, Utah, but what of it? Would this wear off like a summer camp or short term mission experience “spiritual high”? By the time we got the airport to fly back, a few of the group had already been kicking around the idea of entering a film festival together when we got back.

The small group of us dubbed ourselves “Miners Club Productions” after the name of the resort condo (donated!) where we stayed, and set out to enter the 168 Flim Project.

It’s a unique film festival where teams create film shorts, but are only given 168 hours (one week) for production. Also, it’s within a christian context, and the story lines must integrate a festival wide theme and a team specific bible verse. It’s mentioned today in the LA Daily News.

It was actually pretty amazing – within our team we had a screenwriter, two professional actors, director, musician, and fundraiser (plus me with design and fundraising experience). Fuller and those involved with the Sundance course were very excited to hear about our idea of doing a project together, and we raised some money and got some food donations to help with production costs.

Marker

Motivation ...

The film shoot happened last week (pictures here), and we’re waiting to hear back if we’ll be chosen to screen opening night in Burbank. Eitherway, it was an amazing experience to work on a project of this magnatuide with such great people (you can read JJ’s and Ipp’s posts about it too). I knew absolutely nothing about motion film going into it, so it was pretty eye-opening for me. I really liked seeing everyone contribute their part and watch the whole thing come together.

There’s a nagging “Now what?” after the “Now What?” but with a changed perspective and new connections with really talented and cool people, things look good.

Father Matthew Presents

March 2, 2007

Sorry for the silence of late, it’s been busy and *some other lame excuse here*.

Anyway, I’m discovering Father Matthew’s videocasts. Pretty funny stuff. This one about lack of marketing in seminary is not only hilarious, but poignant:

(ht Church Marking Sucks)