catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 1 :: 2012.01.06 — 2012.01.19


Ten works of art

I realize whenever I sit down to make a list of things from the past how really very short my memory is.  For example, most of what came to mind when I reflected on significant art I experienced in 2011 was from the last half (maybe even the last quarter) of the year.  Ah, well.  It helps remind me of the need for liturgy — to read the Bible again or take communion every Sunday or spend time in silence each day.  I need reminding, and for me, art is part of that great liturgical cloud.  So here, in no particular order, are ten art-ifacts that taught me important, wonderful, terrible things in the past year.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie:  I finally read this book after having it on my list for a while and it’s such a bold mix of humor and tragedy.  Alexie nails the workings of internalized racist oppression through the story of Junior (or is his name Arnold?), a “res” kid who becomes neither white nor Native American when he pursues a better education.

Habibi by Craig Thompson:  Thompson’s newest book is also a coming-of-age graphic novel, like his memoir Blankets, but in the entirely different cultural context of a fictional Islamic culture.  This story could not have been told in any other medium.  The cartoon characters came just short of breaking my heart as Thompson revels in the graphic potency of Arabic calligraphy to tell a story of love, shame, grief, longing, myth and industrialization.  It’s one of those books I couldn’t put down from start to finish and, after a short breather to process the violence, wanted to pick right back up again.

Of Gods & Men directed by Xavier Beauvois: I wrote about this film for catapult back in June when it was ending its North American theatrical run — an amazing portrait of a countercultural, self-sacrificing liturgical community that chooses peace in the face of violence.

Christ Teacher written by the hand of Donna Rathert:  This icon has been part of our household since 2009 when our friend Donna agreed to allow me to barter for it in order to give it to Rob for his thirtieth birthday.  Rather than use the barter time for herself, she gifted it to an aging neighbor who needed help caring for her sweet blind horse, Moon.  The icon generally reminds me of the value of living in a gift economy, but its words have been especially poignant in a year of transition: “Behold, I am doing a new thing.  Now it shall spring forth.”  Donna passed away on December 29 after a long struggle with cancer, leaving so many gifts behind.  Christ Teacher will continue to remind me of her graciousness, commitment, boldness and generosity.

Tumble Bee by Laura Veirs:  Barely a night goes by lately when I don’t wake up with one of Veirs’ glorious children’s songs happily stuck in my head.  In the middle of a particularly stressful time full of deadlines and holiday obligations, Tumble Bee has urged me to smile, play and, when all seems lost, just go ahead and sing along.  It’s just what the little lap dog ordered.

Melancholia directed by Lars Von Trier:  Some contend that Von Trier’s newest film is a bait-and switch, offering beauty, but delivering cruelty.  It’s dark.  I don’t understand it, and I yet do.  I don’t like it, and yet I do.  I didn’t weep uncontrollably like I did after Dancer in the Dark, but it did elicit strong emotions.  It’s awkward and horrible and gorgeous and I have to say, I’d do the end of the world all over again.

Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniel Luppi:  Rob bought me this album for Christmas and it’s mellow in a dark, mysterious, energizing way, while also somehow being playful.  It’s a smoky room full of groove and pop.  It makes me feel like I’m on the set of Bubba Ho-Tep.

Zeppelin Bend Whiskey: At $9 per serving (pricey in our neck of the woods), this whiskey is a rare treat for sure, and wowza!  So complex, like drinking a song off of Rome.  Art you can drink and it’s made right here in Michigan, to boot.

Pottery by Elizabeth Brouwer:  After one of our big serving bowls slipped into the sink and broke a while back, I was on the lookout for a replacement.  I found it at a student art show last spring and its maker just happened to make her way to Three Rivers after graduation to be part of our evolving *cino community.  Along with a beautiful set of mugs and a French butter keeper she gave us for Christmas, Elizabeth’s pottery will be holding good food, drinks and memories in good company for many years to come.

Culture Make Sale contributions:  After several months of planning and preparation, our volunteer staff in Three Rivers launched the Culture Make Sale fundraiser, which was an online sale featuring donated, handmade goods from supporters all over the country.  Each piece was a symbol of love and generosity.  I was grateful to be surrounded by such goodness and thoroughly enjoyed watching friends from totally different realms of our lives enjoying one another’s creativity.

In The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher writes,

A practice is meant to connect you with what is deeply alive, to stir in you the same kind of aliveness that the disciples of Jesus must have felt around him.  A practice trains and disciplines the mind to head toward compassion rather than toward greed.  A practice is not about finding exactly the right set of rules that will make you “good” but is instead meant to establish a habit of connection to a world that is both tenuous and surprising, outside of time and in it.

Experiencing these works of art over the past year has been a stirring, life-giving practice and I look forward to seeing what manner of creative surprises are in store for 2012.  One thing I know: I’ll need to be reminded.  Again and again.

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