Category Archives: Faith

Turning it up to 11…


*quick note* I’m looking for one of the instruction booklets that Rudolph Stingel created for his retrospective at the MCA Chicago and the Whitney Museum in NY. If you happen have one and will sell it or photograph/photocopy it for me, you’ll get a special prize of awesomeness and gratitude.

So last weekend I went to the bi-annual CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts) conference.

If you just rolled your eyes, hear me out…

It was dope.

You may know that I like to nerd out about contemporary art and…well…drink beer. I got to do both here (although we did have to wait and go off-campus for the beer). It turns out that I’m not the only one who enjoys this, apparently, as there were quite a few who motored through a severe lack of sleep to burn the candle at both ends.

OK, so here were some of the highlights and my guffaws:

Miroslav Wolf was the opening keynote and is more like Dave Hickey than I thought.
As it turns out, we also shared the same dorm suite and of course I met him as he had just finished going for a run and the only thing I could muster enough genius to say was that I had left my running shoes behind. I suggest to those reading who don’t bother to inquire as to who your roommates will be, should you elect the economic option of a conference to share a suite, to prepare yourself with a question or two for the keynote speakers, in case you happen to run into them unexpectedly, say, in your room. I feel like I was tossed a golden opportunity (although for what, I don’t know…spontaneous rigorous theological debate?) and ducked.

Dan Siedell was also a presenter. I actually had a question for him, but in keeping with my acts of genius, I failed to actually deliver it. What does hypostatic union mean anyway? You may have heard me recommend his book, God in the Gallery. I still do, even though he confessed that he would change about 90% of it today, if he could. It’s a book that needed to be written, especially for those who don’t have a background in art. I do, but I still find it useful. It was great to have the opportunity to meet him and talk. It turns out that we have a few friends and acquaintances in common.

– For me, one of the main highlights was connecting with people. I have friends in the organization I only see sparingly because of distance and these types of events are good for reconnecting. Also, it’s great to meet new people who have similar interests. The times outside the scheduled conference events ended up being as engaging as the conference itself. That’s where you can really hash things out, you know…in the lunch line. Seriously, from what it’s like to relocate and take on a full course load in rural Idaho to the challenges of working for an art superstar, an inquisitive mind (or in my case, a jerk) can learn a lot.

– The NY art discussion group (sponsored by CIVA) was re-formed at the conference to much raucous discussion. It turns out that we have opinions – strong ones. Shouting aside, we motored through a lot and had a great time.

So all that’s to say that it was worth it. I knew it would be, but it’s always a pleasant surprise when it proves true.

If you went, what did you think?

keep in touch.



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IAM conference 2008…

Howdy folks,

So last weekend saw the coming and going of the 2008 annual IAM (International Arts Movement) conference. Overall, I would have to rate it a success. It wasn’t without its downsides, but I think it managed to succeed despite its shortcomings.

Highlights for me were:

Roberta Green Ahmanson – her presentation this year was another historical tour de force on the topic of the city. I’m actually re-listening to her 2007 address on faces to get more information for my Jesus Portraits series. Ahmanson’s lecture was a freight train of information and a good way to start.

Jeff Speck – one of New Urbanism’s poster children, Speck was witty and informative – an interesting continuation of Ahmanson’s address.

Joyce Robinson from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, who brought Tara Donovan, Barbara Takenaga and Jared Sprecher to present on the program was thoroughly fascinating. I was fortunate enough to meet Sprecher earlier in the conference and enjoyed both his work and getting acquainted with him. The panel discussion with this group was really informative and gave, I think, an interesting glimpse into the processes and stories of how these artists got to where they are in their careers. I was also thoroughly delighted to photograph both Robinson and Sprecher for my Jesus Portraits series (although I doubt it will help me get into the studio program).

Terry Teachout – I was unfamiliar with this acclaimed theater critic, but completely won over by his eloquent and imaginative presentation. I found his unabashed endorsement of beauty in art to be refreshing, if a little heavily anti-post-modernity. Normally, I would agree with this sentiment; but I can’t, of late, rule out the beneficial contribution of Derida and deconstruction to the general discourse.

I’m so pissed off that I missed the TM Sisters‘ performance…but I am completely grateful for a generously willing pose as Jesus.

viva bluegrass (a.k.a. old time)! the Varnish Cooks kicked it old school and well.

Last, but not least, I have to give props to Rob Mathis. Although I generally wouldn’t consider myself a fan of his genre of music, the guy was solid and his music was impressive. It may have also been his huge enthusiasm for Dostoyevsky that sold it, but for some reason I connected with it. If you have the opportunity to hear him, I’d highly recommend it.

Oh, well, I did also shoot almost 60 new Jesus Portraits, so keep an eye peeled for updates.

Well, that’s about it for now.



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I am IAM…

Hi folks,


Short post today.

The 2008 IAM conference (they’re calling it an “encounter,” but I’m not) starts today.

I’m shooting two series over the weekend – my Jesus Portraits and a new campaign for IAM called, I am IAM.

I think this is a good idea for them, if they can pull it off well.

If you’re in town, stop by and say hi.



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Upsetting the apple cart.

ok, this is totally off topic, but it had me crying from laughter at my desk.

Hi folks.


I’m knee-deep into John D. Caputo’s first officially theological endeavor, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event and it’s having rather significant influence on both my conception of God and my conception of art (in a really indirect way).

My more traditionally orthodox and theologically conservative friends will want to throw me out with the liberal bathwater they might associate with Caputo’s arguments (although I’d urge them not to rely on reviews, but read it for themselves, thank you very much) but I’m really finding the exploration of St. Paul’s writing in I Corinthians to be fascinating. Caputo essentially launches his theology from this:

“but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1:23-25 (New American Standard Bible)

Obviously, my summarizing is drastically simplistic, but the idea of God moving and working in and through human weakness rather than with a sort of “shock and awe” strength is something I’ve heard preached many times and that has really contradicted other notions tauting God’s omnipotence. Red flags go up. He’s messing with God’s omnipotence! Wait, he also argues rather convincingly that said omnipotence is a later, human, metaphysical assertion that isn’t consistent with a hebraic and logical interpretation of the bible. woah. Lest the torches are lit prematurely, I’ll let you know that Caputo neither approaches his argument lightly, nor does he point us away from our faith in God, rather, he seems to be pointing us more directly to the God who moves us to both do and be the good that He created – exemplified in Jesus Christ on the cross (ha! and you thought you could write it off so easily).

But what does my mid-point in a theology tome have to do with paintings in Chelsea?

I’m still working that out, but it seems to have profound implications for the motivation of the artist and the product the artist creates. If a person postures themselves in proximity to a deity that advocates for the weak, the lowly, the poor, then the art that comes out must, at least partially, reflect similar notions.

A theology of weakness begets an aesthetic of weakness.

…and that’s where I’m at – finishing the book and looking for others that might inform a research into an aesthetic of weakness.

Some people have suggested Richard Kearney – who seems to be working on it through the idea of stories.

Let’s see where it goes.

(See you at church)




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Bag it 2.0

Hi folks.

Sorry for the hiatus. I got a little overly nerdy about teaching and basically wiped my schedule clean for a while. Well, back in action.

Starting the year a little slow, but hopefully it will ramp up nicely.

Upcoming events:

IAM is having their annual conference (calling it an encounter this year) at the end of February. I have a tendency to be skeptical about these things, but every single time I go I’m really impressed with a lot of what goes on (the keynote speakers have been excellent every time I’ve been there). This year they have some interesting people lined up, including a recent favorite – artist Tara Donovan. It looks like I might be doing a collaborative project with them during the event, so if you’re coming out, drop by and say hi (and participate!). They seem to be moving specifically to re-brand themselves as an organization that’s not specifically evangelistic. I know they’ve technically been a non-religious institution for a while; but, anyone familiar with IAM is also probably familiar with Mako and his ties to college ministry. This seems like a good move for them, as it broadens the scope of the conversations they can have and lends them credibility with those unfamiliar with or unenthusiastic about certain college ministries.

I mean, I like the college students as much as anyone (my first class went relatively well yesterday, btw), but campus ministries have left a lingering bad taste in my mouth and if IAM wants to be serious about its stated mission of encouraging artists in creating “the world that ought to be” well, they need to focus a little more on the artists, because they’ve already targeted the art-students. We’ll see how it goes, but my recent conversation left me hopeful.

word. I’m going.


Here’s a bag I started just before the Christmas break and finished a couple weeks ago. It’s inspired by this Make Magazine video.

Recycle, yo.



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Everything is changing…

So I add one word to this post and it *($%s up the formatting on the whole thing.


Hi everybody,Greetings in the new year!  Beth and I are back from our whirlwind tour of northern California and Michigan.  Too much traveling, but it was great to see our families and friends.   


I’ve had an aversion to the “What did you get for Christmas?” question for a really long time, but I can say that one of the great things I received this year was a copy of Brian Mclaren’s Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope .

This book took me all of 8 days to chew through. I think that’s a record.

Here’s the skinny:

1) The world (including Christianity) is locked into a (framing) system that’s killing itself.

2) We need to re-think how Jesus’ life and message addresses everything we know about the world, its major problems, and how we figure into them. It all needs to change.

Get it. Read it. Give it to someone else.

Here’s a thought on why:

I’ve been a fan of reading theology for quite a while now and have been recently excited by writers like Rob Bell and Shane Claiborne. I’m a verified nerd when it comes to listening to sermon podcasts and theology lectures – not to mention my uber-enthusiasm for the postmodern philosophy/theology conversation I was recently introduced to through Emergent Village and the writing of John D. Caputo (a review of After the Death of God is on its way).  So in reading Everything Must Change, it was clear to see how Mclaren is putting a more popular face to a theology of deconstruction (via Caputo or Gianni Vattimo). This is theology based on a philosophy (deconstruction – via Derrida) that recognizes our human limits in language systems – that says we should always question the definitive language that has been accepted as “truth” in the past and recognize the fallible nature of our own interpretations. This puts the Christian in an automatically humble and meek position where one is constantly praying for God’s grace and mercy in our lives as we participate in Jesus’ redemption of all things. It keeps us reliant on God and less able to be over-confidant jerks about our religion. It may even keep us from going to war in the name God (or oil) again.

I guess everything would have to change for that to happen.

Some other people have reviewed this also – and are better spoken than I am.

Nicholas Fielder rightly says, “This book is more than a book about religion. It is a call to make things right in the world, but it convicts the religious. If we think that what Jesus had to say was important, than we must see his words in light of changing social machines, we must understand that he wanted a kingdom of justice to rule on the earth, and me must understand that we are peaceful warriors in charge of bringing a kingdom of peace, but also a kingdom of justice. Africa, AIDS, Darfur, Child Prostitution, Hunger, Intolerance, Racism, Social Justice. . . these are problems that should be front in center in every Christian institution. Are they?”

Well, they’re starting to be.

If I was skeptical about Mclaren and the emerging movement before, I can only say that the emerging conversation is one of the most interesting and exciting conversations I’ve come across in a long time – not in part because it’s a conversation of healing and redemption.

Sure, sure, I said that about Rob Bell – well, he’s avoiding labels, and rightly so, but they’re definitely talking to each other, and me.  My question is, how does this work in my context? I don’t know, but so far it’s looking pretty sweet. My Jesus year is kickin ass (mine).




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Postmodernism is not dead and I’m eating a fat bowl of my own words…


I am, however, still sick of the generic use of the term in the church by people who have no idea what it means or how it applies to the church.

What I didn’t know, until recently, is that there are people continuing the discussion within academic philosophy and theology groups who actually know what they’re talking about. The primary two appear to be John C. (Jack) Caputo and Richard Kearney.

Seriously, I couldn’t believe it when I heard that they both had studied and debated with Jacques Derrida and that Caputo had written this and on how deconstruction is viable and applicable within the context of Christianity. I liked Derrida when I learned about/read him in graduate school, but also got the opinion that the church largely thinks postmodern deconstruction to be a giant battering ram at the door of their theology. Well, as it turns out, it is. Except that the battering ram is there to remove our problematic presuppositions regarding God and religion. Ok, that was a broad, sweeping statement that I’m still chewing on. I just got Caputo’s book, “After the Death of God,” which looks to shed some more light on it. What I do know is that I find it ridiculously exciting to see someone working so formidably in the academic world in this area. I think it’s an extremely important conversation with regards to contemporary art, culture, and the church.

This podcast series has a fantastic summary of (continental) philosophical history leading up to Derrida and profound takes on how it all relates to Jesus and Christianity. I really consider it important in understanding both contemporary (continental) philosophy and the church’s relationship to/in it. I’m only annoyed that, once again, I’m coming later into the conversation than I wish I had.

*note* This series is a product of Emergent Village (of Emergent Church movement fame), which I had previously read described (pretty much) as a bunch of mega-church dudes wanting to hang out more. Where I’m fairly new to researching their positions and organization (and don’t have a fully-formed opinion yet), clearly they are doing something interesting in this conversation. Thanks to my wife’s boss, David, for recommending it to me.

Here’s the first part of the podcast series.




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