Sunday, July 15, 2007

" "

Be ever engaged, so that whenever the devil calls he may find you occupied. ~St. Jerome

On Caravaggio

It has been a week rich in art news! You can read about a controversy in establishing authenticity of a Carvaggio painting ( which is fascinating. The knowledge of art experts and the use of high tech in this area never ceases to amaze me. But the report reminded me of two charming things. One is the Golden Legend story about St. Jerome and the Lion which you can read here: The other is a chasuble designed after Caravaggio by Lewis Hindle of Orillia which I saw about five years ago at a liturgical arts festival, probably the coolest liturgical vestment I have ever seen (and I've seen a lot):

Pre-Raphaelite on the Prairie

The news report this week of a Kate Elizabeth Bunce painting in a Prince Albert cathedral reminded me how much I love Pre-Raphaelite style but often forget to explore it more. A devout Christian, this woman focused much of her work on church commissions and donations. The picture of St. Alban in the prairie church may be part of a triptych of him, Jesus and St. Patrick, but the latter two, if extant, are awol, as are many of Bunce's undocumented pieces. Here is a well-known painting of hers, Melody (Musica).

Quills and Ink Spills

A quill with a question mark this time to The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson (Penguin 2006). I loved this book but the question mark arises because of a wack website I found associated with the book ( which I will leave you to do with what you will. However, the novel was fab. It concerns a burnt out minister with an already dubious vocation who believes that after an accident he has not quite died but between realms he has met the Devil. This satan delivers: quirky and cool but unerringly creepy. Just how I like my religious literature: makes me laugh and think at the same time, and very imaginative. The town, of course, thinks Gideon is barmy~I'll say no more about it. It doesn't all take place in coo-coo land, so don't dismiss it as some weird sci-fi thing; it really is about the role we play in our own lives and how we are interconnected. Definitely one of those wish-it-wouldn't-end books. Having been exposed to a lot of gnostic and non-canonical gospels this year, I appreciated the idea of divinity in narrative and the human experience of spiritual players.

Hero of the Week

My favourite composer in the cosmos is Arvo Pärt, the Estonian-born writer of sacred choral and instrumental pieces who has recorded with choirs and ensembles from many countries. I will allow that he is perhaps an acquired taste, but if he hooks you, you've got an instant chillin' strategy. This is my deep-breathing/visualization/meditation replacement. This man's understanding of the human soul is so profound that it is hard to describe and really just insists on faith: you have to stop trying to understand the music on any level and just surrender to it. I recently found some cd's of his music that I had not heard before, so the Pärtometer is back in the red zone. has some MP3 audio samples you can check out.

Q Museum

I was promising to tell you of a new venue for art; my intended subject continues to have computer issues, so I will tell you of another, one of a growing movement: virtual art galleries that the public can contribute their own work to. Often they are associated with bona fide institutions such as the Louvre and the Smithsonian. This one is via CBC's show Q, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. This phenomenon brings up questions about what art is, what makes an artist, how one discerns what is good art, and so on. The snob in us can sniff at the everyman aspect of this, the accessibility of fame and recognition; but why are we derisive or dismissive of John Doe's art? What makes his inferior to some of the crap that does make it into legit galleries? As my friend says, much art criticism is pretentious baloney (my paraphrase) anyway, so does it not pretty much remain to us, the viewer, to decide what is 'good' and 'not good', not only the gallery owners? It's much more about your emotional reaction, than just technique, maturity and universal appeal. Here is an example from Q by Jackie Alcock, Who is looking at us while we are looking up at them? All starts are in the right place.

Now, this is redolent of Kurelek (self taught) and perhaps fits into the naive genre, but that does not necessarily make it 'bad art' which should be kept in a closet gathering dust. For me it, along with its title, triggers a response that is about my place in the world and how tiny I am and concurrently how important I am to God (Matt 10:29, 31) despite the enormity of the universe. Doesn't mean I would put this in my living room, but it also doesn't mean it shouldn't be made accessible to more people via the internet. If you would like to contribute your stuff to the Q Virtual Museum, go to It will be interesting to see where this movement goes--trend of the Naughts that we look back at and laugh at, or (right or wrong) a new branch of the established art scene.

WHO's heard of this?

Pete Townshend has premiered a new rock opera, The Boy Who Heard Music, at an emerging theatre festival in upstate New York but will not communicate with media about it except by media release and says it is too much in the 'embryonic' stage still to do so. As per a CBC article, the opera is a 'hallucinatory tale about the rise and fall of a band made up of three teenagers from different ethnic backgrounds as seen through the eyes of an aging rock star'. Sounds like art trying too hard to imitate life to be relevant art...perhaps that is why he is shying away from meeting the press? A lack of confidence in his opus? I look forward to reading reviews and impressions of this piece. Hopefully it is heavier on the opera than on the hallucinatory; Tommy was cool when I was sixteen, but now I am more critical of rockers-gone-classical (see older post, Beatle Guise).

This Week~

July 16 1412 Joan of Arc led the French to military victory over the English at Orleans.
July 19 1834 Edgar Degas' birthdate.
July 20 1890 Birthdate of Theda Bara, movie vamp, the first to have an exotic bio constructed to further her cinema career.
July 21 1911 Marshall McLuhan was born.
July 22 Birthdates of artists Edward Hopper, 1882 and Alexander Calder, 1898.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Call for Artists

Christian artists are invited to apply to this juried exhibition:
This came to me via friends at ECVA, the Episcopal Church and the Visual Arts (

My Life as a Squat Explorer

©V.Wells, 2007

Advance Concert Listing

Plan now for a concert by the Toronto Consort at the 1865 Philipsville heritage Baptist Church being renovated by Paul Jenkins, ensemble member and accomplished organist. This chamber ensemble, directed by David Fallis, specializes in the music of the middle ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The da Vinci Collection: Music of Leonardo's Renaissance takes place on Sunday July 29, 3-5pm, $20, call 416 920 3341 to confirm. I sang under the direction of Paul in a choir; his musicianship is outstanding, as of course is Toronto Consort's. Check out more about him at

Reprise: Kahlo and Rivera

There was excitement in the art world this week with the exhibition of many personal belongings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico. For more information about this fortuitous segue from the movie review of Frida (see last week's blog), go to the online article at

The New 7 Wonders of the World

I will leave it to you to google the new list and its subsequent omissions. I'm sure everyone has their own quibbles with the content, process and historical significance of the selections. Here's my take on another list:
It's a wonder pouring millions of dollars into medical research rarely finds cures, especially for the biggies, AIDS and cancer.
It's a wonder we even still have a climate to promote through Live Earth.
It's a wonder we aren't all chronically depressed considering the news is 99% negative.
It's a wonder we still have people signing up for the armed forces.
It's a wonder air travel can be called 'a sin' but driving to the corner store is ok.
It's a wonder public transportation is not a government priority.
It's a wonder the arts are not the other government priority.

71 Minutes Well Spent

Following was written, directed and shot (in B&W) in 1999 by Christopher Nolan. Part thriller, part drama, this is a story using flashbacks and triple-crossing plot to explore the betrayal of victims by burglars. The sound editing backs up the bleakness of spirit permeating the film. It is a psychological study of a burglar who claims his motivation is anthropological study: "Take it away to show them what they had". The theme of consumerism aside, by the end we begin to consider the nature of culpability, and in fact which of the commandments it is worse to breach (it would be a spoiler if I elaborated). So the chicken and the egg question arises, and in turn we ask questions about social issues and problems. You can watch this film purely as entertainment, but it is also good brain candy. Rated 14A, recipient of many awards including Toronto International Film Festival recognition.

Quills and Ink Spills

A Quill this time to Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Published in 2005 (Free Press), this book unfortunately remains current (considering we keep hearing that low rise jeans are going out of fashion, I keep seeing errant thong straps and plumber's views). Levy's thesis is that we are a society that has reached the bottom of the barrel in terms of self-abasement, and that as women we have encouraged and aided what we claim to hate: men treating women like meat. Dressing like whores from an early age (see also Why Do We Dress our Daughters Like Skanks and related articles and books,, we wonder why women's lib isn't working for our generation, whilst wearing Tshirts with "I'd f*** me"; there is a disconnect between image, fashion, presentation and social identity. This can begin as a parenting issue, but as a society we perpetuate the problem, accepting Girls Gone Wild and Porno Valley as basic cable viewing. I always want to ask self-revealing girls, why do you want to look like a prostitute? What possible advantage could there be to saying to the world, 'I am trash'? There are other daring ways to compete, to stand out, to rebel. Levy proposes that underlying this smiling veneer of female strength and freedom is self-hatred and non-existent self-esteem; many are the girls she interviews who say they perform favours for male acquaintances purely for social acceptance. This book is not for the prudish. It is a book for every parent of a girl or boy of any age; pretending your child will not be affected in some way by raunch culture is delusional.

This Week...

July 11 1937 George Gershwin died of a brain tumour at 38
July 12 1730 English potter Josiah Wedgwood was born
July 14 1912 American folk singer Woody Guthrie was born
July 15 1606 Birthdate of Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Different Portrayal of God

from Proverbs of Hell

"Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth."
~William Blake

Raw Bacon

An exhibit of Francis Bacon's 1950s paintings, Raw Human Emotion, is on at the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, alongside a photography exhibit and the gallery's Remix. Bacon was a self-taught painter who was unimpressed with the pretensions of art world figures, and whose focus was more on translating human emotion onto the canvas. He died in 1992, soon after a series of discussions recorded in "Francis Bacon: In Conversation with Michel Archambaud" (Phaidon Press). The show is large and demonstrates the wide range of Bacon's subject matter. He said about art, "One learns by looking. That's what you must do, look." I did, and I recommend that you do, too, if you are heading down that way. (The Albright Knox has reciprocal membership privileges with the AGO). See the link at the right for more info.

God in the Movies

There's an article reviewing the portrayal of God in Hollywood over the years: Personally my favourite is Morgan Freeman. I recently watched the R rated Dogma, a controversial film--for good reason--so I can't officially recommend it on a family-friendly site, but it did make some good theological points, and I loved the portrayal of Jay and Silent Bob, two prophets; not because of the foul language, but because it was very biblical that prophets often come in unexpected forms, saying things nobody wants to hear...Alan Rickman as a recalcitrant angel was a laugh, too. Alanis Morissette played God, wearing flip flops.

Christopher Dancen

Who knew he could dance??? See the nominally Methodist and very sauve Mr. Walken dancing here: (The Youngsters will recognize Fatboy Slim).


Follow this link to read the poem Church Going by Philip Larkin.

This Week in History

July 2 1900 Premiere in Helsinki of Jean Sibelius's Finlandia.
July 6 1928 Warner Bros. release the first 100% talkie; The Jazz Singer had full music and sound effects but only about 25% dialogue was audible.
July 7 1887 Marc Chagall was born in Russia.
July 8 1907 Ziegfeld Follies premiers on a theatre roof in New York.