Art on Fire: The Life and Work of Melissa Weinman, Part 2

By Richard Cole
ROSEFIRE IweinmanContinued from yesterday

When Weinman completed her fellowship in Europe, she came back to the U.S., where she began a new life that included marriage, the birth of two daughters, and a new chapter in her pilgrim faith.

“I think I’m a Christian, but I don’t know how to do it.” This was how she approached an Episcopal priest in her neighborhood, looking for spiritual direction. Although he was on the point of retirement, he agreed to meet with her once a week, and for the next year, they discussed Christian teachings and the Bible.

During this period, she created “Study for Christ,” a charcoal and conté crayon drawing of a young, muscular man with close-cropped hair. “I drew Jesus as kind of a tough guy, but that was alright, because that’s what I needed in this very uncertain world.”

The drawing marked a turning point in both her art and faith. “By drawing Jesus, I came into relationship with Jesus,” she says, acknowledging that, in many ways, she was no longer the artist who had painted the suffering saints.

“It’s weird to look back at the person I was then, how angry and resentful. I used those images to gain attention but also to illustrate their suffering. The paintings were dark, and I thought that a painting could redeem suffering, and that was noble. But now I began to shed that person.” [Read more...]

Art on Fire: The Life and Work of Melissa Weinman, Part 1

By: Richard Cole

Weinman_Even the Night Shall Be Light About Me_2_web (1)In a recent painting by Melissa Weinman, a small, white rose floats over darkness. The rose is in full blossom, almost blown, and crowned by a pale fire rising from its petals like mist.

The effect is arresting, almost hallucinatory, but this is not an image that is merely unusual—a pretty flower on fire. Instead, the painting holds us in abeyance. We enjoy both what we can see and what escapes us. We have the sense that this is not the odd, passing moment but a steady state, something more than physical that is burning with something more than fire.

The painting’s title, “Even the Night Shall Be Light About Me,” a quote from Psalm 139, directs us to think in terms of sacred art. But to better understand this image and the beauty it portrays, we also need to approach it as art deeply informed by the spiritual life of the artist. [Read more...]

The Bearable Weightiness of Being

By Amy Peterson
61pASF-GwkL._SL500_I was restless this spring, edging manic. I think my kids noticed. One Thursday I checked them out of school for an impromptu road trip.

“Isn’t this fun?” I asked. If this were a novel I’d say my eyes were glittering, but this is not fiction: I have no idea how wild-eyed I was.

“I just think it’s a little weird to leave school for no reason,” my six-year-old said.

It wasn’t for no reason. The responsibilities of adult life were weighing heavily on me, and I felt stuck with mortgage payments and email responses and writing deadlines and the feeling that every person in our small town was watching me. At the same time, my body was remembering another spring, the spring when I felt most free.

Karis and I took a gently rocking train from Budapest to Prague, clutching paper cups of coffee, steam fogging the green view outside the window. It was May 2002, and I was twenty-years-old, wearing my hair in greasy braids, mostly unaware of my privilege, and taking myself and my freedom very seriously. [Read more...]

The Dissonant Note

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

debussyI have a heart arrhythmia that, though benign, is frustrating and feels like death despite its clinical insignificance. It has no cause and no effect; cardiologists call it capricious. It’s meaningless and unreasonable and irregular, and I hate it.

After a night of insomnia and errant heartbeats, I spend a comforting morning on the piano with Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque. Its rhythm is purposefully unpredictable, notes falling all over themselves.

I played the piano all the time when the arrhythmia was first monitored and diagnosed, drifting toward arrhythmic music I hated learning as a child. All those misplaced beats and skittering hands and attempts to hold multiple melodies in my head at the same time. It felt wrong, but my piano teacher knew: This one, she will never befriend the metronome.

The arabesque is a problem that never gets solved, an unanswered question. Playing it is like endlessly falling with nothing to right the body. It is all sky and no ground.

Arrhythmia is distressing in any form. Debussy’s use of arrhythmic structure—bitonality—got his music shunned by the artistic thought leaders of the day. In nineteenth-century Europe, tone was integral to composing music, tone being a steady sound in one key that predicts and guides the composition. Haydn and Bach were the greats, the ones to be emulated: repetition leading to rhythm, a diversionary tactic here to indicate that something is happening, a return to the source soon after. Set the metronome; do not deviate. [Read more...]

Divine Drudgery

vanTwo weeks after we moved to the Mennonite community in rural Illinois, a baby was born in a teepee in my backyard. My neighbor Angela was a doula and had agreed to let a friend give birth in her own home. I’m not sure even Angela had expected the full-sized teepee to be erected fifty feet from the double sliding glass doors that looked out onto the backyard we shared.

Really, though, we share more than a backyard. Along with five or so families, we live on 180 acres of woods and farmland and dwell in the seven or eight buildings constructed by community members in the seventies and eighties.

That night, the teepee, straight out of the movie Dances with Wolves, was full of smoke, fire, and rain from the fateful thunderstorm whose thrumming rose and fell in pitch with the mother’s vocal contractions.

I stood at the window early the next morning and heard the newborn’s very first cries. And despite the strangeness of it all, I cried too.

Witnessing an unusual birth, living on a farm, rubbing shoulders with hippies, growing and raising our own food: It all sounds so romantic and interesting when I describe it, doesn’t it? [Read more...]


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