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...]

Of Monks, Conversion, and Radio Astronomy, Part 2

Guest Post
By Richard Cole

—Continued from yesterday.

On my second day at the abbey, I bounced around, trying to listen, to feel, to be in the moment like Carmen advised. It was a tough slog.

“Waste time. Waste time,” I told myself, checking my watch.

At lunch with the brothers, I casually mentioned that I was in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) now. I waited for congratulations but everyone just nodded. One of the brothers asked, “Have you seen the library? You might find that useful.”

After lunch, I found the library. Everything was orderly and well-arranged. I felt calm, the way I do in a workshop, surrounded by tools and lumber. I wandered over to an old Royale typewriter sitting on a small table. On top was a note written in a spidery, elegant hand: [Read more...]

Of Monks, Conversion, and Radio Astronomy, Part 1

By Richard Cole
Guest Post

In the middle of life, I fell in love. For my forty-ninth birthday, my wife Lauren gave me a three-day visit by myself at a monastery in South Texas. I went there simply to read for a while and relax. I wasn’t a believer in much of anything, I wasn’t religious, and while I was there, I didn’t see any visions or hear voices.

But when I came back, I was on a path. Something had happened. An invisible hand was pressing me in the small of my back, propelling me forward.

At the monastery, I wondered whether the monks would try to convert their guest. I’d been around evangelists before. I kept waiting for someone to approach me with a carnivorous twinkle in his eye and ask, “Are you saved, my son?” [Read more...]