Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lutheran New Yorker on Parables

There is a lovely article on Parables in this month's copy of the Lutheran New Yorker (the magazine for the Metropolitan New York Synod).  Read it online here, or stop by Parables to pick up a hard copy!
Lutheran New Yorker Fall 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brooklyn Museum's First Saturday

A couple months ago, out of the blue, I received an email from the Brooklyn Museum asking if I'd like to do some participatory art form them.  My response was, YES!!!!  But I tried to phrase it so that I didn't come across as a deranged garden gnome who was finally getting to feast on the flesh of that uppity flamingo.

When I actually went down to the museum and talked to them about what they wanted, they said they'd like something for visitors to interact with at their First Saturday parties, which regularly draw thousands of people.  So their first question was, "Have you ever done interactive art for a thousand people?"  Not yet!

They seem to be willing to take a chance on me, though, so we came up with a plan in which visitors to the Brooklyn Museum will receive a riddle to which the answer is an object in the museum.  When the visitors solve the riddle and find the object, they inform a docent who gives them a 20"x20" tile with collage-by-numbers instructions on it.  After using programs/poster/catalogs from various Brooklyn art institutions to collage the tile, visitors then receive instructions to place the tile on the floor of the Beaux-Arts Court.  When all the tiles have been found, decorated, and placed, they will form a 1200 sq ft Brooklyn themed mosaic. 

It's happening this Saturday, December 1st, 5pm-11pm, at the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway
Brooklyn.  It free, so come join in the fun! 

Special thanks to all my kind friends who have helped create the hundreds of tiles needed to make this happen!

5 Gallons of Gas

How many churches does it take to keep a family warm for a night after Hurricane Sandy has shut down power and a nor'easter drops snow?  Let's count:

1) Pastor William Baum from Saint Barnabas Lutheran Church in Howard Beach sends out this email urgently asking for gasoline to keep families in his community warm through the upcoming snow storm:
Dear Friends,
I would like to be as clear as possible about this. At this point, the people in my community (Howard Beach & Hamilton Beach) need gasoline.  Not food.  Not water. Not blankets. After nine days, almost everyone still has no heat and no electricity. In very many cases, they do have generators. But no gasoline to power them. There is a nor’easter blasting through for the next twelve hours.  It is snowing heavily. Tree limbs are falling. They are cold, exhausted and in shock.  In many cases they have kids and they have long surpassed the excitement of living through a crisis. 
I just heard from a kind and generous man in Westchester that will deliver 10 gallons of gasoline to my people. It will be put to immediate and grateful use by families that are struggling to get through this. As I understand it, ten gallons of gasoline will power a generator for a few days and it can be shared by about three families.  This would provide them a little bit of light and if they can wrangle a space heater, a little bit of heat to get them closer to 50 degrees, rather than sub 32 degrees.
If you or someone you know is able to safely deliver gasoline, please be in touch and I will give you delivery instructions. Please be advised, you will be given a hero's welcome.
Peace & Blessings,
Pastor Baum 

2) Shamika, a young woman who attends not one but three churches in Brooklyn, St. Lydia's, Not So Churchy, and Parables, decides to put all the pastors in touch with one another so that they can work together to help those affected by the storm. Though three churches are mentioned in this step, we'll just count Not So Churchy in our list at this point.

3) Emily Scott, pastoral minister at St. Lydia's, and a friend of Pastor William Baum, forwards his email to the new coalition of Brooklyn churches, saying that she knows where gas is available, but no one has a gas can, and all the stores have sold out.

4) I get a hold of Alfredo from St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Williamsburg.  Alfredo runs his own carpentry business and has a gas can which he can give us.

5) I stand in line for an hour and fill up the can 10 minutes before the gas station runs out of gasoline.
(curiously, of the twenty or thirty people standing in line with me, all of them were men)

6) Emily gets a hold of Ann Kansfield, pastor of Greenpoint Reformed Church, who has a Prius with enough gas to make the delivery to Howard Beach.  Ann is busy running a soup kitchen, so she doesn't have time to make the run herself.  Fortunately, two of her parishioners do, and pick up the can to make the delivery by nightfall.
(you can see the silver Prius in the background)

In the end, people from six churches across three denominations came together to get a family enough gas to keep warm through the night. Across New York, thousands of stories just like this one were, and still are, taking place.  The coalition of churches that Shamika inspired continued to deliver gas for another week and now has a google group for people to coordinate their efforts as we each do what little we can, praying each day that it will be enough.      

Because the blog post doesn't really do the emotional content of the experience justice, I wrote the following epic bilingual poem/psalm about the experience, taking some artistic licence.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Art Bus Documentary

The church in South Carolina who came up to New York to pick up two buses to turn into mobile art studios have made a 20 minute documentary of their experience! Minutes 6:15-11:00 feature them stopping by Brooklyn to make a giant crossword puzzle with me in the subway.  

The Art Bus Project from Nathan Lee on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Parable of the Podcast: Eve, Adam, and the Forbidden Fruit

The new Parable of the Podcast on the Forbidden Fruit is finally up!  Listen here.  It should also be on iTunes shortly. Also, be sure to call 862-243-2763 (862-2HearMe) to record your stories about Cain and Abel by the end of Thanksgiving weekend.  Any stories about siblings, rivalries, or anything else that the story sparks are welcome!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Creative Energy Storage

In chemistry there is a concept called “chemical potential energy.” When two atoms bond to form a molecule, energy gets stored in the bond between them.  Most of the time, the energy in that bond doesn't do anything, it just sits there.   But if something, say a fire, breaks that bond, the energy that was stored in it gets released.  This is the concept behind everything from burning gas to power a car, to eating food to give us the energy to get through the day.  The potential energy stored inside the chemical bonds that make fuel and food gets released when burned or digested.

At Parables we create a different type of bond: the connection between people through stories.  This narrative connection happens naturally from spending a month sitting with a story from scripture on one side and the stories of our lives on the other. 
Just like chemical connections, these narrative connections can become incredible reservoirs of energy. Most of the month the energy just sits there, accumulating as the connections grow.  That’s why, instead of a normal offering plate, Parables has a “Creative Energy Storage” Jar.  As people feel the energy around the story that we are exploring for the month build, they can put money in the Creative Energy Storage.  At the end of each month, people suggest ways that we as a community might light a fire to release the energy and the money into the world.
Our first month was spent exploring the Book of Ruth, a story about marginalized women who have to find a way to survive when society doesn't give them economic options. As we pondered the story, the question naturally arose, who are these women today? At the end of the month we decided to release the financial energy that we had stored in the form of a donation to Hour Children, an organization dedicated to helping incarcerated mothers get back on their feet once they are released.

Last month, we explored the story of Eve, Adam, and the Garden of Eden.  At the end of the month, people put forth suggestions about how to release the energy that we had accumulated. We took a poll to see what sparked for people.  What opened up the energy of the narrative bonds was to give a scholarship to a parent who was also going to school.  In the story of the Forbidden Fruit we saw the hardship that can come from pursing knowledge, and the strain that it can put on families. And yet, we identified with Eve’s desire to expend her mind. So it seemed only fitting to support someone who was willing to add to the struggles of family life for the sake of learning.   
But energy doesn't just come in the form of money.  After the story of the Adam and Eve being with God in the garden, several people realized that they felt closest to God while in nature.  So now we are organizing a hiking trip.
As we move into our third month, we look at the stories of why the disciples would radically change their lives to start following Jesus. Who knows what will release the pent-up energy from the connections that are made?  If you have a suggestion, feel free to email me. If you feel a connection, you can now donate online through the Metropolitan New York Synod Website.  Please just select “Parables, Brooklyn” in the “Designate my gift for” drop-down menu.    

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Parabler's Rose Princess Art Show

Parables member and artist Ari Dallas has a show in Williamsburg exploring both spiritual themes and dog portraits! After Parables on Oct. 21st, we will walk over to the show and get a guided tour by the artist himself. After checking out the artwork, we'll grab some dinner at a restaurant nearby!

Where: Pudge Knuckles, 184 Kent Ave

When: Oct. 21st, 5pm 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hungry for Art about Hunger

Do you live/work near Clinton Hill/Fort Greene?  Do you make art that in some way explores hunger, be it on a physical, spiritual, or social level?  Then get in touch with me!  St. Luke's Lutheran Church (259 Washington Ave, Brooklyn) is teaming up with Pratt to host a salon exploring the concept of "hunger."  The event will happen Thursday, Oct. 25th, 7-10pm and the price of admission is a donation of canned food or toiletries.  Building off of last year's event, the plan is to create connections between local artists, Pratt students/alums, and the neighborhood while helping food pantries and shelters prepare for the winter months.
(from last spring's show where an experimental film was project on the ceiling of the sanctuary)

When:  Thursday, Oct 25., 7pm - 10pm 
Where:  St. Luke's Lutheran Church (259 Washington Ave, Brooklyn) 

For artists who'd like to show work exploring hunger (physical, spiritual, social), please send me by Oct. 19th :
  • Name
  • Pictures of artwork along with title/medium/dimensions and price, if for sale
  • Public contact information
While the event is not primarily designed for selling work, we would like visitors to be able to contact artists about purchasing their art if they so desire.  St. Luke's and Pratt will not ask for a percentage of sales or handle sales logistics.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Crossroads and Crosswords

Sometimes the internet does what it's supposed to.  Out of the blue, I received an email from a woman named Margaret from an Anglican church in South Carolina. Turns out she was planning a trip to New York to pick up an old school bus and turn it into a mobile art studio!  A crew of people were coming with her and they wanted to know if they could do some interactive art with me when they were in town. 

Because it was raining when they arrived, I decided we should do a project conceived, by Taylor Spong, whom I met when I did the PVC string sculpture. The premise was simple: use the tiles on the wall of the subway to make a giant crossword puzzle.  This way, instead of having each commuter filling out his or her own newspaper crossword puzzle individually, the subway platform could work as a team to complete the crossword together.  And maybe we could even make the commute just a little bit fun.

As soon as we started taping up the grid for the crossword puzzle, people were intrigued.  At first folks were hesitant to participate or would stick the paper letters to the wall and quickly walk away.  But the South Carolinians turned on their southern charm and soon even the grumpiest New York commuters got into it by arguing with each whether the “world’s most popular pet” is a cat or a dog. 

See how you fare with the subway crossword!  Remember, there’s no internet access underground, just a lot of people from all over the world.

4. Trip at 9; trip at 5
7. Metropolitan on the L  
8. Building blocks of hadrons
9. Most popular pet in the world
12. By any other name smells as sweet
13. “The Bambino”
15. pachyderm
16. Founder of Theatre of the Oppressed
19. Hebrew name meaning “He will laugh”
21. Had a vision of our Lady of Guadalupe
22. Ancient Emperor of Persia
23. Sanskrit word meaning “union”
1. Spanish “palabra” in English
2. A friendly embrace
3. Safe place for wildlife
5. Home continent of Queen Dido and St. Augustine
6. Ten pin
9. End of G
10. Star of Mexican Mural Movement
11. Formerly Edo
14. 3 is 1, 1 is 3
17. All you need is ___
18. Both in the ear and pleasing to it
20. Has 8 protons in its nucleus

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parable of the Podcast: Ruth

The very first episode of Parable of the Podcast! People called in and shared their stories and thoughts on the first chapter of the Book of Ruth.  From a story about caring for dying man to battling co-dependence, hear where people see Ruth in their lives today.

Next month's podcast will be about Eve, Adam, and the Serpent; the story found in Genesis 3.  Call in and share your stories at 862- 243-2763  (862-2HearMe).

To listen and/or download the podcast, click here.  Or visit http://parablesnyc.org/podcasts/

It's also available on itunes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Website and Poster!

We've got a website! parablesNYC.org

Which is great, because we've now got two regularly meeting groups!

Parable of the Stage:  We take one scriptural story and use theatre games and devising techniques to mine it for all of its creative potential.  Mondays, 7:30pm.

Parable of the Bell Tower: Writers, visual artists, and anyone who creates while seated in a chair is invited to bring their materials, make art that re-imagines scripture, and share what they make with each other.  Sundays, 3pm.

Also, we've been putting up fliers all around Williamsburg.  See if you can spot one!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hyperallergic Interview

It's always nice when people notice the interactive art that I do.  It's even more fun when they want to know the ideas behind it!  Jen Ortiz from Hyperallergic interviewed me and wrote this awesome piece:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Parable of the Podcast

There are three parts to many of the sermons that I like:
  1. Some context and background information for the biblical text being explored 
  2. Stories from today's world juxtaposed with the biblical text
  3. Some sort of commentary and/or interpretation that ties together the biblical text, the context, and the stories from today's world.
As a pastor and a nerdy sort of guy, #1 and #3 are by far the easiest parts for me.  But #2 is a little trickier. As a 27-year old who has had a relatively easy life, I have limited supply of awesome stories.  I find that sometimes the stories I know just aren't the most interesting or relevant to the text.  Which is a pity, since I know that there are amazing stories out there which could make us see scripture in a whole new light. 

This is where you come in.

I want to hear your stories! I want to know the tales that rise to the surface of your subconscious when you hear a biblical text.  Where do you see your own life in these stories?  Where to you see the lives of people you know or have read about? 

Inspired by the credits to the NPR show, Radiolab, in which callers record the names read at the end of the show, I've set up a digital voicemail that can be called at any time.  If you call (862) 243-2763, which spells 862-2HearMe, you will hear my voice encouraging you to record your reflections on a specific biblical story and giving you some simple information on how to go about it. 
I will then put together a podcast inspired by the type of stories in This American Life and Radiolab, in which different stories are told around a certain theme with some narration to tie them all together.

Since the Parables group has been exploring Chapter 1 of the Book of Ruth, will be the first text for Parable of the Podcast. I'd like to put out a podcast sometime during mid to late August, so plug (862) 243-2763 into the contacts on your phone, browse through Ruth 1, and the next time you are taking a walk, give Parable of the Podcast a call.  If you want to talk about Ruth, call by August 12; after that, we'll some new text to explore! And check by here in a couple of weeks to hear what we've made!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Won't You Paint My Picture?

A while ago, I mentioned the giant, paint-your-own-adventure-coloring-book that we were planning.  I was super excited.  Even before it was colored, the object was truly a piece of art.  Four 5ft tall panels beautifully illustrated by Ari Dallas and bound together by organic hemp strung through brass grommets.  Each panel even had four color-coded quirky questions that allowed participants to decide what was happening in the story.  There was a big arts festival happening in Williamsburg and I just knew people were going to love this.  
  But they didn't. 

Oh sure, a few people did.  Particularly small children who enjoyed making random marks with large crayons on giant paper.

But the vast majority of people just walked on past.  Now, with most interactive art, the majority of passersby won't participate, but in this case the participation rate was particularly terrible.  Many people would glance at the coloring book and smile and then walk on by; some wouldn't even notice the thing.  
So why didn't people get excited about a giant paint-your-own-adventure coloring book? Having worked on a fair number of interactive art projects, I've developed a rubric by which to evaluation them: NEFAR, an acronym that as the advantage of sounding the like beginning of "nefarious."  NEFAR stands for:


Noticeable: The coloring book was somewhat noticeable.  I was banking on its size to catch people's attention, but for a while we had it on the ground which diminished its visibility. Later, we tried holding it up, but it sort of looked like a sign or banner.  In the middle of a festival, it was not particularly unique.
Easy: I think this was one of the two main problems.  The system of answering questions was quite complex. Each question had a color, and you would show your answer to the question by which medium you used to make that color in the picture.  However, this was not immediately obvious to passersby, who could barely make out the difference between mediums anyway. So either the whole thing was really complex, or if you just ignored the questions, it led to a different problem...

Fun:  Just coloring a picture is not actually that exciting.  Especially when there are tasty food stalls nearby, warm sun, soft grass, and good friends to talk to. If people actually took the time to read the questions and understand the story, they usually were quite intrigued, but usually not enough to bend over and color something. They would rather just pick their answer and laugh than go through the work of identifying a medium and pouring on the elbow grease.

I won't even bother going into Affirming or Relational, since most people never got that far.

Instead, I'd like to contrast it with a community mural I participated in this past week.
This mural is "NurtureNature" on PS84 on the corner of S 1st and Berry in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 

Noticeable: Yes.  There is no way that some can walk past a three story mural on a street corner with a swarm of people painting it and not notice.

Easy: Yes. The lead artist has drawn the outlines of everything.  Assistants tell participants what colors to paint where.  It's basically paint by numbers but you don't have to even know numbers or colors, just apply the brush where the person pointed. 

Fun:  Not really.  It's basically like painting your house.  A lot of repetitive motion without any artistic creativity.  But it's really easy to talk to the other folks while you are doing it!  

Affirming: I usually mean this in the sense that the project affirms your creative self-expression.  But in this case, the mural offers a different sort of affirmation.  After you've painted a portion, you can step back and see that your contribution will be visible to the whole community for years to come.  There's definitely a sense of pride that comes with that. 

Relational: You aren't really making relationships with the other artists, although I did strike up a few conversations while painting, but you are creating an incredible sense of relationship to the neighborhood.  Suddenly this street corner is important to you, because something you have created has made it beautiful.

Of course I'm not sure anyone off the street randomly participated in the mural, so ultimately the invitation to participate and sense of openness has to be present.  The coloring book definitely was very explicit about the invitation to participate, and those people brave enough to join in received a completely unexpected infusion of silly art in their lives and left with very large smiles. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Parables: Re-imagining the Bible through Art

Let's face it, the Bible is boring. Psychological motivations aren't explored, timelines have major gaps, and characters randomly appear and disappear.  Plus, all the major stories are soaked with dogmatic interpretations.
So let's re-imagine the Bible! Let's retell it in ways the are interesting and meaningful to us. Artist of all types are invited to bring their materials, make art that re-imagines scripture, and share what they make with each other. Each week we’ll spend about 15 minutes examining and discussing paintings, poetry, music, and midrash that artists have already created around a biblical text.  After asking what questions, characters, and perspectives we still want to explore, people will be given 45 minutes to create in whatever way they are inspired.  At the end of the evening, people will have a chance to share what they've made and talk about the choices they made in creating it.  The goal is not to create a finished work, but to explore our stories and our art together.

The whole month will be focused on a single text. This month we'll tackle the first chapter of the Book of Ruth. People are free to either spend the whole month developing a single work of art, or create multiple pieces along the way.  The goal is for people to really dig into the stories and have time to be influenced by what they see other people creating.  Ideally folks will come every week to deepen the conversation, but if they can only make it occasionally, that’s fine, too. 
We'll be meeting in the bell tower of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Williamsburg on the corner of S. 5th and Rodney, Sundays at 7:30pm.  Enter through the doors on Rodney, turn right, and climb the stairs until you're in a bell tower. We'll have our first meeting on July 15th and meet weekly through August 12th.  Then we'll decide what we want to do next.
Let me know if you'd like to join us!  Also, there's now a Meetup group if you like to keep track of things that way.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clueless Father's Day Sermon

This Father's Day sermon is based on the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Mark 4: 26-34.

There’s an old saying, “Tell me and I’ll forgot, show me and I’ll remember, let me try it and I’ll understand.”  Today’s reading from Mark says that Jesus “explained everything in private to his disciples.”  Well, when it comes to the parable of the mustard seed, I think the disciples forgot.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Upcoming! Giant Coloring Book

Next week the city is planning to shut down half of the Williamsburg Bridge pedestrian/bike path.  Chaos is expected to ensue as the same number of bikes and pedestrians try to fit in half the space.
What would help put people in a better mood as they prepare to navigate the crowded bridge? How about a giant paint-your-own-adventure coloring book!

That's right, we spent the past couple of a weeks creating a 5 foot tall coloring book about an Elephant on roller skates who tries to cross the Williamsburg bridge!  Each page is available for coloring using paint brushes, because crayons just can't handle this scale!  But wait, there's more!  Each page is specially customized with questions about what is happening in the picture.  You answer these questions and decide the characters' fate by choosing which colors to paint the scene!
Why is the elephant crossing the bridge?

  1. She can't sleep at night and is wandering randomly
  2. She is going to a party on the other side
  3. Her family is enslaved by an evil penguin and she is going to rescue them
  4. Extreme ennui 
Come Saturday, June 16th, 2:30pm, to the Continental Army Plaza at the (only) pedestrian entrance to the Williamsburg bridge, paint your answer and bring some mellowness to stressed out hipsters!    

Soap Bubble Service

A few weeks ago, the pastor of Organic Faith in Buffalo, NY sent me an email saying his community was planning a mission trip to NYC entitled "This is Church."  He thought I might be able to put his crew to use while simultaneously giving them another perspective of what church is.  
So when the folks from Organic Faith arrived in Brooklyn, I put them to work spreading joy by inviting people in Bushwick to make giant soap bubbles filled with food coloring and catching them on foam board.   

The crew was divided into two teams.  One team hung out on the sidewalk in front of Animamus Art Salon and played with the hipsters/artists wandering around Bushwick Open Studios

One team went to the local park and played with the neighborhood kids.
Both teams got covered in the messy colors of random strangers creating beauty together. 

At the end of the day, when pressed to tie the experience in to the theme of "This is Church," one of the people from Organic Faith responded, “I guess I just realized that the Church is just SO MUCH MORE than I ever thought of before!  Really, anything can be church… life is church.” Sounds good to me.  May it always be filled with the invitation to make giant bubbles of color.  Amen.
Check out more of Organic Faith's reflections and pictures of the experience here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tin Can Thuribles

This past weekend was Bushwick Open Studios.  In celebration there was a Parade of Art on Saturday.  Franciscan Brother Max Kolbe pointed out to me that tin cans can be used to make thuribles (portable incense burners used in blessings) which paraders could swing to billow incense as they marched.
So Saturday morning, I went down to Bushwick with a bunch of cans and set up shop on a street corner! 
The construction is pretty simple:  1) Punch holes in the side of an empty tin can.  2) Attach a wire handle.  3) Place a wire screen over the top and clip it with cloths pins (this allows you to open and add charcoal/incense even after the can is hot).  4) Tie a rope to the handle.  5) Place charcoal in the can and light it.  6) Put indirect-burning incense on the charcoal. 7) Swing the thurible.
Somehow I completely missed the parade.  But I met a bunch of folks, and a handful of them even made thuribles with which to wander around spreading sweet perfume and blessing the world!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bushwick Open Studios

Next weekend is Bushwick Open Studios. I'll be joining in the festivities with The Parade of Art, Saturday June 2nd!  

In collaboration with Spread Art and Animamus Salon, “The Parade of Art” will gather outside the Morgan L stop on Bogart St at noon and promenade with ‘Speaker of the Dead’ gypsy, brass, folk, punk band to the The Animamus Art Salon hub for the weekend, Starr Street Studios (207 Starr Street)!  

Before the parade by the Morgan L stop, I'll have a make-your own-thurible station out of tin cans so that people can billow waves of incense during the parade.  
After the parade (closer to about 3:00pm), I'll be doing giant soap bubble painting  on the block between Starr Street Studios (207 Starr St) and Maria Hernandez Park, one block south of Starr Street Studios with folks visiting from Organic Faith in Buffalo.  

If you're around, stop by and join in!   

Shaving Cream Art Machine

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I've been doing a lot of very sincere flattery.  First of all, it's no secret that much of the inspiration for what I do comes from the guys at Free Style Arts Association.
But recently I've created a Shaving Cream Art Machine, which is a chimera of three individually awesome ideas:

1) The Exploratorium's Drawing Machine in San Francisco, which uses a four point pendulum to move paper under a static marker.

The Shaving Cream Art Machine also uses a four point pendulum to move a board, but because this ministry is highly mobile, the whole thing is made out of the same PVC pipes as the Dry Bones String Sculpture, so that it can be collapsed, transported on the subway, and reassembled without tools.  
Also, instead of using a marker, the Shaving Cream Art Machine uses a felt tip pen, but not to mark paper, to stir shaving cream.  Because the second element is:

2) Shaving Cream Marbling, which uses food coloring dripped on shaving cream and then gently stirred to create a surface upon which paper can be pressed to make prints.  I have no idea who to thank for this, but it's brilliant.

The Shaving Cream Art Machine straight up reuses this idea.  The only difference is that all the mixing occurs based on the pendulum motion of the machine.  This means that participants have less direct control over the outcome.  It also means that multiple people can participate in the creation of a piece by taking turns giving the pendulum a push in whatever direction they would like.  
But the Shaving Cream Art Machine doesn't just stop at making prints! It incorporates a third element:
    3) Free Distribution and Temporary Ownership of Art, a concept by the Italian Relational Artist, Cesare Pietroiusti, in which participants in interactive art make art to give away, often with random conditions about to whom to give the art.  
    The back of each piece of card stock on which a print is made has a suggested donation written on it.  The suggested donations are always to give the art to someone else, with parameters about to whom to give it.  Parameters vary from "give this art to someone who makes you laugh," to "give this art to a poet," to (because it's made out of shaving cream) "give this art to someone who taught you to shave."
    The result is an exercise in carefully planning which colors to use and where to place them, then letting go and watching the forces that govern the universe create something beautiful.  And in the end, you get to share the beauty with someone else.  
    Special thanks to Andy Badge for the photos and to Animamus Art Salon for organizing the event at which they were taken!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Common Ground

This Thursday, I will be teaming up with the folks from Advent Lutheran Church in Manhattan to focus their bi-monthly Common Ground service around the theme of art.  We will be exploring our identity as co-creators with the divine Creator through making some art together as a community.  Please bring (non-returnable) photos of people, places, and things where you have witnessed the presence of God. Dinner and fellowship will follow right there in the sanctuary.
Thursday, May 24, 7pm, 2504 Broadway at 93rd Street.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sermón para mi Mamá

Jesús dijo, “No me escogieron ustedes a mí, sino que yo los escogí a ustedes.” Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”  Hay un modismo en ingles, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Puedes escoger tus amigos, pero no puedes escoger tu familia.  No sé que tan cierto lo es, pero sé esto, que en mi vida, mi mamá me ha escogido a mi.  My mother chose me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

First Experiment in Art-Making, Story, and Ritual

It's a lot of fun to tell people about the idea of making and sharing art as worship.  Turns out if you tell enough people about an idea, some of them will actually want to know what it looks like.  So last Thursday a band of intrepid adventures ranging from seminarians to agnostic artists gathered in Williamsburg to experiment with what worshiping through making art together might look like.
In the center of the room was a large cross made out of watercolor paper.  Surrounding the cross, a variety of brushes and liquids that people might encounter in their daily lives were arranged in a color wheel.  At the base of the cross, a font was placed where participants might wash out whatever pigment stained their brushes in order to paint anew.
(liquids from bottom to top:  saline solution, ash, grape jelly)

(spinach juice and blue snow cone syrup)

The evening began with simple movement games to gather us together as a creative community.  Then, using Luke 24: 36-43 as our starting point, we began a series of exercises designed to help us ponder how we relate to the text, listen to how others in the room relate to it, and reflect on how it relates to the larger world.  With each exercise we expressed ourselves through adding another layer of pigment (and at one point newspaper articles) to the cross.  By the end of the evening we had covered the cross with the marks of our lives.
(I love that the font was turned pitch black -- a sign it was well used) 

We finished the evening with a sticky-note based brainstorming session for ways in which we could take the themes we had explored together and make opportunities for others to express, create, and connected to one another around those themes.  
I'll let you know when they happen and when we have further experiments in art-making as spiritual practice!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yarn and Dry Bones

On Friday night, I was invited by Ventiko to participate in a new monthly evening of performances at Culture Fix.  For the event, I re-imagined the string sculpture that I had first seen in NYC with Freestyle Arts Association. In this incarnation, the sculpture started off as a bizarre PVC structure with yarn and scissors at the base.  
Inside the structure were simple instructions comparing the PVC structure to the dry bones of Ezekiel 37, in which God asks the prophet, "Can these bones live?"  The idea is that throughout our existence we are often confronted with the dried out remains of what used to be, relationships, institutions, dreams, which no longer seem to have use or meaning.  What do we do in such situations? Do we walk away?  Do we try to give them new life? Do we dismantle them and make something new?  
I have been assigned to start a new congregation in a neighborhood where the physical remains of Lutheran congregations that were robust one-hundred years ago are very present in the form of massive, badly deteriorating buildings. So for me, the question is a very real one.  Can these bones live?  And if so, what will they look like?  I hoped this yarn sculpture would give me some insight.
At first, people behaved as I thought they would.  They wrapped the skeleton in different colors of yarn.
But then something unexpected happened:  someone started to wrap the yarn around a person! 
Once one person started, another followed, until soon everyone was tying themselves to their neighbors, and weaving the whole room into one intersecting web. 
The sculpture started with the PVC structure, but through the inspiration of the community, it literally came alive in the bodies of its co-creators.  In doing so, it laughed, and danced, and jumped across the room. 
Looking back, participants making each other part of the sculpture is an incredibly obvious thing to have happen, but in the three years that I've known about string sculptures, I've never thought to imagine that it would.  And that gives me hope.

Of course, at the end of the evening, I still dismantled the sculpture (it fits nicely in a should bag and under my arm).  In two weeks the PVC will be reborn as something completely different for Animamus Art Salon, that I will be hosting at St. John's Lutheran Church (155 Milton, Brooklyn) at 7:00pm on Sunday, May 13.