Uncommon Art for the Common Man

To See, Feel, Touch – Uncommon Art for the Common Man


The Creative Soul


Sculpture is a unique form of art – related to but separate from painting, music, poetry, and writing. Unlike the others, a sculpture is a three dimensional work of art. From its very beginnings, a sculpture was meant to last. Sculpture pieces were created using materials that themselves had passed the test of time – stone and marble, hard metals such as gold and silver, and wood.  Sculptures are usually found in parks, in museums, in open spaces – all places where the average person goes. 


Sculpture, like most forms of art, is created with the idea of expressing a view.  A view can be personal, political, religious, historical, or something else.  Ultimately, the sculpture is also intended to evoke a feeling.   Determining the quality of a sculpture is very difficult and is subjective at best. Artists as well as artist styles go in and out of vogue and sculpture is no different.   


The very nature of art is to make something never seen before, even if the subject is well-known.  Heads of states and countries are always done in portraiture as well as having thousands of pictures taken.  Some have sculptures done as well, each trying to represent a different side of the individual, presenting the subject in an interesting, usually favorable light.  Some also represent the ethnicity and culture of the artist or reflect a particular style well-liked by the subject.


Art has value, both in economic and social terms. A 2002 study demonstrated the economic impact, finding that nonprofit arts organizations generated $134 billion nationwide, including $24.4 billion in tax revenue. The arts not only inform us about the world we live in, but also provide creative and challenging environments.   After all, the concept of museums as a gathering together of civilization’s best and most beautiful things is only a few hundred years old. For most of our history, art was never intended to be displayed in museums, but in more public places. 


Art is a form of communication, and the arts express the ideas of society in which they are produced.   Exposure to the arts helps expand our thinking and encourages dialogue and creativity.   Public art is an essential component of creating a vibrant community and nothing adds to the public panorama like sculpture.


One of my favorite sculptures is “Rising Cairn” by the artist Celeste Roberge.   “Rising Cairn” is a 4,000 lb. stone sculpture that many interpret to reflect the process of healing from grief.   Roberge says that she didn’t necessarily intend to depict anguish in the piece but doesn’t mind the alternative reading of her work. “I imagine her in the process of rising up from her crouching position…when she is ready,” she explains. “I am not disturbed by individual interpretations of the sculpture because I think it is really wonderful for people to connect with works of art in whatever way is meaningful to them.” 


Roberge became intrigued with cairns (piles of stones hikers used to mark trails) after learning about human-shaped inuksuit sculptures created by the Inuit people in the Arctic region. For each site-specific sculpture, Roberge finds each stone herself and places them within the steel cage that holds its shape. “I was hoping the feeling of weight, would [symbolically] be carried in the sculpture itself,” said Roberge in a video by the Portland Museum of Art.


A professor at the University of Florida, Roberge suggests that art lovers ought to consider the artist’s original intent too. “If the image has helped some people to find a way of expressing their unspoken feelings, then I think that is beneficial. At the same time, I think viewers should give some thought to the artist’s intentions because the meaning of a work of art can be very complex and multi-layered.” She says her cairn sculptures are tribute to the rugged North Atlantic landscape.  Roberge created the first Rising Cairn in the late 1980s when she was a fellow at Harvard University and creates them on commission today. “Each time, I am surprised that the process is still interesting to me,” she says. “I was just installing a cairn in San Francisco last month and I noted that they are never the same: different place, different light, different stones, different siting in the landscape, different energy.”


I think her last sentence is an important thing to remember whenever we critique any art form or piece of creative effort.  Where we are, physically and personally, the light with which we view or hear, the light within our souls or the lack thereof at that particular moment, the energy we feel or do not feel – all of these things affect our response.  It is in sculpture that we are able to see, touch, and even stub our toe on the art form.  Sculpture as an art form helps us rise above our past like cairns, creating markers along the history of humankind in our sculptures as we move forward.


Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall
Easter 14

Philosophy, our topic for this series of conversations, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “Knowledge, learning, scholarship; a body of knowledge; spec. advanced knowledge or learning.” It has been said that all knowledge is either based on what we learn from our senses or what we perceive from reflection. Mankind has always been curious and by reflecting on things, their existence and the reason for their existence, knowledge has been gained.

Later today I will attend a Day of Reflection event. Since today is also a day in which many Earth Day celebrations will be held (although earth Day is not officially until April 22nd), so will many others. Many will engage in activities to celebrate our planet and its fragility; others will host events which will encourage better care of the planet. My event has as its subject “dreams”. Tomorrow I’ll let you know how such a topic fared under the scrutiny of inspection and introspection.

Mankind’s curiosity has not always been seen in the kindest of lights. In the Torah and the Old Testament section of the Bible, man’s curiosity is seen as the beginning of sinful deeds. The earliest of man had the world upon which he/she walked and the world of the sky above him/her. The Latin word for man, “homo”, translated as “of the earth”. Other beings were considered “celestial” in Latin. The “anthropos” in Greek referred to man as being “low-eyed” which contrasted with the divinity of unknown beings.

Ancient Egyptians felt a man/woman’s soul was comprised of five parts – Ren, Ba, Ka, Sheut, and Ib. Belief in an afterlife for the Ka, the life essence of the soul, began to be documented in the third millennium of what is known as the Old Kingdom of Egypt. From the earliest existence of man, the recognition of the frailty of human life has been noted. The book of Genesis promises the dominion of man yet the book of Ecclesiastes speaks of man’s vanity of effort, recognizing that in spite of all efforts, man will ultimately die.

Perhaps the knowledge that life is not forever is what leads us to try to understand it. Introspection and self-reflection are hallmarks of our willingness to learn more about ourselves and our world. Some define reflection as the philosophy of philosophy. It not only defines what we know but how that knowledge will affect us, guide us, encourage us. Although Socrates once defined humans as “featherless bipeds”, Protagoras claimed that “Man is the measure of all things; of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not.” Aristotle called man an “animal with sapience”, a communal animal with knowledge.

If I touch a hot stove or fire, my sense will tell me that it is not only hot but also unpleasant. However, I can feel the sting of an insect sting, know it is unpleasant, and yet not know what stung me. Clearly we cannot rely only on our senses. We must engage those senses to delve deeper and then derive knowledge and conclusions.

While this blog will never instruct the reader to adopt a specific belief system, it does encourage one to think about possible beliefs, develop an introspective habit that does not include being close-mindedness. Some would claim religion and science are opposite ends of one pole, the pole of knowledge. Fanatical leaders of cults and other destructive belief systems discourage thinking; they only want minions, not believers. They want to live in their ivory towers without living their supposed tenets.

As we celebrate Earth Day, whether that is today or on April 22nd, we have to make sure we are not doing the same. The resources of our planets are sometimes self-rebuilding; in fact, most replenish with time. However, we cannot construct patterns of living that do not allow for that replenishment. There cannot be one set of rules for us and another for someone else.

The old saying “Our actions speak louder than our words” holds great truth when we consider the planet. I once knew a woman who refused to dine in restaurants that used Styrofoam. It was her protest against wasteful drilling in protected waters and the overuse of products that are not biodegradable. I would have respected her protect had she not driven to another restaurant in her luxury gas-wasteful vehicle that she would later park in front of a lavish home that boasted a great many fossil-fuel consuming devices. Her intentions would buried by her own living.

The quest for knowledge needs a system of weights and balances. We must carefully consider knowledge that appears before accepting it as truth. Because of this, I will confess I am approaching my own Reflection event with some misgiving. Dreams are the series of images that cross our sleeping consciousness. Sometimes I am not even certain of that which I have dreamed. How can someone tell me that truth of such an event? An open-mind, however, is the first step toward knowledge and I will endeavor to keep an open mind as I seek greater knowledge to go “n2 my head”.

“What a piece of work is a man? How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?” With this selection from “Hamlet”, Shakespeare perfectly defined the philosophy of reflection. Perhaps the 1812children’s nursery rhyme penned by the Brothers Grimm would be truthful if it asked: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall; what is our living after all?”

Pentecost 33

Pentecost 33
My Psalm 33

July 10, 2014

Retreat – Beneficial or Giving up?

Today’s posting will be about the goodness of the Creator and acknowledging that. I will not write it, however – You will.

I invite you to pen your own psalm about the greatness of your spiritual guide, whether that is God, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, or any one of the over two thousand identified supreme deities and over ten thousand lesser ones.

I invite you to take a few minutes you would normally spend reading this blog and engage in a retreat. We usually think of retreats as taking place in calm, natural surroundings, away from the technological devices that beg for our undivided attention, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Those retreats are beautiful and should be undertaken, not just as vacations but as necessary elements of a faithful life. However, if we can only find God, etc in special times, then where is He/She, etc during our everyday lives?

There are over a hundred different ways one can indulge in a retreat during the course of one’s normal life. There are three minute retreats available via smart phone applications and detailed instructions for a more concentrated meditation. Centering Prayer is another, very popular mode of focused study that serves as a retreat of sorts. The actor Larry Hagman of “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Dallas” television fame spent one day a week in silence so that he might think, listen, and learn.

Today we are about a quarter of the way through Pentecost. Pentecost is the season deemed the “Ordinary Time”, a time in which Christians celebrate taking our faith out into the real world and living it, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or practice spirituality, we all live that which we believe.

“Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.” What and where is your Sabbath? It is prudent to take some time occasionally to remember what it is we do believe, what it is we hope to portray in our living, what we need to improve, and what we might learn.

My Psalm 33

My mind, soul, and heart are open, Lord.
I am present…present in this moment.
Teach me. Use me. Bless me. Amen.