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My classroom in the morning. Haven't posted in a long time. God bless all.


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The Gospel reading this past Sunday concerned the Samaritan Woman. Going through my music collection today I found the hymn The Strange Man by Dorothy Coates.


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I am working on a small copy of Gerard David's Flight Into Egypt. David is sort of a Flemish Raphaello, at least with this painting.

The quarter is to show scale and degree of insanity with possible loss of eyesight and bad neck forever.

Background is unfinished as are the grapes in Mary's hand. Joseph sold separately.

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I have a show of artwork this August. The work may be seen online here: http://www.laurarusso.com/artists/cain_s.html

Comments are welcome.


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Here is an artist statement that I wrote with the help of a friend over the past few days. The language is a bit loftier than I am normally comfortable with, but it's kind of the way with these things. I hope to present it with the three paintings posted here to the Tacoma museum for their biennial. Well, here it is (two of the figures are nude, so if you want to avoid that go no farther):

The figure has been the sole subject of my work for almost twenty years. Perhaps the reason for this ought to be more fully explored, but up to now it is something taken as given.

The figure in my paintings emerges simultaneously inwardly and out-of-doors. The figure is often engaged in activities that are at once familiar and strange to the viewer. Something seems to be happening, yet it is impossible to tell what it is or at what point in the narrative the viewer has entered (or even if there exists a discernible narrative). In creating such images I desire to explore the themes of presence, continuity, and wonder.

The theme of presence means to me both the strength of the image itself and of how it becomes real to the viewer. Although my canvases and panels are now smaller, I originally painted life-sized figures so that the viewer automatically would relate to the image in a 1:1 ratio: by their sheer size, my images would invite the viewer to enter the image, so to speak, and participate in it creatively.

In turn, the power of presence secures the element of continuity where the painting is not experienced as an irruption into everyday life, but is rather as an elevation of it. The mundane is the origin of the marvelous and the source of wonder. The deep focus of so many of the images, inspired by the early Netherlandish masters, provides the scope and scale for wonder, for all the things beheld and contemplated that finally speak of life’s mystery, its terrifying uncertainty and unknowableness as well as its givenness and giftedness.

I understand my work to exist within the tradition of western painting as exemplified above all by the early Netherlandish masters, but also by the earlier tradition of Byzantine iconography from which it in part descends. The classical notion of iconography as opening “a window onto heaven” interests me, particularly to the degree that the opening offers a chance for the viewer to “revisit childhood at will,” as Baudelaire said. This heaven is neither the ignorance nor innocence of childhood, but is the incarnate experience of wonder which is the child’s way.

Abraham Heschel, echoing Sophocles, tells us that “the beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.” I suppose this tendency in my work connects the paintings to a long tradition of sacred art, but not by means of the overt imagery often associable with pious beliefs.

In this, my canvases and panels may tend toward a corporeal religion, but without figural piety; toward sanctity, but without sanctimoniousness.

Well, that's it. I'm interested in reading your comments/suggestions.

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Here's another quote stolen from the blog I mentioned yesterday. It's from the Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, March 9, 1973.

"The essential error of the modern man is to identify life with activism, with thought, etc., hence an almost complete inability simply to “live”, i.e., to feel, to appreciate, to live life as a continuous gift. To walk to the train station in a light that feels like spring, in the rain, to be able to see, to sense, to be conscious of a morning ray of sun on the wall—all of these are the reality of life. They are not the conditions for activism or for thought, they are not just an indifferent background, they are the reason one acts and thinks. Only in that reality of life does God reveal Himself, and not in acts and thoughts. That is why Julien Green is right when he says: “all is elsewhere”—”the only truth lies in the swaying of bare branches in the sky”.

Reading this I think of childhood and of all the times I saw "the swaying of bare branches in the sky” and knew that it was important but could never say why. I suppose our broken hearts are broken in different ways -- to roughly paraphrase Tolstoy. I know there are those who do not see or experience the kinds of things that Father Schmemann writes about and his description must certainly sound like an accusation to some or a further reminder of their unhappiness and solitude. It may also sound like sentimentality or maybe too feminine/passive to some who are activist. But I think he must be right.

I think Tarkovsky must have possessed this same insight. His films are full of the imagery described above. In looking on Youtube for a Bach piece that I remembered hearing in one of his films I came across a clip from the end of Solaris. In the clip, which begins with Kris standing by the water's edge and then walking over to a house where he sees his father who opens the door and greets him in a visual paraphrase of Rembrandt's Prodigal Son, you see things like grass flowing in the current of the stream or dead trees rising out of the water. The imagery, sad and beautiful, is prelude to the reunion.
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I really like this guys blog: http://wanweihsien.wordpress.com/

In two separate entries I find these two quotes that I like:

One must abandon every attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, a converted sinner, a churchman (the priestly type, so-called!), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. This is what I mean by worldliness—taking life in one’s stride, with all its duties and problems, its successes and failures, its experiences and helplessness. It is in such a life that we throw ourselves utterly in the arms of God and participate in his sufferings in this world and watch with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, that is metanoia, and that is what makes a man and a Christian.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, July 21, 1944


…[T]he big thing for me is to love reality and not live in the imagination, not live in what could have been or what should have been or what can be to this reality, and somewhere to love reality and then discover that God is present in the reality.

Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche
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