If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Just finished this pencil drawing of a 1920s Australian criminal. For more of my art see my website: leosart.wordpress.com or my facebook page, Leosart

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Politics of Communion: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

*This sermon was presented on World Communion Sunday, October 6, 2013, at Zion Mennonite Church, Hubbard, Oregon 

 World Communion Sunday began in 1933 as a celebration of a local Presbyterian church and then spread throughout the Presbyterian Church. It was observed on the first Sunday of October. It began in the context of a world of political strife and strong nationalism. In 1940 it was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches and was promoted as a celebration to churches worldwide. It is a day to celebrate, through sharing in communion, Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation.

Do we really need a special Sunday set aside to celebrate communion? Is it really important to have a special day to recognize within our isolated congregations our connection to the Christian church throughout the world by celebrating communion? Is this just another innocuous day that means very little in practice, but allows the church to symbolically join hands around the globe, sway and sing “We are the world”? So, why bother with celebrating World Communion Sunday? A pinch of bread, a thimble of juice. Remember Christ’s death. Remember the church is in other countries. Ho-hum. Is that all this is about? What’s the big deal with celebrating World Communion?

The church in Corinth didn’t quite understand the significance of celebrating communion for the unity of the church. The Apostle Paul’s primary text on communion is set within the context of an extremely divided church. The church at Corinth was divided over leadership, economics, spiritual gifts, and theology. If there were Democrats and Republicans back then, they probably would have been as divided as our Congress.

Paul used communion theology to address the issue of church politics. I’m speaking of “politics” not in the sense of partisan politics, or a secular government, but rather how we govern our lives together as a people. In other words, the politics of the church is how we seek, in all our diversity, to live together and share at a common table as citizens of God’s kingdom governed by our primary allegiance to Christ. The problem Paul addressed in his letter had to do with bringing the old separations of the divided table of the world into the celebration of Christ’s unifying table of communion.

When you come together as a church, I hear there are divisions among you. For Paul, coming to the Lord’s Table as a divided congregation was not only a spiritual and moral problem; it was a theological problem. To be the church and to be divided is a contradiction. To share at Christ’s table and to be divided is inconsistent with who we are and whose we are. Communion is not only a ritual of remembrance; it is an identity-marking ceremony that proclaims our allegiance to the one crucified Lord Jesus Christ. As those who share in communion with Christ, we are no longer divided by those things that mark off individuals and groups within the world. Using another identity-marking ritual, Paul said to the divided Galatians: As many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Being in Christ, symbolized in both baptism and Eucharist, means human divisions and boundaries are no longer a priority in identifying who we are as a people.

The church is one in communion as it partakes in the one body and blood of Christ. Christ’s body is not divided. So, to partake of the bread and cup as one body, while still being divided, is to nullify the very meaning of the Lord’s Supper.  When you come together it is really not to eat the Lord’s Supper. To eat bread and drink wine as a divided people is simply a supper. It is not the Lord’s Supper. I wonder if the church today has ever come to share the bread and the cup and it was simply a meager meal.
 Paul points particularly to the economic division within the church that was manifest when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated. In the early church communion was not a separate liturgical practice within a worship service. It was a natural part of a shared meal, known as an agape or love feast, during which special prayers and blessings were offered over the bread and wine as part of the meal. It appears that at the church of Corinth the wealthier members would bring lots of food and wine to this common meal, which was not “common” in the true sense of the word. They would eat, drink, and be merry, while the poorer members went hungry and thirsty. They considered their food a private possession and not something to be offered up as a common possession of the one body of Christ, the church. It’s kind of like when a church member withholds their regular offerings to the church because they disagree with the pastor or a leader believing that what they have brought as an offering to Christ’s church is really their own private possession. Withholding money that is meant to benefit a body of people because of disagreements is not something we see happening today (House), is it?

The rich at Corinth considered what they brought to be a private meal and not a common meal and therefore, it was not the Lord’s Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Do you show contempt for the church of God? Leave your divisions at the church door; the divisions of economics, class, race, gender, ideology, nationality, and partisan politics. In its essence, the church is undivided. Communion re-presents the church as one. It is a ritual of remembrance of our one Lord, who gave his body and blood to be our peace, as Ephesians says, “breaking down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:14).  To celebrate the body and blood of Christ, our peace, with our divisions still on display and active is to turn the Eucharist into an empty and meaningless ritual.

It is for this reason that Paul admonishes the church not to eat the bread or drink the cup in an “unworthy manner,” that is, without first “examining yourselves” and “discerning the body.” Traditionally we have thought this means examining our personal lives for unconfessed sins before eating the elements. And “discerning the body” means understanding that the bread and cup represent Christ’s body and blood, which takes away our personal sins. In the context of Paul’s argument “the body” is primarily referring to the church as the body of Christ. To eat the supper in an “unworthy manner” is to eat and drink without discerning the one body of Christ, the church. For the rich members of the church to eat from their abundance, while the poor members went hungry, was to violate the essential unity of the body of Christ; to not “discern the body.” We do not partake of the Lord’s table when we come with our divisions still intact and intractable; clinging to my own possessions, holding to my own grudges, marking my own borders, affirming my group’s ethnic or racial privilege, excluding the gifts and calling of a certain gender, and asserting our own national boundaries. That’s what it means to partake of the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner” and to not “discern the body,” the one body of Christ. This bread represents Christ’s one body, broken on the cross, but also signifies Christ’s one body, the church, spread like seed scattered across the hills and valleys, borders and boundaries, across nations and races, languages and political persuasions. Through this common meal we get a taste of the politics of communion.

Discerning the body is our difficult and delightful task in the midst of a diverse, global church and a divided, warring world. Communion has some rather radical implications, if we are to partake of it in a meaning-full manner. The church needs to explore the imaginative and practical consequences of a politics of communion. If communion celebrates one church united by its allegiance to one Lord, what does that mean for me and for the church today in the communities, nation, and world in which we live? What would a politics of communion look like for us today?

A politics of communion cultivates the unity of the local church. Conflict and divisions within a congregation are painful and disorienting, as we all know well. They are often based upon our differences, preferences, and personal convictions. And those differences are part of what it means to be human. But, sometimes those differences can rub up against each other until they cause divisions. What we must remember is that the differences in our family backgrounds, life experiences, ethnicity, race, class, age, gender, doctrinal perspectives, personal musical styles, or who leads our congregation are not the essence of what it means to be the church that celebrates communion. Those things are not what unite us. We are essentially and fundamentally united in Christ Jesus. In communion we remember the one body of Christ and celebrate the unity of the church.

At the same time, to be one in Christ, to cultivate unity, is not the same as enforcing uniformity. We don’t necessarily always have to agree with one another. And that’s okay. To expect the church to be a place where everybody thinks and acts like me is to be a church of one! We are not looking to make cookie cutter Christians, but diverse disciples of the one Lord Jesus Christ. The one bread of our communion can be “multigrain.” Our unity is not grounded in all our diverse and delightful differences, but rather in our one common Lord. Like a hundred different pianos tuned by one pitch fork are in tune with one another, so the church tuned to the one Christ is united. A politics of communion would cultivate the unity of the local church A politics of communion celebrates ecumenicity. Our unity as Christ’s church extends beyond our local congregation to other Christian congregations. The history of Christianity and the emergence of denominations seem to witness to the disunity of the church. Our differences have divided us into Catholics, Protestants, Reformed, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Baptist, non-denominational, Nazarene, and on and on we could go, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

With a history of denominational divisions the work of the church in our day is to continue the tough work of unity of the church across denominations. By that I do not mean organizational unity, as if Christ calls us to be one huge denomination. Rather, the church can be in unity even with our differences. Church unity through ecumenical cooperation does not mean we all become the same and lose our differences. We have to learn the difficult dance of affirming our unity amid our diversity. Why not think of the different Christian churches as the diverse hands, feet, eyes and ears of the body of Christ, each bringing its uniquely different gifts into one people?
 Several hundred years ago, Augustine spoke of church unity when he said; "In faith unity. In doubtful things, liberty. In all things love". At the inception of the General Conference Mennonite Church it adapted and adopted this slogan to address their differences and diversity as they came together: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things love.”  Herein lays a potential for unity not only among our own churches, but an ecumenical unity across denominations.

One place where ecumenical cooperation seems to happen naturally is on the mission field. It appears that when the church finds itself in an environment where it is in the minority and not at the center of society, it tends to focus less on its differences and to cooperate more.

As the church is decentered and becomes more marginal in a post-modern, post-Christian society, denominationalism will wane and be off less importance. There was a time when staunch denominational identity ran through generations of families. A real change regarding denominationalism started with the baby boom generation and has become even more the case with Generation X and the millennials. They have little concern for differences in denominations and denominational identity. Maybe this is an opportunity, like on the mission field, for the church to de-emphasize its non-essential differences and work at ecumenical cooperation. I wonder, is this move toward a more postmodern, post-Christian society God in cognito working through the world to force the church to reconsider its essential unity and its vocation of mission?
 Jesus’ prayer to God in John 17 was that his followers “may be one, as we are one.” The politics of communion celebrates ecumenicity.

A politics of communion upholds the global church. The word “ecumenical” literally means “the whole world.” So, true ecumenicity transcends both our local and national boundaries to include the global church. We celebrate World Communion Sunday as a reminder that the church in its unity transcends the human boundaries of gender, race, economic class, language, and nationality. Those are nice words, but when the rubber hits the road in practice, the church may find itself having a hard time “discerning the body,” that is, the global body of Christ.
 One ideology that blinds us to “discerning the body” is nationalism. Nationalism has become a religion that rivals Christianity, or should I say, takes over Christianity, its narrative, and symbols. American nationalism, sometimes hiding under the guise of “patriotism,” is a particularly pernicious religion. It pledges allegiance to “one nation under god,” a tribal god of a particular people. This parochial god has a divine mission for his favored child, America. That mission first emerged during the American Revolution from the Puritan John Winthrop in a 1630 sermon that imaged New England as a “City upon a Hill,” a shining example for everyone to see. This same image was used by President Reagan to speak of our nation. Unfortunately, this image from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount refers to his disciples. It has been misappropriated by politicians and applied to America. The mission of America was couched in sacred language and envisioned as a Manifest Destiny, a term coined by political writer John Sullivan in 1845. It was our divine destiny to conquer and settle this new land. Although, it was manifestly clear to the Native Americans, who lived in this land, that it was not their divine destiny to be victims of genocidal slaughter, displacement, and cultural robbery.

Our nation came to see itself as the “New Israel,” an image used of the church, whom God has chosen to be the emissary of freedom and democracy to the world. Our mission is to remake the world in our own image. Although the idea goes back to the early 1800’s, in modern politics and the sentiments of most Americans we see our role in the world defined by the idea of “American exceptionalism.” This doctrine holds that our nation, our “democracy,” has a special, and one might say “saving,” role to play in the world. We are not bound by international law or the interests of the global community. We are bound only by American interests.

Most recently President Obama intoned this doctrine of “American exceptionalism” to justify bombing Syria, which is a sovereign nation, and where, I might add, 10% of the population is part of the body of Christ. If we are “a city set on a hill” how could we bomb Syria for using chemical weapons, when we decimated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and turned a blind eye to Saddam Hussein when he used chemical weapons we supplied on his own people, just to name two brief examples? That’s because those situations involved “America’s interests.” America is excluded from hypocrisy and moral judgment, because we are “exceptional” within world history. The problem with “American exceptionalism” is that many nations have held to some form of “exceptionalism” and have justified all kinds of evil using it. Besides, everyone wants to think that their people, their culture, their form of government, are somehow special. The real difference is that America is an empire with the power to enforce its supposed “exceptionalism” onto others.

Like many religions, the nationalistic religion of “Americanism” calls for blood sacrifice; the bodies and blood of our young men and women sacrificed on the nation’s altar of freedom, or should we rather say, “America’s global interests.” It is this sacrifice that binds our nation together as one. The death of those offered for our nation abolishes our differences and brings us unity. The flag becomes a symbol of our blood sacrifices, as the cross is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. We unite around the flag like Christians gather around the communion table. And yet, for Christians it is the final and ultimate sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ remembered in communion, which binds the global church together as one.

At the conclusion of his book Between Babel and Beast, theologian Peter Leithart suggests:
 American churches need to commemorate the final sacrifice of Jesus in regular eucharistic celebrations, and they need to work out the practicalities of a eucharistic politics—the end of sacred warfare, the formation of an international ecclesial imperium that includes all Christians, the cultivation of the virtues of martyrs, the forging of bonds of brotherhood (and sisterhood) that would inhibit Christians from shedding Christian blood (152).

Communion presents us with an alternative politics. Our politics of communion is shaped by a cosmic God and an international community of believers, over against a parochial god of a solitary nation state. As citizens of God’s realm we bear allegiance to Christ alone, which does not mean that we have no responsibility toward the state or that the state has no positive role to play or that we must hate everything about America. Nor does it mean that every expression of church in the world is faultless. It does mean that our allegiance to Christ and love for God’s global church takes precedence over allegiance to the state. So, when the state seeks our support to bomb places where our Christian brothers and sisters live, how can we in good conscience violate the body of Christ?

How ironic that it an Air Force chaplain shared communion with the crew of the Enola Gay before they bombed Hiroshima. How blind to the body were those Christians who used the Bible and just war theory to justify dropping the atomic bomb, a weapon of mass destruction? How tragic it was that an “all Christian” bomb crew dropped the bomb that decimated Nagasaki, which was not only targeted on innocent civilians, but ground zero was the largest Christian cathedral (Urakami) in Asia! Nagasaki had the largest concentration of baptized Christians in all of Japan! With those two bombs alone we sacrificed over 220,000 innocent civilians in the name of our nation, while still today we claim it was necessary to end the war. Allegiance to a nation took precedence over allegiance to Christ and his global church. Where was the “discernment of the body?”

Communion is a place for us to begin to rethink our politics. My old friend John Stoner said it well. His proposal became a popular Mennonite Central Committee poster, which reads: A modest proposal for peace; Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other. This is only a first step. But, that simple proposal has radical and political implications. It’s as radical as the simple truth that our communion with Christ, remembered and celebrated in the bread and cup, makes the church one.

Simply put, our communion in Christ binds us together with Christians worldwide. The one church of Christ takes priority over our particular nations. That is what we celebrate on World Communion Sunday. The love of God has no boundaries.  The gift of Christ’s body and blood is transnational. It cannot be contained within one nation. The Spirit of the church is universal. And so, with the second century Christians, we pray to God: As this broken bread was scattered over the mountains, and when brought together becomes one, so let your Church be brought together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom (Didache, 2nd century).

 Like the church at Corinth, the community of Waxahachie, Texas of 1935, as depicted in the movie Places in the Heart, was divided. The story begins with death and desperation. Sheriff Royce Spalding is accidentally killed by a young black boy, Wylie, who has been drinking at the railway yards. White vigilantes drag Wylie through the streets with their truck and display his broken body in the view of Edna, the sheriff’s wife, and her children as the community’s blood sacrifice. Edna does not project her pain onto every black person she meets. She even covers for Moze, a black drifter and handyman, when he is caught by the law for stealing her silverware after asking her for work. She ends up hiring Moze to help her grow and market cotton in order to save her home from being repossessed. The banker, who holds the deed to her place, negotiates with Edna to also take in his blind brother-in-law, Will. Eventually after Moze is beaten by the Klan and defended by Will, he leaves this new makeshift family he has grown to love. A woman, her small children, a black man, and a man who was blind, see clearly what caring across their differences can mean. It created a diverse, loving community, sharing in the bread of peace and the wine of hope.    

The final scene of the movie is a rather strange scene of communion. It is a service of communion taking place inside a small country church. The pastor reads 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. Love is patient and kind…Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. The elements of communion are passed down the pews from one member to the next. It looks like a regular communion service until….after Edna’s sister and brother-in-law take the cup, you see the men who dragged Wylie with the truck, then Klan members, the banker, then there is Will, Moze, Edna, her children, and oddly enough her dead husband, Royce, sharing in communion. Royce finally turns to the young Wylie, who shot him, and passes to him the cup of Christ’s blood. The final words of the movie are Wylie’s words to Royce….”Peace of God.” It is one of the most striking and thought-provoking depictions of communion I have ever seen. 

Some interpret this final communion scene as an image of heaven, with everyone forgiven symbolized in Christ’s shed blood. That may be part of this final scene. But, it may also be a vision of what the church can be here and now: reconciled, at one, undivided by race, class, age, disability, gender, politics, ideology, nationality, and living in the peace of God. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lydia: Formed by Communities- Acts 16:13-15, 40

* This dialogue sermon was presented this morning at Albany Mennonite Church, Albany, Oregon, where Meghan Good is pastor. The congregation sat around table and discussed the questions during the sermon. See my book "Interpretation and Preaching as Communal and Dialogical Practices: An Anabaptist Perspective" (Edwin Mellen Press, 2006) for my theory on communal and dialogical preaching.


Most often we think of heroes or heroines as persons who singularly stand out and apart from others in their community through their courage or moral example. And there is a place for recognizing the singularity of exemplary lives. Hebrews 11 is such a list of biblical “heroes of the faith.” This summer your faith community has been looking at such heroes of faith. But, the truth is, we can only understand heroes or heroines in connection with their communities. No hero or heroine stands alone and apart from their community. We cannot fully understand Dorothy Day apart from her Roman Catholic community and particularly the Catholic Worker movement. We cannot fully understand Martin Luther King Jr. without also understanding the black community of which he was a part; its traditions, practices, music, style, struggles, hopes, dreams, and religious expression. The story of a hero or heroine is also the story of a particular community or communities.

The story of “Lydia” in the book of Acts is not only a story about a unique individual, although “Lydia” is not a personal name. In reality her name is a province of Thyatira, possibly indicating she was a former slave without a given Roman name.  Her story is also a story about her own communities. In only a few verses of chapter 16 in the Acts of the Apostles, we learn something about Lydia and the communities of which she was a part. First, we will examine three of her communities to better understand Lydia as a distinctive person. With each identified community we will dialogue around one reflective question to connect her story with our own story and that of our own communities.

The Synagogue

The first community we encounter in the story of Lydia is the synagogue. According to Acts, the missionary practice of Paul was to find a synagogue in the cities to which he travelled as the first place to preach and teach the message of Jesus as Messiah. I don’t think his travels to Philippi were any exception, though it has been disputed. On the Sabbath Paul and his missionary companions went outside the city gate to a river, where they supposed there was a “place of prayer.” If their custom was to look for a synagogue on the Sabbath, then it would seem that what they were expecting to find alongside the river was a synagogue. The word translated “place of prayer” (προσευχη) is a synonym for “synagogue.” The reason it has not been translated as “synagogue”? First and foremost, because it was an assembly of women! How can you have formal worship when it’s just a bunch of women? Also, there must not have been any Jewish males in Philippi, goes the reasoning, to form a synagogue. It must simply have been a cozy women’s prayer group meeting in a bucolic setting down by the riverside.

 All evidence points to this being a synagogue community located by the river; 1) the fact that this whole scene was parallel to Paul’s other city encounters; 2) the language of “gathering,” “sitting” and “speaking” indicating teaching and preaching; 3) that 10 men were not required to form a synagogue, and 3) the preponderance of evidence that the word for “place of prayer” refers to a synagogue. That being the case, Lydia was involved in a Jewish synagogue in Philippi composed primarily of women!

What do we learn about Lydia from this community?  Lydia is described as a “worshipper of God” or “god-fearer,” a term for a Gentile proselyte to Jewish faith. Gentile women were particularly attracted to the Jewish faith. There must have been something in the faith that affirmed their identity as women. There were in the ancient world women who were even heads of synagogues. In Philippi, we have what was probably an exceptional case of a synagogue primarily made up of women. Imagine how this unique community shaped and formed Lydia as a person of faith and as a woman! 

Reflective Question:

What might someone learn about you as a person and a Christian from understanding your community of faith?

The Household

The second community we encounter in Lydia’s story is the household. Lydia listened eagerly and her heart was open to hear the good news of Jesus proclaimed to the women of the synagogue. This led to the baptism of her whole household. This ancient Mediterranean household was not the same as a modern household, understood as a nuclear family, although ancient and modern households have both been typically understood as ruled and owned by the paterfamilias, or father of the family, until most recently. This ancient household was the basic economic unit of society, economia (literally “household management”) being derived from the word for household (οικοσ). As well, the household was a place of worship. The household was not based solely on blood kinship, but also included slaves and freed persons, who assisted in the family work.

No “partriarchal family” structure is mentioned in the text, no male head of the household. It appears that Lydia was the head of her own household, which does not necessarily mean she was a widow. It does mean she was the leader of her household; its work, economics, and worship life. Although untypical, there were households ruled by mater familias, or mother of the family. It is possible that Lydia’s household was composed primarily of women. The production of cloth was the work of women. She must have transferred her business to Phillipi from Thyatira, which was known for the manufacture of dyed cloth. Some of the women gathered at the synagogue may have been part of Lydia’s household and business.  

It is not necessary to conceive of Lydia as an “independently wealthy business woman” or “rich cloth merchant,” as has been the traditional interpretation. Production and sale of purple dyed cloth was not necessarily a lucrative business for all persons in the industry. It’s production was a rather disgusting, smelly process. It’s possible that Lydia and those who worked with her together made a subsistence living. In this picture Lydia must have relied upon the communal work of her household to maintain economic sustainability. Only through shared work was the household community economically sustainable in a peasant society with very small elite upper class and no middle class.   

Reflective Questions:

How might households in the church work together collectively to address the economic sustainability of persons within the household of faith (the church) and in the larger household (economy) of our communities?

The Church

The third and final community we encounter in the story of Lydia is the church. Upon the baptism of her household Lydia urged Paul and his companions to come and stay at her home. Her invitation is a sign of hospitality. Not only was hospitality a customary and expected practice in the ancient world, it was the means by which the early church was established and grew. Churches were not buildings, but the people who assembled together (ekklesia=called out, a political term). And their first meeting places were in the household of converts, such as Lydia, the first European convert to Christianity. By the time we get to verse 40 of Acts 16, Lydia’s home appears to have become a house church, the center of Christian life in Philippi. Directly out of prison Paul and Silas come to Lydia’s household and encouraged the brothers and sisters, familial titles given to members of the Christian community. Lydia is the patron, and even possibly the leader, of the Philippian house church.

Lydia’s initial invitation to Paul was prefaced with these words:  if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my home. And she prevailed upon us.” The indication is that she has indeed been accounted faithful in her baptism. Her baptism and fidelity to “the Lord Jesus Christ” places her and the other converts in a new community, in an alternative society that stands over against the society and those faithful to Lord Caesar and the Roman imperial order. There is a hint of danger in Lydia’s compelling appeal “prevailing” upon Paul to come to her home. The possible danger is narrated in the story of the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. Lydia practices risky hospitality. A person entered this new community at Philippi at some risk and danger.

Reflective Question:

Describe what the church today would look like as an "alternative community" or "contrast society" (e.g., living in faithfulness to Jesus as Lord) to our surrounding communities and society.


Lydia’s three communities---synagogue, household, and church---help us understand what made her a distinctive person. Here was a unique woman who was shaped by these three different communities. A Gentile worshipper of the Jewish God among a community of strong women forming a synagogue, the head of her own household, leader of a business which was sustained economically by a solidarity in work, the first European convert to Christianity, a patron and possibly leader of the Christian house church in Philippi, a community that shaped a new people together resisting the empire of another Lord. Here was a woman formed by her distinctive communities. As we have listened eagerly to Lydia’s story may these words be the call of her life to radical faithfulness for each of us and our communities …and she prevailed upon us.   

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Celtic Designs on Frame Drums

Recently I painted Celtic designs on the heads of a number of my frame drums.

Rock and Roll Icons

Over the past few months I have been painting a series of Rock and Roll Icons, mostly from my era of music. These are musicians I have greatly admired for their creativity, musicianship, and for being counter to the wider culture. I hope to paint more of these portraits in the near fuure.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Johnny Ace and Kali Verra: In the spirit of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth

During my pre-adolescent and adolescent years (early 60s) in the surf-drenched, Kustom Kulture of Southern California, my counter-cultural hero was Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. I had a fever for monsters and hot cars and  Roth was the cure. I sent for his free catalogs, order several of his shirts and prints, assembled his Outlaw car and Mr. Gasser by Revell, wore a Rat Fink "crash helmet" and even spray painted my own monster t-shirts in high school. Roth faded from the scene and I moved on to the hippie and psychedlelic culture of the late 60s.
In the succeeding decades not much was heard of Roth and his Kustom Kulture, until it all re-emerged in the public eye in the 80s (The first Rat Fink Reunion was in December 1977). Roth returned to my personal vision in the 90s and beyond through the whole re-emergence of Kustom Culture and Roth influenced artists. I could see Roth in such artists as the Pizz, Todd Schorr, Dirty Donny, and Jim Phillips. The Roth influence, and the further development of the Roth-image, was obvious in artists like Ed Newton and Robert Williams, who worked for Roth. Some artists took the Roth influence into a new time. Not many kept the look and feel of those early Roth years of custom airbrushed t-shirts.
Another artist who worked for Roth, Johnny Ace, has produced, along with his partner Kali Verra, the classic look of the Roth I remember from my adolescent years. Other artists have done Roth-style work, but not like the work of Johnny Ace and Kali Verra. The airbrush work, bright colors, and traditional Roth images of monster and rods of Ace and Verra reflect the spirit of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth like no other. Their work evokes images and feelings of the early emergence of my counter-cultural sentiments.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

These are not photos: The Pencil Photorealism of Paul Cadden

Paul Caden, Scotland born, is a hyperrealist artist who works primarily in  pencil, but sometimes in charcoal. Each drawing takes 3-6 weeks each. His detail is amazing!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dirk Dzimirsky: Photorealist Graphite Artist

I have appreciated the tehnical skills of photorealist (or hyperrealist) artists going back to the beginnings of the movement in the 60s. I stood amazed before the large paintings of Chuck Close at a gallery on La Cienega in LA in 1968. My appreciation has grown over the years as photorealist artists have continued to exhibit techical skills that are almost unimaginable.
Artists are producing mind blowing pieces simply using graphite as a medium.The detail goes down to reproducing the very pores on human skin! Sometimes it sems like they use subjects that are an even greater challenge than a simple portrait, such as people covered with water! 
I would like to feature a number of these artists in some upcoming posts. One such artist is Dirk Dzimirsky, a German freelance illustrator. Of his work he says: "I work in a style that most people refer to as photorealism or hyperrealism. I use photos as references for my hyperrealistic drawings and paintings but I am not after a perfect reproduction at all. I use a photo very loosely once the proportions are established. I usually work as if I were drawing from a live model actually. I work with movement and expression, working fast on larger, more unimportant areas, and slowing down on parts that need more attention. I am actually improvising a lot. My main concern is to capture the essence and substance of forms in order to get close to a perceptible presence of the subject."


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Barry Moser: Book Illustrator

Barry Moser is an illustrator known for his print work. His prints are recognizable for their technical detail.  He illustrated Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and over 300 other titles! Moser was awarded the Doctor of Fine Arts degree by Westfield State College, Westfield, Massachusetts (1999), the Doctor of Humanities degree by Anna Maria College, Paxton, Massachusetts (2001), and the Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, Massachusetts (2003). His most exquisite work are his illustrations of The Holy Bible, the first illustrator to do so, solo, since Gustave Dore in 1865. His magnum opus, THE PENNYROYAL CAXTON BIBLE. was published in October 1999.



Saturday, January 12, 2013

Jason D'Aquino: Miniaturist Illustrator


*Note- My posts over the past year and 4 months have been my weekly sermons while I was interim pastor at Zion Mennonite Church in Hubbard, Oregon. I some ways my sermons were my regular expressions of my artwork in words. Now that I have completed my verbal art I want to return to sharing my passion for the visual arts by posting more of my exploration into the world of art.


The other day I came across an artist that inrigued me with his style, medium, technique, and subject matter. Jason D'Aquino refers to himself as a miniaturist. He draws primarily using graphite and creates highly detailed renderings of icons of pop culture, common objects, and his own weird creations inhabited by smiling cartoonish children on old paper, ledgers, and pages from antique books. Most amazing are his detailed drawings on matchbook covers that are only a inch or so in size that he creates with high powered magnifiers.