literally exciting. First it entails driving the van into lower Manhattan---yes, the van that broke down on Thursday in a long and complicated story you don't want to hear. Then there are the truly amazing folks that show up; urban photographers from China, film-makers, dancers, actors, cultural critics, reviewers, painters, potters, scholars and a whole bunch of folks who care. (And folks whose names I've known because they read our blog and order books from us, friends who are nice to finally meet.)
Makoto Fujimura and his team bring together a generative array of leaders, speakers, performers, artists of all sorts that create an on-going conversation for three and a half days, stimulating us all to think how best to honor God with our creative gifts, and how to speak wisely about Christian faith to those outside of the church, especially those situated in the serious arts culture. There was much to take inspiration from day by day, from the passionate attendees, and, of course, from the main stage speakers: from the storytelling of fantasy writer Jeffrey Overstreet--we were the first place in the world to get his yet to be released fourth volume of his Auralia's Colors series, The Ale Boy's Feast--to the personal story of former pastor Irwin McManus (whose lastest book, Wide Awake, dares us to make our dreams reality by getting busy actually doing what we are called to), to the exceptionally popular poet Li-Young Lee. He read from his latest, Behind My Eyes: Poems which was an exceptionally moving experience. The book is available from us in a hardcover edition that includes Li-Young reading his work (or paperback without the CD.) His father had been Mao's personal physician until his conversion to Christ, which eventually lead him to a time of imprisonment in Indonesia. (When the father finally escaped China, he became a Presbyterian pastor in Western Pennsylvania. Li-Young is now a highly regarded, esteemed poet.)
In the midst of all this is the book display featuring key titles from our arts section, including, of course, the speakers and poets who were there (see the Encounter webpage for a listing of speakers.) And, we had books like the ordinary-life aesthetics of Calvin Seerveld's Rainbows for the Fallen World and his more recent Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves to the heavy work of Hans Urs Von Balthasar; the brand new William Dyrness Poetic Theology (which I raved about, here) to the important one by Daniel Siedell, God in the Gallery. We sold out of an excellent anthology of chapters gleaned from a similar conference held in Austin a few years back (it was fun selling it to some people who were at that conference) called For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts edited by W. David O. Taylor (which you really ought to have!) One of the important lectures at IAM was delivered by Adrienne Chaplin, whose book Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts we still say is one of the top two or three most important texts for studying art from a faithful perspective. And we so enjoy showing the lovely book by poet Luci Shaw called Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit, which is a great ally for anyone considering how to deepen their own creativity or perhaps new to this conversation.
Of course we had our standard Square Halo Books selections---I think that no collection of books about faith and the arts can be without It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God (edited by Ned Bustard) and Objects of Grace: Conversations on Creativity and Faith (edited by James Romaine) and Gregory Wolfe's fine collection of short pieces taken from Image journal, Intruding Upon the Timeless, all released by Square Halo. The first two have chapters by IAM founder, Mr. Fujimura, by the way, and I believe represent the first places he was ever published.
Of course we sold his exquisite and very interesting NavPress release Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, his luminous self-published work, River Grace, and many were glad to see Rouault/Fujimura: Soliloquies, his small book showing his abstract work inspired by Rouault paintings alongside some famous (and rare) pieces by the famous French impressionist, with a long essay by Thomas Hibbs. (I reviewed that significant book, here.) Naturally, his new ESV illuminated manuscript, The Four Holy Gospels, was on hand (although the publisher, Crossway, was providing that, so we didn't get to sell it. We were among the first to review it, though, so happily told customers all about it in their absence. Your welcome, Crossway.) See our comments about this breathtaking project, here.
And that isn't even mentioning a nice selection of books about faith and literature, a bit of good poetry, books about writing, media and film studies---like the new books in the IVP "Christian worldview integration" series Authentic Communication: Christian Speech Engaging Culture by Tim Muehlhoff & Todd Lewis and Christianity and Literature: Philosophical Foundations and Critical Practice by David Lyle Jeffrey & Gregory Maillet. We had books on film and books on music, and a few on dance (publishers---we need a solid Christian book on this!) and several on theater (such as Performing the Sacred: Theology and Theater in Dialogue by Todd Johnson & Dale Savidge and You've Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical by Ian Bradley.)
We take Shane Claiborne's Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals anywhere we can, and it seemed suitable here (especially since it is enhanced with original woodcuts and some calligraphy.) We sold a couple. Another lovely book on spirituality that seemed especially appropriate for this crowd was God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us by memoirist, poet, publisher, and blogger extraordinaire, L.L. Barkat. (Thanks for the generous hugs, LL!) God in the Yard is a daily devotional, a guided reflection on paying attention to the beauty around us, a sitting meditation, "in the yard." One doesn't have to be an artist to appreciate this common effort to slow us down, but it seems that those who have a creative temperament would really find it useful. (Writer Denise Frame Harlan did a great review of it, by the way, at the Englewood Review.) And, we loved showing off the new Contemplative Vision: A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer by Julie Benner, a marvelous set of spiritual reflections inspired by great paintings, which are lovingly reproduced in color in this beautiful paperback. As I said in an earlier BookNotes review, if you liked Henri Nouwen's meditation on the Rembrandt painting in Return of the Prodigal Son, you'll love these vision divina ruminations. In this little devotional corner of the big display we also had Cal Seerveld's stunningly good, imaginative, and deeply insightful Bible meditations--On Being Human: Imaging God in the Modern World---again, each reflecting on an art piece, a sculpting in Rotterdam, a painting by a young American student, a photo by a middle Eastern woman, a woodcut, a hymn tune. Do you know it? Wonderful! And we had the three small Bible study books in the Through Artists Eyes series based on the arts that we described here.
There was much music at IAM, and it was fun to catch up with Jason Harrod (we now have his new CD, Bright as You) and to see New Yorkers lovin' on Joy Ike (and, yep, we have her CDs too, Good Morning and Rumors) and we enjoyed the improv of a very cool project between IAM staffer and professional saxophone Kevin Gosa and violinist Jake Armerding. (Check out The Fretful Porcupine here.) The Brooklyn-based Zac Williams Band played and rocked the house after the astute literary conversation with poet and former head of the National Endowment of the Arts, Dana Gioia. (His 1992 Graywolf book Can Poetry Matter? is still very important, just so you know!) What a closing night!
There is more I could tell about this fabulous event and the books that we offered. We're glad for new friends and grateful for the kind words and support. Click back to a list of books I compiled two years ago after the IAM event (here) if you'd like a few more titles about integrating faith and the arts. It isn't comprehensive, but I'm told it is one of the more interesting lists from any store anywhere on these themes. I hope you might buy a few, pass 'em on to somebody who might not otherwise know about this great body of literature (or at least copy the list and pass it on as a gift to an artist you know.) We are pleased to stock this kind of stuff, but it sure is nice when we get to actually sell some.
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One book which we featured simply has to be described in greater detail (although my words cannot do it justice.) We are happy to announce its release this month, and proud to stock it.
The Art of Guy Chase
edited by James Romaine (Square Halo Books) $19.99
This is a brand new title, published in cooperation with a This is a brand new title, published in cooperation with a retrospective exhibition by the inestimable artist at Bethel College, Mr. Guy Chase. Guy has been pushing the envelope of his allusive---fun and yet demanding--- modern art for years, and has been an important voice in circles such as IAM and CIVA (Christians in the Visual Arts.) In private conversation with me at the IAM Encounter, Mako spoke tenderly of him--Guy has been ill with cancer--and assured me he is loved by many contemporary Christian artists. His work is respected, considered, celebrated (Mako said he owns a piece or two himself.) Guy Chase himself, too, it seems, is a piece of work. This book shows off his vision and his work, and invites others to reflect upon it. It itself is a piece of work, a good piece of work. Kudos to graphic-meister Ned Bustard at Square Halo for his signature and very appealing design.
Other tributes or evaluations include a great piece by Joel Sheesley, a good commentary by Ted Prescott, a chapter called "Disruption and Illumination: Subtitle" by Wayne Roosa and an insightful essay by Albert Pedulla entitled "Rescinding Disbelief: The Post-Skeptical Realism of Guy Chase." The book ends with an honest and illuminating interview done by James Romaine.
The Art of Guy Chase is printed well on glossy paper, is produced in a square format (almost8 x 8) and is 131 pages. It is not massive, but it certainly is not meager: it is lavish, to say the least, fun and interesting, colorful and arresting. Chase's work is almost indescribable, and he works in many mediums, in several contemporary styles. One piece will look at first like a piece of graph paper. Another is a huge white sculpture of a wrecked car. Some are simple sketches mounted on hefty wooden scaffolds. There are classic modern pieces---squares in circles with splashes of primary colors---and there are subtle watercolor grids on mirrors. He works in gouache on torn paper, he has superimposed photographs on craft bags and he has a fascinating piece that I can't stop looking at called Grail described as "Grape Juice on Aluminum Cans." Some of the photographs of his work show the whole room, as they are larger installation pieces.
I have only begun to enjoy the many pieces of Guy's art that is shown here, and haven't yet seriously considered all the articles, which I've only skimmed, as I wanted to see what each contributor thinks. But I will read and re-read; I am confident this is edifying stuff, challenging (in a playful sort of way.) This is good for the heart and mind, to ponder why this work is considered important, to appreciate how it helps us see, to realize this is a Godly man, a decent human, doing expressive artwork in a way that causes his fellow Christ-followers (and others) to take notice. And, besides shaking my head in wonderment at it all, it makes me smile. Thanks be for the artistry and for the care given by his friends and critics in their thoughtful essays.
Makoto Fujimura has a nice quote on the back. Consider this:
Guy Chase's art if full of surprises, twists, humour, candor, inventiveness and delight; Chase takes the postmodern visual language to its ends of hubris and significance, always turning our attentions upside down.
Here is how another artist explained the book:
The Art of Guy Chase explores the visual, conceptual, and spiritual complexities of one of the most provocative contemporary visual artists of faith. Chase's art is characterized by intentionally cultivated contradictions between humor and sobriety, contemplation and irony, material tactility and sacred meaning. Lavishly illustrated, this book documents Guy Chase's faithful response to an artistic calling and his methodical engagement with the history of Christianity and the visual arts as a strategy of renewing that relationship today.
Heavy, I know. And when you've got heavy-weight artist/thinkers like Romaine and Roosa, Prescott and Pedulla and the others, this is a wonderfully astute example of the "state of the art" of contemporary Christian art and criticism. Yet, again, Chase is a piece of work and has earned the privilege of being taken seriously. This book is wild and fun. It is interesting and clever, outrageously so. I think you'll like it if you give it a try, and you'll learn something, too.
I didn't get to do my "book announcements" that I do at some conferences at IAM Encounter. If I would have had a shot at it, The Art of Guy Chase is a book I would have highlighted. I would have held it up, gladly and graciously, and said it may have been one of the most important books in the room. For those who have eyes to see, I am sure they would have agreed.
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