Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ash, Poetry, and Collage

I've been thinking a lot about collage lately (go here to my poetry and creativity blog for a longer reading on the subject), so maybe it makes sense that my art project for the week would involve collaging. I started thinking about how many of my poems involve Ash Wednesday themes, so I printed some of them, cut them up, cut up a calendar page, and arranged everything on a painted canvas board:

I wondered what the work would look like with some ash. Back to the fireplace! Here's that result:

Once I had everything in place, I had a dilemma: how to glue/affix? I took pictures, just so I'd have a record if things went wrong.

Then I made another startling discovery: I actually like the pictures of the art work better than the art work itself! In the end, I threw all the scraps and ash away.

In some ways, this whole exercise seemed to teach me some Buddhist lessons about attachment. But those are probably Christian lessons too. We get most upset when we have ideas about what success will look like. So we long to transform our small, cohesive churches into megachurches. We discount the healing work that we do, blooming where we are planted, because we're so convinced that true Christians would live simply in intentional communities in solidarity with the poor.

I've always liked art that used scraps of other things to create new things (hence my love of fiber arts and quilting). I wrote a poem years ago that I'll include here for your Lenten reading pleasure; it was published in Interdisciplinary Humanities. For those of you hungry for female faces of God, I'll be interested to hear what you think:

The Precious Nature of Junk

If God is an old woman,
She uses no recipe.
Long ago she learned
what she needed to know:
how to make do with scarce
resources, how to create successful
substitutions, how to create
magic from simple kitchen chemistry.

If God is an old woman,
She saves all our old clothes. She alone
has a vision of a collage of cloth.
She cuts new shapes out of our discards
and pieces them into an intricate quilt,
even though she knows we will fail
to appreciate her demonstrated skill.

If God is an old woman,
She longs for closer connection.
She sends cards for every occasion
and fills the answering machine with cryptic
messages. She has such important
information to pass on and such little
time left. We listen
and wonder at her mental state.

If God is an old woman,
She knows that everything could have a larger
purpose. She hoards items we’d have discarded
long ago. She understands the precious
nature of junk.

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