Calling: thoughts behind the art (by Deyan)

Deyan Momtchilov recently created this piece during the wrap-up of our “Why On Earth?” series.  Below are his reflections.

This piece was inspired by a series of sermons on the topic of calling, illustrated by the life of the biblical figure, David. It summarizes some of my thoughts on the subject, while highlighting pivotal questions, which I have left partially unanswered in order to allow room for contemplation on the part of the viewer.

Similar to previous works of mine, “Calling” revolves around a specific physical force, which I use as a metaphor to explore an abstract concept and make it more accessible.

The choice of materials becomes important, as I am trying to capture dynamic constructs, which seem to be more easily conveyed by media that can absorb and store the energy I put into them. And I mean this quite literally.  While the pieces appear static at first glance, each of them is “loaded” with a charge of potential energy, which is deposited into the system by the physical interaction between me and the materials.

For this particular piece I used magnetism. It depicts calling as a draw in a specified direction and highlights the importance of proximity, which has direct impact on the magnitude of the force exercised on an object.

The steel needles represent individuals answering the call, while the threads outline their unique paths.

The arrangement was informed by several questions; I will name some of the more prominent ones in order to give my creative process some context.

One way of thinking about calling is as a synonym of destiny. It comes to fruition one way or another, and our oblivion or resistance only delay the inevitable. This view seems to be supported by the story of Jonah, who despite his rejection of a call to Nineveh, still ends up there.  His journey includes unusual circumstances, which change his attitude along the way.

Another, perhaps less palatable example is Judas Iscariot. He fulfills a prophecy by betraying Jesus, which leads to the crucifixion and subsequently to the resurrection. Without this betrayal the most pivotal event in the gospel would not have occurred.

But was this Judas’ calling, his assigned role in the play we call life?

Or is calling, like the root of the word suggests, a call, an invitation that can be accepted or declined? Perhaps like Esau’s birthright, which he chose to trade in for some food in a moment of weakness?

Lastly, is a calling one specific mission, or is it a lifestyle?

David was clearly called to be king, even though his destiny did not come to fruition for many years after he was anointed. But what was the calling of the poor widow, who gave her last two copper coins as an offering? Even though we don’t know much else about her, the widow’s actions on that day were likely a window into a lifestyle of generosity.

This opens the possibility of looking at calling as a journey rather than a destination.

A movie by the name of “The Fourth Wiseman” comes to mind. It outlines the storey of a supposed forth Wiseman on his way to Bethlehem to bring a gift to the newborn King. Along his trip, he encounters people in need and spends the rest of his life and the monetary value of the gift he carries in their service.

If we view calling as a gift, service or contribution that we can make, did the fourth Wiseman miss his? Or was this a case of what Jesus describes in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, when he draws a parallel between “the least of his brothers and sisters” and himself personally?

Returning to the art piece, I think it is helpful to think of it as a visual aid or a meditative device that invites the viewers to engage with the topic and questions like the ones above.  My hope is that this leads to contemplation and exploratory dialogue, which would draw the participants closer to each other and God in their pursuit of truth and meaning.

Swan Song – a poem for International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day was March 8.  Sherry Ansloos wrote the following poem.

To introduce her poem, Sherry writes, “In honor of women who have inspired, I want to post this poem.  It gives a voice to the murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada. It commemorates Helen Betty Osborne, a Cree women who was murdered in 1971. Her voice for women’s rights was not silenced.”

Swan Song

Helen Betty Osbourne you left us too soon
To dance away pain with the woman on the moon
With glitter and stardust, you move and you sway
With tears and with sorrow we remember today.

Though cold be the ground where your young blood was spilt
And sullied the process of finding justice and guilt
Though racism, sexism and indifference was rife
Dancing its dirge on the edge of that knife

Your death shone a light on the wickedness of man
More dark than the skin on your indigenous hand
Innocent be your heart as you move free tonight
Watching over your sisters who fight for their rights

So every young woman can speak and be heard
That no is a word that can never be blurred
And take back their bodies as sacred with awe
Ending the violence for the women called squaw

Moon sister you thought that your cries were not heard
That your voice returned void without power in your words
But we heard your voice sing how you suffered this wrong
Women’s rights will remain your unyielding swan song

Nuit Blanche Bike Jam

Our new murals are one of the sites for Nuit Blanche this year and our parking lot will be the rendezvous point for the Bike Jam.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-4-09-50-pmSat, Oct 1 from 6pm – 9:30 ish. Our parking lot will be transformed into a pop-up party that will include:

  • Rally point for the annual Rainbow Trout Bike Jam (last year’s bike jam had about 600 bicycles), and for anyone else participating in the Nuit Blanche activities.
  • Large pop-up stage with music (sponsored by Manitoba Music with 3 amazing acts),
  • Participatory art project,
  • Bike tune-ups,
  • Break dance competition,
  • Light art installations and a
  • DJ booth.

It’s gonna be a party! We’re expecting in upwards of 1000 people and bicycles in our parking lot.

The whole event is a family friendly and dry. It will be loud and well lit (there’s a giant disco ball being installed above the DJ booth). Access to the building will be limited to the Flatlanders Studio (porta potties will be provided outside).

Our very own Flatlanders Studio will be open with the new exhibit called Art Catalogue. Blair is working hard at getting this show up and running.  Make sure you come out and see the new LED light system that has just been installed – not to mention some great art!

This seems like a lot – and it is! For us it is all a great opportunity to “work for the good of the city in which I have sent you.” (Jeremiah 29)

art-catalogue

Murals: “Mending” & “Aqua Lungs”

Our new murals are completed! It’s been exciting to watch them unfold over the past few weeks. So many people have come by to have a second (and third and fourth) look and countless others have been impacted by these murals already. What are they thinking? What’s going on for them? I’ve witnessed many people deeply moved as they take it all in – what might God be doing in them?

One of the main objectives of public street art is to create a space for wonder and curiosity – to capture people’s attention and imaginations and to spur dialogue. Already both these murals are doing just that. We are thrilled to receive these gifts and are doubly blessed to have one of our Core Practices, the Arts, expressed in such massive ways. We are creative beings, made in the image of our Creator. Every act of creative expression reflects God in some way.

One theologian said, “It is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers for every question, but to make us progressively aware of a Mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.” (Kallistos Ware) Our hope is that these works will draw people to the great and loving Mystery and the things he cares about.

Below are some thoughts on each mural, bearing in mind that art is always subjective and that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, as they say. Both murals hold a lot of meaning for the artists as well as us in the Vineyard – but their power also lies in the ineffable beauty, colour, and mystery… things that “words cannot express.”

Mending:

mending-high-view-2

“Mending”, is the apt title of the mural facing the greenspace (and everyone travelling North on Main St). As you can see, it features a strong and beautiful indigenous woman. The Clandestinos, the married artist duo of Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky who hail from Toronto with roots in South America, dedicated this piece “to strength and resilience of the First Nations Women from across the Americas.” She stands in marked contrast to how women are usually depicted on billboards across our society.

Her bracelets and poncho are adorned with designs and patterns of tribes and First Nations from South, Central and North America, in that order.  Bruno says, “Shalak and I spoke with elders here in Winnipeg, and they gave us direction as to what symbolism we should use on her poncho and jewelry. Combining symbolism from the South and North is a beautiful thing – Indigenous people standing together.”  Her strength and beauty stands in solidarity with all indigenous peoples.

She goes about her quiet yet important work of mending a heart that is ripped. Shalak and Bruno say “her act of “Mending” is symbolic of the healer, and reconstruction of the broken or missing pieces of our communities.”

mending-musk-oxHer hat is crowned with a ring of Musk oxen, our metaphor of the kind of community we are called to be. Muskox are known to surround vulnerable members of the herd to protect them against harm – they use their strength in the service of others. The Muskox in this painting represent “the surrounding communities coming together for her protection and everything she stands for.”

With her poncho she enfolds a prairie landscape and a city, both of which give way to the sky. We are all in this together and work toward the healing of our hearts, bodies, societies and even the earth itself. To us, this is a beautiful picture of the heart of God and his restorative work in and through us. Let it be!

Finally, Shalak and Smoky say, “through these symbolic images we wish to give homage to and remember missing and murdered indigenous women. The act of mending is representative of the healing process, the need to face, overcome and heal the social unbalances and inequalities that are present in our societies that all too often hurt the most vulnerable communities.”  Hanging at her centre is a pinecone, a symbol of hope. When it experiences the heat of a forest fire, its seeds are released to bear fruit. We can see a future for our people where all the fires of our suffering will bear much fruit. And so we hope. Behind the pine cone are the beaded portions of a pair of moccasins (called vamps) – the symbol of missing and murdered indigenous women, many of whom we have known and still love. In this respect, Mending works together with our Vineyard Memorial Path, a little to the West.

Aqua Lungsaqua-lungs-w-artists

This mural is designed and painted by a collaboration of Toronto based duo, Patrick Thompson and Alexa Hatanaka, collectively known as PA System, and a 17 year old artist from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, Parr Josephee. The Inuit inspired contemporary design is a tribute to Parr’s roots. The human figure in the mural is a self portrait of Parr holding his first fish, which he caught this past summer.

This piece is two large watery lungs that hold humans, animals and a cross section of the earth together, portraying the interconnection between all three. Healing waters surround them. The deep, vibrant colours echo the rich cultures of Canada’s north. Winnipeg is a well known hub of Inuit art, and we are pleased to be part of this.

Patrick said, “when you’re creating a piece of public work, you need to create work that’s going to live with people… It can’t be preachy, but it should talk about something real.”  One of the “real” issues people from Parr’s home are facing is the impact seismic testing has on the wildlife living in the waters. Narwhal whales, one of which is depicted in this mural, are particularly susceptible to this testing. When the animals are negatively effected, the people also suffer. This mural is painted to speak to that issue, and to highlight the reality that we are all connected in one way or another. “It negatively affects the people, and it negatively affectParr Josephees all of us down south who have very little connection to the north but when those ties are broken between people, and a way of life, and culture, and food, and history… the potential for disaster is great,” Patrick says.

Parr told me, “I’m so happy to be painting here. I feel good to paint here and have people see my work.”

Of particular note for us in this mural is the theme of water. We have received many dreams, pictures and words over many years about water. It’s amazing that now we have a very “watery” mural painted right on the wall of our building. The fish is also of biblical note!

Nuit Blanche Bike Jam Party:

Both of these murals are part of the Wall-to-Wall mural festival, organized by Synonym Art Consultations. Graffiti Art Programming, NECRC, Manitoba Music are also involved, as are many other funders.

Also, both murals will be on particular display during Nuit Blanche on Oct 1 from 6pm – 9:30 ish. On that evening our parking lot will be transformed into a pop-up party that will include:

  • Rally point for the annual Rainbow Trout Bike Jam (last year’s bike jam had about 600 bicycles), and for anyone else participating in the Nuit Blanche activities.
  • Large pop-up stage with music (sponsored by Manitoba Music with 3 amazing acts),
  • Participatory art project,
  • Bike tune-ups,
  • Break dance competition,
  • Light art installations and a
  • DJ booth.

It’s gonna be a party! We’re expecting in upwards of 1000 people and bicycles in our parking lot.

The whole event is a family friendly and dry. It will be loud and well lit (there’s a giant disco ball being installed above the DJ booth). Access to the building will be limited to the Flatlanders Studio (porta potties will be provided).

Finally, our very own Flatlanders Studio will be open with the new exhibit called Art Catalogue. Blair is working hard at getting this show up and running. Make sure you come out and see the new LED light system that has just been installed – not to mention some great art!

This seems like a lot – and it is! For us it is all a great opportunity to “work for the good of the city in which I have sent you.” (Jeremiah 29)

October 1, 6pm – 9:30pm ish.

The Mending Progression:

(click to enlarge)

 

Aqua Lungs Progression:

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the creation of these murals – specifically the Artists: the Clandestinos, PA System & Parr Josephee, the organizers, specifically Andrew & Chloe from Synonym, Andrew from NECRC and Pat from the Graffiti Gallery. Of course there are many other funders and contributors – this is really a community effort. Thanks to all!

 

New Murals for Winnipeg… and us!

Anyone driving by 782 Main Street these days, will notice some exciting new developments on the South side of our building.  We were approached by Synonym, a local art consultation duo, who asked if we would be interested in hosting two murals on the South side of our building.  We were intrigued for a number of reasons:

  1. We love beauty and want to be a place that encourages artistic and creative endeavours.  We are made in the image and likeness of our Creator, who is the consummate and continual creator.
  2. We want to bring a sense of hope, life and awe to our neighbourhood.  God is the source of all these things and we want to work with him wherever we see the Spirit moving.
  3. We want to work for the good of our city.  Jeremiah exhorted the ancient Hebrews to “work for the good of the city in which you dwell”.  We want to partner with our neighbours and discover the ways God is at work in the lives of those around us.
  4. World class artists painting parts of our story on our walls in a way that is larger and more beautiful than we ever dreamed sure sounds like a God set-up to us!

Symbols are extremely important because of the message and weight they can carry.  For this reason, we required that the Elder team (Pastoral and Lay Elders) would give final approval to the mock-ups of the proposed murals.  To help the artists understand who we are and what we stand for, we got together with the organizers a number of times and told them some of our stories and shared our deep values and why we’re here.  These were great times, and they were moved by what we shared.

IMG_5307After we received the mock-ups, we consulted all kinds of people – artists and non-artists alike, professionals, young, old, indigenous, WCVers and non church goers.  While we did seek the input from many of you, we were not able to get to everyone.  Thank you for those who did give feedback and reached out to us with comments, questions or concerns.  Art is subjective – everyone has an opinion.  For this reason we simply wanted to ensure that we nor Jesus were misrepresented in any way.  Additionally, we wanted to ensure that our people and the people from our neighbourhood could connect with the proposed murals – that they wouldn’t feel isolated at all.  The Elders feel that both murals exceed expectations – in fact, one elder said, “it’s like they’re telling our story on our wall!”  Throughout our consultations there were a few cautions that were carefully and prayerfully considered (like ensuring that neighbourhood people don’t feel isolated and that the messaging aligned with our values).  We feel right and excited about proceeding.

What both artist duos have come up with is amazing.  We believe these public works of art will have far-reaching impact and will hold the keys to many encounters with the God who loves, creates, and is always ready to bring hope to those who are open to receive.  We think they will woo and arrest people (in a good way!)  In the end, we are a Kingdom people and we are always looking for those places and times when his Kingdom of love and justice breaks in.  We think these murals will provide the backdrop for many Kingdom break-ins!  To us, it’s obvious the Spirit is at work here!  And, while this didn’t influence our decision at all, these murals are a gift.

You will be seeing the progress of both murals over the next 2 weeks.  We’ll keep you in suspense regarding the final products (so don’t ask to see the mock-ups).  Watch for more details (like how these murals will be part of the Wall-to-Wall mural festival and highlighted during Nuit Blanche on Oct 1)!

WCV Album Artwork

WCV is about to release a worship cd! We have been working on it over the last two years and we expect to release it at our 20th Anniversary Fest (September 25-27, 2015). The album has 12 original songs, features 8 songwriters from our community, and sounds fantastic!

The album title we have chosen is “Within and Without.” This phrase is part of a Celtic prayer that we have used frequently at WCV and Flatlanders (the prayer also comprises the words of one of the songs on the album). The Celtic prayer is itself adapted from another famous prayer written around 430 A.D called St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

In the Celtic prayer, the old English phrase “within and without” refers to a cry for Christ to surround the entirety of life – what’s going on inside and what’s going on outside. This inside/outside dynamic embodies the core values of worship and justice at WCV and how we long for both these values to “kiss” and have equal expression in the life of our community.

We long to love Jesus with all of our heart, mind, and strength, and we long to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. We care about following, adoring, and cultivating intimacy with Jesus, and we care about mercy, compassion, and justice relative to those Jesus identifies with – those considered “least” in our world. We want Christ and his kingdom to permeate every aspect of our lives; to be a people who are always seeking to love God and others, within and without. The songs on the album reflect these defining impulses of our community.

We would like to invite you to submit original artwork for consideration for the album cover based on the theme “Within and Without.” Submissions are due by 10am, Sunday, August 23. You are welcome to submit an actual painting, design, etc., or a digital photo of it. If you submit a digital photo, please email Blair Barkley at gallery@flatlandersstudio.org and ensure that the photo meets these specifications:

File Format: JPEG or TIFF
Resolution: 300 dpi

Dimensions: At least 8″ x 7.75″

Once we review all the submissions, we will make a decision about the cover and you will be notified about your piece. If you have any questions, please contact Blair Barkley, Krista Heide, or Suhail Stephen via the means below:

Blair: gallery@flatlandersstudio.org
Krista: kristaheide@gmail.com
Suhail: suhailstephen@gmail.com

Living Well Together

Last year a number of people in our community participated in a sharing circle and art project entitled Living Well Together.  It explored issues of decolonization and racism.  They’d like to do it again this year, but need some financial support.  Here is a flyer describing the event.  Perhaps you’d consider offering a pledge in support of this worthwhile initiative (tax receipt-able through WCV).  It’s especially salient given the recent attention Winnipeg has gotten regarding racism.

“On This Rock” Visual Art

We’ve been exploring points along Peter’s discipleship journey for the past few months (and we’ll continue for the next number of months).  The audio recordings are posted here.  Along the way, we’ve commissioned various artists – both visual and performance – to share their interpretations of what they’re learning.  It’s like looking at the subject through a different set of eyes.  The artists among us can help us see a new way.  It’s been really fantastic – thanks to all the artists who have participated in a variety of media – from writing songs and poems to performing raps and dances.  Here are the visual representations at this point in the journey (click on any pic to view a full size):