What do you see? What do you hope for your community? For United? The world? What images, words, gestures, sounds might capture your prayers and petitions? Where are you already finding beauty? These are some of the questions that the artworks below respond to. They include glimpses of natural beauty, invoke community and connection, create moments of rest and restoration; they bless the work that still needs to be done. With the world and our country and communities in tumult, wrestling with multiple pandemics, natural disasters, and social injustices, the need for hope and prophetic vision is greater than ever. At United we believe that the arts are uniquely powerful and transformative in visioning a better world and bringing it to be.
Beauty as mercy
beauty as mercy, the mercy of beauty
sings in me, weeps in me
draws all the dark shapes
into a bowl of night
touched with the moon’s quiet light
mercy, at the deepest curve
of the bowl of the night, mercy
Missa Gaia / Earth Mass
Agnus Dei Miserere nobis
the sound of the seal for our sister
she is mercy to us
this afternoon snow falling
in streams of light
down the rock face of the glen, mercy
water springing from so deep
running over oak leaves resting there, mercy
where the lost and the hungry
shelter from the storm
a young girl plays a tin flute
a lithe boy dances in the rain
all the children gather in close to be fed, mercy
at the deepest curve
of the bowl of the night, mercy
Stillness. . .Life!
“Self” Portraits in the Chthulucene
My skin petrifies
the red palm
the yellow arm
None of it can be taken for granted
while much of it is taken
in every field
there are faces we want to ignore
as if they do not weight the air
with their smiles and frowns
they carry us
but they are not selfless
they care for us
because of a bond built in our dna
when some primate, long ago,
who had greater intention than I can muster
unified with a stranger––
because someone long before I was an egg
fed his intestines
to the congress
threaded her viscera
through a loom,
because while someone ended
and savored the taste
I let my hands empty
their particles, like pigeons
waiting for their points to sink
letting myself into a storm
so that every raindrop
can lead to a chain, you hold
in your hands
wherever you are
kept by whatever anima loves you enough
to capture you
and it’s okay to be held
because every seizure
is an attempt at the many mawed and ever tendrilled
an attempt to hold
in a child's net
a thousand hurricanes
swells and indents
it takes all our faculties (which of course were never really “ours”)
to stay on any sort of track
any sort of path to matter
matter in place
matter with thought and direction
and a perspective.
Where are my hands in relation to my elbows, my shoulders? Is geography
how I measure my relations?
Am I a landscape
A wilderness without mumbo jumbo, Christian implication
but earlier, ancienter
a thing that is many things
at the threshold of unraveling
so even when I feel my limbs
I feel my spine coalescing with hundreds of hills popping through webs
wetted by a gold quality of light
which is not the entirety of what light is
just as my “self” is not the entirety of what I am.
-Max Yeshaye Brumberg-Kraus
The Orthopraxy of James
Materials: comic book and magazine pages on Egyptian papyrus
Statement: I began with a central person in anguish. This is from the cover of a Harbinger comic. The individual is wearing a hoodie, which could be symbolic of the homeless, the mentally ill, shooting victims (such as Trayvon Martin), etc. Messages of despair and need surround this central figure. Some messages are the figure’s own; others are from people nearby, for the figure is telepathic and cannot keep out the thoughts of others. This figure is surrounded by acts of love, healing, compassion, protection, art, etc. Acts on behalf of family, friends, and even the “other.” This shows the community alive, at work. Doing work from their hearts, works alive with their faith. Note also that these acts have started to cover the individual’s despairing thoughts. Might the positive work one day erase or replace the negative? We can strive for that very goal. And that is my HOPE.
Note: This artwork also accompanied my New Testament exegesis for RT1201 during United's Spring 2020 semester.
Dawning on US
Artist statement: This acrylic piece represents our hope bursting on the scene of dark and gloomy days. The America of our xenophobic racist past is laid to waste on the ground before us. The sun will rise over our horizons as we move forward. The BLM flag of justice is now our guide.
Medium: Digital photography
Statement: I love sunrises, sunsets, sunbeams, and lens flares. So, when I recently noticed how the evening sun was beaming over my backyard fence, I knew I had found an opportunity to combine several of my sunny loves. I selected the best of my photos, cropped it down to a 1:1 ratio, and carefully adjusted the resultant image until it approached my flowery vision. Flowers are symbols of hope in new life. The Sun gives me hope for a new day. I guess this image, then, is pretty much hope squared.
Artist statement: As summer Of 2020 wore on, the effects of the pandemic weighed heavily on my heart. Working harder than ever to transform ministry with young children into something that provided familiarity and support within the boundaries of safe social distance, I found myself exhausted at the end of the day. I turned to art making as a way to heal.
This piece, called “Sabbath”, is a needle felted painting. The continuous stabbing motion used to push wool fibers into a pre-felted background material alleviated stress, while the creative process allowed me momentary escapes from daily burdens.
I believe in the need for Sabbath; rest. It allows us time to seek respite from our own doubt and despair. Accessing the part of our creative self that beings us joy helps us find love for ourself. If we cannot find that which we love and treasure about our own spiritual and creative gifts, how can we have anything to draw upon to share with others? Nourishing our creativity provides us with hope and strength for our journey.
This piece is a metaphor for my time of sabbath. The cabin is my quiet place. My shelter from the world. Nestled in the embrace of nature. Watched over by a trinity of sheep. Carried through each week on the winds of life. Filling my life’s garden with outrageously colorful joy. My hope for the United community is that we may all find ways to experience the restoration and rejuvenation we need to minister to those around us.
Micah J. Murray
Rev. Joy Bailey, Class of 1981
To view all three objects, Visit the Slideshow.
Artist statement: When I think about imagining a new world right now, I think about the paradox of dreaming for change while still being in the fear, sadness, and anger of the rupturing that leads to change. When I think about crisis and change, I think about--and long for--blessings.
Blessings are for threshold moments. We bless when we are in between worlds, states, or experiences, or as a rite of passage: morning prayers, before we sleep, when we sneeze, leave on a journey, end a relationship, start a new relationship, or return home. Blessings are a way to relate to this change: shelters, containers, and portals for our bodies to make meaning from the passing of time within and beyond us...
Blessings are a mediation between the material world and mystery, and an attending to this in-between-ness and the in-between spaces in our lives. Blessings are at once for keeping as whole and coming home and for breaking us open and sending us off to something new. And the materiality and nature of blessings holds this paradox, too.
When I think about blessings in this way, I think about skin; how skin lets in and keeps out, protects our ever-moving liquidy soft insides and also helps us reach out and connect to the ever-moving outside landscape. I also think about cell walls of plants and other creatures: selectively permeable barriers, thin, flexible, discerning, allowing for both protection and growth.
I’m curious about how the strongest, most impactful blessings--biological and otherwise--are also delicate and responsive.