Experiencing Makoto Fujimura

I have the privilege of working with Makoto Fujimura at International Arts Movement. Recently, Mako had an exhibition, "Charis," at Dillon Gallery in Chelsea (Manhattan). Below is something I wrote the morning after the exhibit's opening, when I went back alone.

The exhibit ended on August 3. However, Mako's work is always on display at Dillon, so if you are in NYC, be sure to make time to visit the gallery.


Sitting on a split wooden bench, facing one of three monumental gold compositions in Makoto Fujimura's current "Charis" exhibit at Dillon Gallery, I am finally able to actually spend time with the work. This, I realize, is the only way to see a Makoto Fujimura painting. I was at the opening reception last night, but as I sit here now, it occurs to me that I did not see any of the paintings at that time, because it is impossible to "see" a Makoto Fujimura painting in a room full of people and noise and wine. Last night the room was buzzing with Fujimura friends and aficionados, merlot in one hand, CV in the other. The reception was about celebrating the show itself, and the man who created it – and even the gallery exhibiting it. But to truly see the work, one must come, as I am now, alone.

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International Arts Movement

On August 1, I celebrated my one year anniversary at International Arts Movement, where I am on staff as Director of Development and Public Relations. IAM is like no other organization I have ever worked for, or ever known for that matter.

Founded in 1991 by Makoto Fujimura, IAM is a non-profit arts organization that gathers artists and creative catalysts from all over the world to wrestle with the deep questions of art, faith and humanity. We aim to inspire the global creative community to use their gifts, talents and intellect to engage with the culture that is, with all its ugliness and flaws and broken beauty, in order to create the world that ought to be - a world where truth, goodness, beauty and love are the norm, and pain, brokenness and sin are the exception.

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Prayer Through Art: James Turrell

Images have invaded our modern lives with a vengeance. This onslaught of images competes with our word life. Sometimes it seems as if words are losing in this battle for the devotion of our eyes. Have images invaded the blank canvas of your prayer life? Are you looking for a sensory accessory to your prayers?

Consider James Turrell.

Born in 1943 in Pasadena California, James Turrell is an internationally recognized artist that works with light and space. His life work has culminated in a "slow art" project excavating a crater in Arizona, Roden: a permanent installation of light and space carved into the rock.

My first experience of James Turrell's work occurred in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In the contemporary art section of the museum there is a dark hallway that connects two galleries. Halfway between the galleries is a small dimly lit room with a simple gray painting on the far wall. The first time I peeked in, I kept going befuddled. Yet, the oddity of the room caused me to rethink my quick dismissal. Why is a gray painting in that dimly lit room? After entering the room for a second look, a guard entered behind me and whispered, "touch it". Somewhat surprised, but curious, I walked slowly towards the wall and reached out my hand. To my sensory surprise, my hand passed through the wall into an empty space, that in that moment, I can only describe as beyond. The gray painting was actually a hole in the wall leading to a grey room beyond. The transition between the two rooms was obscured by a razor sharp edge and strategic use of dim light.

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Tags | Art

Time Bandits as the Postmodern Articulation of Good & Evil

I have seen Terry Gilliam’s film Time Bandits (1981) about a hundred times. I first saw it when I was in grade school and it just sort of stuck with me. About a week ago I sat down to re-watch it with a new set of eyes and my godson next to me who is a near expert in film analysis. What took place was amazing.


WARNING, THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS! So if you haven’t seen the film, you can see it here first


Gilliam’s film was before its time. He pits the classic forces of good vs. evil against each other in a British, Monty Python sort of way. Time Bandits illustrates the classical issues of:


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Tags | Film

Leaving the Church from his perspective

August 2, 2008

the difference between names and faces is completely fascinating.  I can go my whole day and see a hundred faces. Where I get my morning coffee; it's the same barista, the audience is the same as we play out a joke we seem to have played so many times before this moment.  I feel connected to that person, yet i do not know his name.  if i saw him, not in the uniform of black and white and that silly hat, i may not know why i know them, but I would register that somehow i do.  would i recognize him quicker if i knew his name?

all of this is going through my head as I am lazily standing around sipping my coffee.  its about 8:30 and the day has begun.  nothing much has changed, and i woke up with that same feeling of insignificance as i had the morning before, and the one before that, and the one...

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Tags | Writing

T.S. Eliot on Christian Literature

I wrote a paper on Catholicism, Protestantism, and the novel in early twentieth-century England a couple weeks ago, and in my reading, I ran across this intriguing exerpt from T.S. Eliot's essay "Religion and Literature":
It is our business, as readers of literature, to know what we like. It is our business, as Christians, as well as readers of literature, to know what we ought to like. It is our business as honest men not to assume that whatever we like is what we ought to like; and it is our business as honest Christians not to assume that we do like what we ought to like. And the last thing I would wish for would be the existence of two literatures, one for Christian consumption and the other for the pagan world.
Tags | Writing

Poetry Friday Is On Hiatus

Well, it's the middle of August, and I need a couple weeks' worth of relaxing wherever I can before I start new jobs, a new semester, and new projects. So, Poetry Friday is taking a break as well (if you're savvy, you might have noticed that it didn't happen last weekend, either).

But we'll be back in September!

Tags | Writing

Making Wishful Thinking Real

Wish Tree for Pasadena by Yoko Ono recently opened on August 2nd and will continue to November 9th. The art installation consists of 21 living crape myrtle trees installed amongst the cafe tables and chairs in the Courtyard of One Colorado. Visitors are invited to write their wishes on pieces of paper and hang them on the tree branches. The wishes will be joined with others from around the world and placed in specially constructed capsules to be installed in the area surrounding Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island, off the coast of Reykjavik, Iceland. With a need to celebrate my 12th wedding anniversary I combined a trip to an Old Town restaurant with a visit to Yoko Ono's latest installation.

Before I begin the fast decent into criticism, I would like to apologize to all of the rabid Beatles fans, and the much much smaller Yoko Ono fan club. I also apologize to anyone who finds these often beautiful but empty experiences cathartic.

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Frozen River: Oscar-worthy indie

Frozen River may be the most moving and relevant independent film this summer.   It deals with single motherhood, immigration, and native peoples’ sovereignty in surprising ways.  Frozen River presents characters we haven’t seen in situations we’ve never imagined.   It bursts with compassion and humanity.  But like many earnest and original independent films, it will need plenty of advocates urging audiences to see it.

Frozen River won the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January.  When jury chair Quentin Tarantino announced the prize for Frozen River, he said it “put my heart in a vise and proceeded to twist that vise until the last frame.”     It is a riveting story of two determined women, forced by trying circumstances into smuggling immigrants into the United States.  Melissa Leo stars as Rae, a working Mom, fighting off poverty with quiet fury.   She longs to provide her kids with a new home.   Misty Upham plays Lila, a Mohawk woman desperate to get her baby back.  They become unlikely partners, traversing the frozen St. Lawrence river that separates the Canadian/American border. 
Filmmaker Courtney Hunt has made a remarkably assured debut. Frozen River is taut, heartfelt, and authentic. She and the cast convey such compassion for the characters. It affirms single mothers struggling to pay the bills.   It presents a complex portrait of Native Americans.  It dignifies people who live in trailers, but strive for something more.   Melissa Leo’s powerful, empathetic performance is Oscar-worthy.    She burns with intensity amidst the snow and ice.  
Tags | Film

Art In Action (Part V): Stand Together

IAM’s next Encounter will take place February 26-28, 2009, in lower Manhattan, and the theme of the Encounter will be “Art in Action.” When asked about the genesis of the next Encounter’s theme, Makoto Fujimura points to the 1982 book by Nicholas Wolterstorff of the same title. “Art in Action” has remained a staple on the bookshelf of artists and creative catalysts throughout the world who seek to dig deeper into the meaning and purpose for art.

Following is Part Five of Christy Tennant’s recent interview with Makoto Fujimura about the theme of the next IAM Encounter:

CT: You mentioned that merely reacting to things that happen in our society is a violation of Christian love. Can you elaborate on that a bit? What are some of the reactions you are referring to?
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