Posted in art, family life, links, quotes

lunarbaboon

I have discovered a new favorite webcomic, Lunarbaboon. They seem to exist on the intersection of parenting, mental illness, and nerdiness, so I identify with and heartily enjoy almost all of them. One from January, titled “Enemy”, caught my attention as a particularly apt description of what it is like to be functional despite depression:

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The techniques taught in therapy are designed to help us ignore that inner enemy with more and more success – to make it harder for him to tear us apart each day. That’s why I’m so thankful for them, for the pills that give me the energy and positivity to keep fighting, and for the family and faith that give me a reason to fight and a hope for the future.

Posted in art, family life

fizzy apple painting

Our last apple project for the season was fizzy painting on apple templates. The basic idea is to paint the shapes with baking soda paint and then paint over them again with colored vinegar, to create the chemical reaction and “fizzes” on the paper. We used yellow baking soda paste (just baking soda and water, mixed to a spreadable consistency) and red and blue vinegar, so that in addition to the chemical reaction the boys could see the principles of color mixing. Finally, the website I’d found the idea on suggested that the shapes could be cut out and used for fall decorations after the fact (and their apples did look quite nice!), either on a garland or as sun catchers in a window. So there were a lot of different facets to this project.

Rondel demonstrating various phases of the process, from painting to taste-testing (just a heads-up that while baking soda and vinegar are completely edible, they may not cause the most pleasant reaction in your stomach if you eat too much, as Rondel discovered the hard way):

The baking soda paste was difficult to paint with using our foam brushes – it may work better with standard brushes, but I don’t have any of those yet for the boys. The vinegar went on pretty easily, although we did end up spilling a lot of it when one of the bowls was knocked over!

Both boys noticed that orange and green somehow appeared on the papers despite not being in any of the paint bowls, but they were far more captivated by the fizzing. At some point, they realized that they could make the whole bowl of vinegar paint fizz up by dipping a brush covered in baking soda paint into it, and they were both delighted and fascinated.

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In fact, Rondel went so far as to mix all the paints together at the end, just to make the biggest fizzy reaction possible!

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Limerick was too distracted by his paintbrush to notice. though…

While it wasn’t the longest activity, because we ran out of paint fairly quickly, it was a novel and exciting one; both boys asked me to make more paint when it was done, actually, which was a first for a “crafty” sort of activity. Maybe I just hadn’t made enough, since I had made way too much paint for our last craft, but I think their smiles attest to the success of the project even though the apple paintings themselves ended up in the garbage can:

I think I’ll need to plan another fizzing activity, though! I’ve already found a pumpkin one that holds some promise so we’ll see how that goes 🙂

Posted in art, musings, quotes

{fine art friday} -Japanese Madonna and Child

One of the beautiful things about the Church is her universality – her appeal to people from all cultures and eras, and her significance and importance to them. The stories of the Church – the stories of Christ – and above all the stories central to the Gospel – fulfill the echos whispered in different ways in human traditions and legends, and fulfill the longing questions of our hearts. So while each culture is able to remain fully Christian and hold true to the meaning and teaching of each story, they are also able to take those stories and imagine them in culturally significant ways. Most notably, we appropriate the people and events of those stories to our own cultures by making them “look like us.” We envision Jesus and His family and disciples to fit our own ethnic background, and we layer the Church’s stories into the rhythms of our own cultural sense of time and emotion.

So in the parts of the Church heavily influenced by Europe, we see Jesus depicted as a white man, and we see the fasts and feasts of the Church, the focal stories, aligned with the seasonal changes of the Northern Hemisphere. The birth of Jesus, for example – the beginning of a new hope for humanity – comes at the Winter Solstice, as if by His birth He reverses the plunge into darkness and heralds the dawning light. Many of even our most traditional and spiritual Christmas songs focus on this aspect of the birth, something that makes singing them in the paradisaical Arizona winter somewhat odd… Likewise, His resurrection is celebrated in the height of spring, surrounded by all the natural reminders of new life.

Likewise, in other areas of the world, one can see different cultural influences on the artwork and life of the Church. This set of four paintings of the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, by an unknown artist from Japan, illustrates that in several ways.

Clockwise from top left: Madonna of the Cherry Blossoms, Madonna of the Bamboo Grove, Madonna of the Moon, Madonna of the Snow

Obviously a significant difference between these and Western Madonnas in that both Mary and Jesus are Japanese. It makes the motherhood of Mary, the humanity of the Word made flesh, more immediately and emotionally palpable to the people painting and praying with theses images; it allows them to feel close and connected to these people who, after all, are not just historical people but living members of the body of Christ.

Something else I learned about these paintings, and Japanese art in general, that I also found very fascinating was that the four seasons of the year are central to Japanese art and poetry. Back in the tenth and eleventh centuries, nature was seen as a powerful, frightening, and unpredictable force, and aristocratic poets began to simultaneously tame it and use it as a lens to understand human emotion (which was probably also a powerful and unpredictable force that they wished to tame and control more completely!). As one author put it, Japanese culture focused mainly not on nature itself, but on a “secondary nature” –

…not a direct apprehension or participation in the natural world but a culturally constructed view of the non-human realm as representative of inner feelings experienced through profound associations made with outer phenomena connected with the rotation of the seasons and cycles of the year that are meaningful for their symbolic and aesthetically oriented value. – Steven Heine, in a review of Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Art by Haruo Shirane

By placing Mary and Jesus within each of those four seasons, the artist not only signifies their presence with us at all times of the year, he or she also meditates on the presence of Jesus, the importance of the incarnation, the loving motherhood of Mary, through all the various emotions we undergo as humans. He is with us in the springtime when the cherry blossoms give us hope for renewal and revival; He is with us in the autumn when we watch the lonely moon in our own melancholy and withdrawal. The cultural patterns of the year are drawn up into the eternal promises of Christ; they are not obliterated by His presence, but glorified.