Archive for the ‘Art’ Category
Jesuit Directs Magis Theatre Company’s “Occupy Olympus” at New York City International Fringe Festival
Jesuit Father George Drance directed the Magis Theatre Company’s “Occupy Olympus” last month at the New York City International Fringe Festival, the largest multi-arts festival in North America. The play garnered positive reviews, including one from The New York Times.
The company adapted the ancient Greek comedy “Plutus, God of Wealth” by Aristophanes, about the socioeconomic situation of Athens around 400 B.C., in order to tell the story of the modern-day Occupy Wall Street movement. Although “Plutus” was written in 388 B.C., Fr. Drance believes the themes of economic fears and disillusionment are still applicable in the modern era. “I was blown away by how relevant it is to our time,” he said.
“We’re at a moment in history where people feel overwhelmed by their circumstances, perhaps alone in their experience of it and without a means of doing something specific or engaging in a kind of discourse that can actually seek specific changes.
“Because of that, we’ve given up striving for any kind of change,” he said. “My hope is that — by pointing out that this has been a constant part of history — we would take courage and rally ourselves to continue to strive for justice.”
Fr. Drance, who is artistic director of the Magis Theatre Company, has performed and directed in more than 20 countries on five continents, for companies such as Theatre YETU in Kenya and Teatro la Fragua in Honduras. He currently serves as artist-in‐residence at Fordham University in New York.
The New York City International Fringe Festival celebrated its 17th anniversary this August. About participating in Fringe NYC, Fr. Drance said, “The word ‘festival’ says it all. It contains elements of a community getting together to celebrate. Much of my [previous work] involved participating in festivals all over the world. Festivals stimulate, and cross-pollinate art in ways that no other form can do. We learn from each other. We inspire each other.”
The diverse works of four contemporary Jesuit artists are currently being showcased at an exhibit at the University of San Francisco’s Manresa Gallery. “Spiritual Practices: Meditations on Faith” is an exploration of the visual art practices of Jesuit Fathers Arturo Araujo, Thomas Lucas, Trung Pham and Josef Venker.
The exhibition features a range of mediums — including prints, stained glass, paintings and sculptures — that explore and reveal contemporary issues through art. According to Jesuit Father James Hanvey, the Lo Schiavo Chair in Catholic Social Thought at the University of San Francisco who specializes in Ignatian spirituality, “Whatever their professional training as artists, their ‘eyes’ and their ‘hands’ have come to see and touch with the senses of the [Spiritual] Exercises.
“Each one of the artists in this exhibition has his own unique voice but each, in his own way, illuminates some aspect of our lives and our souls,” writes Fr. Hanvey in an essay on the exhibit.
Fr. Araujo, a Colombian Jesuit, currently serves as an assistant professor of fine arts at the University of San Francisco. His works in the exhibit focus on the landscape of “Cienega Grande,” a network of salt-water lagoons on Colombia’s northern coast. The landscape became a battlefield when violence erupted and left 60 dead by the paramilitary in 2000. “The same landscape serves me as a mythical place to seek reconciliation,” Fr. Araujo writes.
Fr. Lucas, a professor of art and architecture at the University of San Francisco, says that during his 35-year career as a liturgical artist, designer, curator and Jesuit, his work has been shaped by the symbol, myth and ritual of the Catholic tradition.
He uses everything from ancient materials to modern techniques. “The pieces reach back to traditions of the gothic glassmaker, the byzantine iconographer and Latin American baroque craftsfolk, but also are touched by the contemporary realms of found objects, electricity and computer-aided design,” Fr. Lucas writes.
A professor of fine arts at Seattle University, Fr. Pham’s paintings explore the intimate relationship between mother and child. When his father was sent to a re-education camp after the Vietnam War, his grandmother and mother’s love became even more intense for Fr. Pham. “These two women not only loved me unselfishly but were also immeasurably strong, wonderfully intelligent and unbelievably hard working,” he recalls.
Fr. Venker, an assistant professor of fine arts at Seattle University, worked with found objects to find spiritual and religious meaning through ordinary and discarded things. “This search for God has become a key pursuit of the Jesuits to this day,” he explains.
Information about the exhibit, which runs through May 12, is available at the Manresa Gallery website. View art from the exhibit below.
Slovenian Jesuit Robert Dolinar has received a prestigious religious architecture award. Bestowed jointly by the American Institute of Architecture’s Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture and Faith & Form magazine, the award honors Dolinar’s work on the Chapel of Our Lord at the Ignatian House of Spirituality in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The annual Religious Art & Architecture Design Awards program, founded in 1978, honors the best in architecture, liturgical design and art for religious spaces.
“I’m glad to see that the jury recognized this little chapel. While architecture is a solitary and often secluded activity, I am always happy when a project is concluded and people move in,” Dolinar said. “Then the only important thing to me is whether the building helps people to open themselves toward their inner self and God.”
The Chapel of Our Lord is part of a retreat house built in 1925. During the building’s reconstruction in 2010, the Jesuits decided to convert a room into a space for meditation and prayer.
Dolinar served as architect, and the project reflects on the qualities of silence.
Existing walls were cut through to reveal the history and character of the original building, and Dolinar chose materials that are rarely used for architectural design, including spruce, limestone gravel, plaster, gauze and wheat, to represent the fragility of human existence. He also shaped the forms by hand, allowing architecture to fuse with sculpture and vice versa.
The jury commented that Dolinar’s space “presents a series of evocative, tactile experiences that are united through texture, color, material and craft throughout … One uses all of one’s senses, and each of the materials is expressed in a very natural way, raw but refined at the same time … It provides a series of surprises that keep the senses engaged.”
Dolinar joined the Society of Jesus as an architect, and during his Jesuit formation he has built several sacred spaces, including chapels and an interreligious prayer room. The Chapel of Our Lord has already received two architecture awards in Slovenia.
Drawing comparisons between the life of a Jesuit and that of an architect, Dolinar says, “A Jesuit likes silence. He listens to people carefully, and then he draws into reflection and study. He deepens to meditation and after discerning, he finally acts. I believe that the approach of an artist is very similar. Both Jesuit and artist focus on people’s deep needs.”
Dolinar, who says he is driven by the phenomena of silence, sacredness and home, is currently designing a memorial to victims of totalitarianism and building a chapel for the Salesian Sisters in Ljubljana.
An exhibition of the award-winning projects will be displayed at the 2013 National Convention of the American Institute of Architects in Denver this June, and the awards will be presented at that time. For more on the awards, visit Faith & Form magazine and the 2012 Faith & Form/IFRAA Religious Art & Architecture Awards.
National Jesuit News is sharing the following quotation attributed to Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe (1907–1991) to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Fr. Arrupe served as the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983.
Nothing is more practical than
finding God, that is, than
Falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
Jesuit Father Robert VerEecke, the longtime pastor of St. Ignatius Parish at Boston College, is also a dancer, a choreographer and the Jesuit Artist-in-Residence at Boston College, earning him the nickname “the dancing priest.”
Fr. VerEecke also founded the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble in 1980 to perform in church venues, and each Christmas the troupe produces a show. For 28 years, that show was “A Dancer’s Christmas,” a holiday tradition in Boston until 2008. For the past four years Fr. VerEecke’s ensemble has been performing “Christmas Reflections,” which includes an almost 80-member cast of professional dancers, Boston College students, alumni and others. The story reflects on the meaning of the season through Luke’s Gospel.
Fr. VerEecke was recently interviewed by the Boston Globe about his calling to the priesthood and to dance. The interview is below, along with a video of Fr. VerEecke discussing “Christmas Reflections” that shows the dancers in action.
Q. Are you a priest who happens to be a choreographer, or are the two inextricably combined?
A. They’re inextricably combined. When I think of Catholic ritual, there’s so much movement and choreography. What makes ritual work for people is a sense of flow and movement integrity. I work with young Jesuits and try to help them understand that sense of the larger picture. It’s such a passion, for me there is no separation between religious expression and movement expression. It always comes together quite spontaneously. It’s when I’m most alive.
Q. What happened when you were called to the priesthood at age 18?
A. I entered the Jesuits thinking I’d never have a chance to do anything artistically. Then in 1970, the Jesuits organized an artist institute and they had a track to study ballet, and I took that. When I started taking class, it was an epiphany. It gave me the vocabulary for choreographing, but the advantage of not having early training was that I was never set in a particular language of moving, so my choreography tends to be more from within. I feel free to use whatever comes.
Q. I know with all the “Nutcracker”s this time of year there was intense competition to get performers for “A Dancer’s Christmas.” Was that part of why you stopped the production after 2008?
A. The challenge was always mounting such a big production and trying to replace people every year without a huge budget, particularly male dancers. But the real issue is that I was very aesthetically pleased with the work that had evolved, so I said this is the last year. It had become absolutely perfect for me. It had reached its apex.
Q. But the very next year you were back with “Christmas Reflections” How did that come about?
A. There were all these children who were heartbroken that “A Dancer’s Christmas” was ending, and it got to me. We were all crying — one of my nicknames is Sobby Bobby. I just couldn’t say this is the end, so I said I’d try to think of what else we do, not on the same scale. “Christmas Reflections” is like “A Dancer’s Christmas” in miniature, like one of those little [snow] globes, very delicate and charming.
Q. “A Dancer’s Christmas” used pageantry, modern dance, ballet, and folk dance to tell the Christmas story from three historical periods. How different is the new show?
A. The pieces are shorter. It uses a lot of familiar Christmas music. The three-act format is still very similar. This first is scriptural, the second has the playfulness, the third has some of the repertory of the third act of “A Dancer’s Christmas.” One of the new pieces we added, which is a lot of fun, is “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” with the dancers representing all the characters. A local championship Irish dancer, Helen O’Dwyer, a BC alum, was a dancer for a number of years in “A Dancer’s Christmas.” I asked her if she thought her school might want to participate, and now there are 30 to 40 Irish dancers. We have a guest artist, Jamaican contemporary dancer Steven Cornwall, portraying Joseph, and he’s a spectacular dancer. He brings a beauty and strength that is very powerful to watch.
Q. You’ve always maintained that “A Dancer’s Christmas” created a unique sense of family and community among the performers. Have you been able to re-create that?
A. It’s what’s kind of magical about it, because people put a lot into it, and the story draws people in. A lot of people listen or sing these songs, especially more traditional carols, but they never had a chance to dance to them, and it can be powerful for them. “Silent Night” is the final number, with children joining adults in the end, and there’s something quite moving about seeing it all unfold.
Q. At the core, what do these shows mean to you and perhaps to the others who come to them year after year? What is the takeaway message?
A. It’s about the profound sense of joy that is available to all of us in the Christmas season, no matter how we celebrate it. From a religious point of view, it’s about God loving us so much that he wants to dance with us. These days there’s so much negative about God and salvation. My image is that God is enmeshed in the flesh of Jesus. He wants to have arms and legs so he can dance with us.