Posts Tagged ‘art’

I’ve recently realized I am properly a dumbass polytheist. A dumbass polytheist is one who buys a nice bottle of wine, with a cork, as an offering to the gods, and then discovers the corkscrew went to her ex.

(I bought a new one this weekend.)

Now that I have that out of my system…. I did something yesterday which I’ve been meaning to do for weeks, namely, to visit the museum and look at the ancient art with an eye to god-spotting and ancient religious practice.

I’m pretty familiar with the collections at my museum, but it was eye-opening to look specifically for and at religious themes, religious art (with a couple of side tours into ancient jewelry… *sigh*). The Egyptian collection has a lot of representations of deities, all of whom I greeted sotto voce. In one area, two statues of Isis suckling Horus and of Osiris, each twelve to eighteen inches high, face one another, forming a quartet with the busts of a pharaoh and a priest. “Mery”, the museum’s resident mummy, lies in her painted coffin accompanied by four Canopic jars capped with the images of the sons of Horus, a box for the jars that also depicts Isis and Nephthys, and an array of amulets depicting or symbolizing Thoth and other gods. I saw images of Bes, Hathor, Amun, and Taweret in addition to the deities already mentioned, and the entrance to the Egyptian rooms is flanked by two images of Sekhmet as a couching lion.

The Greek and Roman exhibits have covetable jewelry but fewer divine images. I had hoped that I might see Hadrian and/or Antinous, but there seemed to be no representations of them at all. I saw Diana, Venus, Athene, Eros, and some other deities, but the highlight of the Greek and Roman collections was a splendid large head of Serapis. Even missing his basket crown and body, his image was beautiful and moving. I snapped a halfway-decent phone picture of him, thanks to the natural light in his location.

Altogether it was a worthwhile trip and a good way to get out of the house on a lazy Sunday. Hail to the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Greece, and Rome!


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Fuller Seminary’s Burner blog looks at the prospects for more “faith-based” and “family friendly” entertainment (noting that these are, in fact, separate categories). It’s an interesting discussion that includes some candid honesty — such as that evangelicals can’t lament foul-mouthed entertainments like Seth MacFarlane’s Ted because we went to see it along with everybody else. But the post comes to a depressing conclusion: When Hollywood produces “content that is family-friendly or faith-based, you’re going to pay money to see it. Then buy it from the home entertainment division. Then buy the books and toys along with it.” Even if you “have little interest” and even if it’s not “compelling” storytelling. That’s bad advice and also, I think, bad theology. Settling for dull, safe, tepid storytelling is a kind of sin. If the only good thing that can be said about a piece of art is that it is unobjectionable, then it’s still not worth anyone’s time or money to produce or to endure. If you don’t like the stories Hollywood is telling, tell better stories. Subsidizing bad art doesn’t glorify God, and patronizing bad art only makes us all less capable of producing better work.

7 things @ 11 o’clock

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The Virgin of Vladimir by Andrei Rublev

The Virgin of Vladimir by Andrei Rublev

Today is our neighborhood’s annual community yard sale, situated in the park that divides the main street into north and south (or, more precisely, northwest and southeast).  My husband went out around nine a.m. to get a cup of coffee and browse the offerings; he came back around ten-thirty with a buttered bagel for me (I stayed in and nursed a strained back) and a beautiful beaded wall hanging of vaguely Indian provenance, for which he had paid a mere ten dollars.  The desire to hang it inspired him to clear some space on the walls of our hallway and rearrange all the decorations there; it’s now surrounded by reproductions of Christian icons.  “I had an important realization the other day,” he said, putting up a small antique icon of St. George.  “Becoming Buddhist doesn’t have to mean giving up art you love, even if that art has content from some other religion.”

We have a fair number of thangkas, statues, and other forms of Buddhist art now, on shrines and elsewhere.  I wouldn’t have become Buddhist if I didn’t like the aesthetic; Medicine Buddha’s vibrant blue radiance and Green Tara’s elegant rainbow-striped stockings were as much of an inducement to the Dharma as the books I read and the people I met.  I realize that’s my inner Anglican talking; she will always insist that the beauty of holiness implies the holiness of beauty, and that Keats (whom she otherwise does not care for) was right when he declared “beauty is truth, truth beauty”.

Where I see beauty, I find truth, that is, Dharma.  Where I find truth and goodness, I expect to behold them expressed in beauty.  Now the prayer flags that stretch down our hall waft above images of the Christ of Sinai, the Virgin of Vladimir, Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Benedict.

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