In an unusual and enlightening “conversation,” visual artist Bruce Herman and his patron (patron!) Walter Hansen discuss a three-year project that “involved producing a cycle of images on the life of the Virgin Mary in two large altarpieces that have been exhibited in the United States and are now installed semi-permanently in Monastery San Pedro, a thirteenth-century Benedictine convent in Orvieto, Italy.” They discuss the commissioning, making, and exhibiting of contemporary religious art in the context of the patron’s active participation. If this is a highly unusual situation, and a highly unusual “find” in a magazine, Herman’s approach to his art is, instead, what we might expect – and even hope for – when it comes to art making: “the losing and the finding is the whole point – both in the making process, and in the symbolism – which is why I’m always feeling that the meaning of the work is a fluid thing, not something I control or micromanage.”
The same might said of the editors’ approach to the magazine’s content, a fluid relationship to the journal’s purpose, announced as “art, faith, mystery,” managed with a deft, but light touch (not “micromanaged”). The prose is particularly appealing in this issue with intelligent, beautifully written essays by Anne Sullivan and Jeffrey Overstreet. Sullivan, a professional piano tuner, considers the work of composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704) and manages to merge an explanation of music, instruments, spiritual connection, and a family story seamlessly. Overstreet analyzes Asian cinema and, like Sullivan, knows how to tell a story that is about himself, something larger than himself, and again about himself. He is smart and thoughtful and has an appealing and credible voice. A “conversation” with pastor Eugene Peterson on his concept of “spiritual theology” is an intelligent exploration of the intersections between theology, poetry, and narrative. An overview of the paintings of Canadian artist Gerald Folkerts by Calvin Seerveld is a fine introduction to an artist many American readers may not know, and the reproductions of Folkert’s work presented here are simply marvelous.
I was pleased, but not surprised, to find two poems by Eric Pankey, as he is one of the most overtly religious of poets, by which I mean his work is forever honestly and boldly seeking spiritual resolution of some sort. “Meanwhile” and “Prayer,” like all of Pankey’s work, are gorgeous, yearning poems, as finely crafted as any poetry one will ever encounter. When I read Pankey, I always feel that I have found salvation. Is that sacrilegious?