Coffee with Susan Osborn, Wendell Berry and Angeles Arrien

My meetings with Susan Osborn have become a highlight of my week. Today the appetizer was her emerging thinking about the difference between belief and faith and how rigid “belief” (aka dogma) makes for bad art. I added there is a continuum between certitude (dogma) and the unknown (mystery) and the closer to the fluidity of mystery we are the better the art we make.

Our main course was a Wendell Berry poem: “Willing to die,
you give up your will,
keep still
 until moved by what moves all else,
you move.” Here Susan was reflecting on the artist’s technical skills versus vulnerability attained by yielding of the will. I think it was Puccini who said of a technically perfect soloist that she would never be great because her heart had never been broken. Great art flows from brokenness combined with practice, skill and craft.

For dessert Susan told me about the work of Angeles Arrien, a cultural anthropologist who among other things talks about what all cultures have in common when dealing with crisis: on one extreme is denial and on the other is self-indulgence. I can deny my pain or indulge it. The artist finds creative space between these two extremes.

These were the seed thoughts of our weekly confab. I’m so excited she’ll be a KindlingsFest as one of our artists-in-residence. Her art will take us on a unique exploration of our theme Turning Mourning into Dancing.

(photo is of Susan and Nigel at Pike Place Market getting flowers for a Hearth Retreat)

This online FB exchange made clearer what Susan and I were discussing:

Jim Janknegt: Italians seemed to have quite a bit of certitude and made some pretty terrific art. Perhaps their dogma included mystery?

Dick Staub: This is a great point, but would you agree their certitude still contained mystery, beauty and awe (as opposed to doctrinaire literalism)~I’m thinking of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation as an example.

Jim Janknegt: I agree, they were dogmatic about mystery! 🙂 Mystery being the realization that what we do know about God is certain but incomplete, as there is much about God beyond our capacity to know. And I love Fra Angelico. He is my patron saint being one of the few artists ever beatified. I hope to get to San Marcos in Florence some day.

Dick Staub: You’ve captured what I was trying to say perfectly!

 

 

 

Posted in Staublog in July 1, 2011 by | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to Coffee with Susan Osborn, Wendell Berry and Angeles Arrien

  1. ST070111 | Dick Staub on July 1, 2011 at 8:54 am

    […] Willing to die,
you give up your will,
keep still
until moved by what moves all else,
you move. Wendell Berry. Read More […]

  2. ST070111 | Dick Staub on July 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

    […] “Rigid Belief” (aka dogma) makes for bad art, whereas the fluidity of the “unknown” (mystery) holds rich artistic potential. Read More […]

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