By Lupe Carlos III
For me creativity is creativity. Whether painting, drawing, writing or photography. These come from the same place deep in my being. I “bring forth” (the meaning of the word, “draw”) images found in the well of my experience here in this world and times where I’ve snuck a peek beyond the veil. Writing gives a story and asks the reader to create pictures in their mind. I asked this with my first blog post. See: “Along The Bank”, 6/20/2017. Visual art gives an image and asks the viewer to create a story in their minds. These are two very different processes but oddly the same. My photography is intensely personal and autobiographical. I tell stories from my own life through images I’ve edited on the computer. As Picasso said, “Exaggerate toward the truth”. The images are about the feeling of an experience far more than they are about thoughts or memories. I use symbols to tell the story in a visual language that I invented. My hope it to trigger curiosity in the viewer. There is opportunity to overlay their own stories on top of these images. These pictures come from a place of universal human-ness. It is our stories that bind us. I prefer not to say very much about what the pictures mean to me. I much prefer to hear what people say the pictures mean to them.
A couple Februarys ago I asked our dear Cassia to pose for a series of photos. I had an idea of what I wanted and gave her only a vague suggestion. I told her I wanted a red riding hood vibe. She came dressed as requested and I supplied one of my “magic” suitcases. Karen, Cassia and I met in early morning at Camp Long, here in Seattle. Indeed, magic ensued. I’ve included images from that day. Until this very moment I’ve never told anybody that these are images I made to process and honor the passing of my mother. These are pictures of Mom's journey. The suitcase is filled with the only thing we can take with us, a lifetime of memories. The suitcase is filled with all the love she shared here to comfort her until she arrives home.
The most literal of these images is “Afterlife”. The picture included with this blog that depicts a woman walking toward a wooded cathedral. My mother was a Catholic Native American and I imagine this is what her journey home might look like. I gave a copy of this picture to Cassia without telling her what it meant to me and was stunned to receive her beautiful interpretation 15 months after the photo shoot. Her written words are the kindest, most generous gift she could have given me. They are an indication that she has truly seen the work and allowed herself to be vulnerable to a story. With Cassia’s permission, I’ve included her writing below.
I keep this picture on the shelf with my art supplies and a blank drawing book my cousin gave me that I may designate for colored pencil sketches and ink & watercolor. Sitting at my table (the new one, that invites you to soon dine upon it) I can see this image, propped against the back wall of its shelf. It's called "Afterlife." Yet it is oddly filled with an infinite present, one life lived spilling into the next and then the next.
I sit for a moment not to tell the story of what the suitcase contains. But to consider the entire image. The picture is a dark silver-screen forest, where a lit cathedral awaits, like a gateway to the land of Oz. Like the warm lit way-station buildings Ray Bradbury created in the Martian Chronicles, on a planet he described where cold rain poured down all the time--all of it--and along the way there were warm well-lit glass domes with doors, where travelers could enter and find dry towels and sandwiches and clean cots with comforters and pillows.
The primeval forest of this composite photo as well is strangely not ominous, but lit like lanterns and there is warmth and nourishment in the cathedral. The suitcase contains something the Goddess of that temple needs in order to perform the most powerful act of healing ever conceived or carried out. What does this worn, disguised conduit hold (we know there are several right answers.)
The figure is a character I portrayed. But I know that beneath the coat and scarf (it was a chill February morning) it is me. I am an immigrant in new territory walking perpetually toward new lives as earlier ones fall away. I am walking into transformation, on solid earth. I bring the last key ingredient, though (and here's the truth) I don't know (yet) what it is or how to use it, to someone who does. Anyone and everyone could be beneath that coat. It happened to be me on that day. That coat is everyone's cocoon, and we know what finds its way out of those things.
By Dick Johnson
"I feel so much better about myself."
These are words I heard several times at the July 4th barbecues from those who had just received haircuts. There were three volunteer stylists, Christina, Daniella, and Tara who worked non-stop from 11-3. I was the receptionist, and sometimes-bad guy who scheduled people and made them wait their turn. By closing time almost forty people, men, women and a few children received haircuts.
Those are the details, but they do not convey the miracle
that happened. Most people hadn’t had a haircut in a very long time. It added to their downcast demeanor. Some were angry and impatient. The skilled stylists made an effort to cut each person’s hair individualistically. And it worked. The transformation was remarkable. I am not exaggerating when I say men became handsome, woman attractive, and children cute again. And those who had been a bit unpleasant at first, now expressed gratitude.
Most significant of all, were the words some said to me as they left, ”I feel much better about myself.” It was amazing, and
I began to realize the haircuts were more than just haircuts. They had helped strengthen people’s self-esteem.
The reality, of course, is that looking and feeling good for a while does not change the situation in which many of the people I met find themselves. They challenge us to work harder to provide the opportunities for housing, work, training, and healthcare that will build on our July 4th efforts.
By Keith Ervin
Well, as best we know, Jesus mostly got about on foot, but according to Scripture he rode a donkey or a donkey and a colt into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
But what if Jesus were incarnate today and preparing for his ministry? What if he were living in Monroe (being priced out of Seattle) and commuting to the Renton Highlands to build houses? I’m not being facetious.
Surely Jesus would have wept over our oil-soaked economy, which leaves the least among us ailing from the fumes of petrochemical plants, watching rising seas wash away the foundations of their homes, or laboring in 120-degree-plus heat. The Son of Man would have shaken with anger at the plutocrats who lived in gated communities, enriched by profits from the fossil fuels that are destroying the earth.
The larger reality is this: All of us who live a typical, carbon-intense American lifestyle are harming present and future generations (and as Stephen Hawking noted recently, putting life itself at risk). Every gallon of gas we burn harms others. Whether we drive, and what we drive, is a moral decision.
How might we live more lightly on the land, as Jesus calls us to do? As residents of a state where transportation is the leading contributor to global warming, we could start by rethinking our transportation choices.
Here are some simple questions we can ask ourselves:
Do I need to own a car?
If I live in the city, I might be able to get around by walking, biking, bus, ride-sharing, and the occasional car rental.
If I must own a car, what kind will it be?
What would Jesus say about the fact that most vehicles bought in the United States are pickups and SUV’s -- the most environmentally destructive vehicles on the market? Unless I truly need a big vehicle, why not drive a high-mileage smaller car or, better yet, a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric car?
Some hybrids now get more than 50 miles per gallon. Plug-in hybrids run on electric battery power most of the time. And affordable new all-electric models from Chevy and Tesla will go more than 200 miles before they need a recharge.
How important is that flight I’m thinking about?
A round trip between Seattle and New York can add 2 tons (tons!) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. That’s one-tenth of a typical American’s annual 20-ton carbon footprint. Flying to Europe or Asia is worse. The carbon from my flight will keep warming the planet for another century or more.
Our transportation choices are only one area in which we demonstrate whether we truly love our neighbor. Going vegetarian could reduce my carbon footprint by two and a half tons a year -- about the same as giving up a gas-burning car. Every purchase we make has moral implications.
Isn’t it obvious what Jesus would do? Wouldn’t he give up the car or go electric? Cut back on flying or stop altogether? Stop eating industrially produced meat? Slash overall consumption? Stop banking with oil pipeline funders like Wells Fargo and Chase?
What are we willing to do?
This blog includes thoughts from various contributors at Seattle First Baptist