Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Langfords as the American Elms

I finally finished this piece today. It's a 27x54 Oil on Linen.

The Langfords have been my friends for around 10 years now. I can't believe it's been that long. We knew each other before we all got married and then after when we all had kids. We each have three girls and engineer husbands. Oh, and we all like blue. Great color. You should see our living rooms.

I can't write enough about the fine people they are. They give of themselves to others and really put the effort into friendship. Yes, that's right. They have three kids. They seem to be at ease with anyone in any place. The most wonderful thing about this family is their faith. It runs deep and comes out in the way they treat others.

So, I've been trying to think what kind of tree would the Langfords be? Sound odd? Well, I guess it is but if you look in the Bible there are many passages that compare nations, people, faith to trees. It's true and got me to thinking what trees are saying about us as human beings.

Mr. Langford comes from Montana and I was tempted to choose the Ponderosa Pine (state tree of Montana) but it seemed to trite and what about the Mrs. and the Miss, Miss, and Miss? It wasn't gonna work. So, I found the Cottonwood to be a great tree but not tall and welcoming enough as they are. Did I mention they are tall? Well, they are. So after some research I came upon the rare but versatile American Elm.

This is why I chose that tree: They grow from Montana to Texas (and into the Eastern parts of the US). They are very tall trees, need good roots and water, have a high tolerance for pollution and are good in the city or country. The American Elm adapts well to different climates, high wind and just as an FYI you can live off of Elm bark and seeds if you are starving. So how does this fit my sweet friends? They have made it possible to stretch themselves from Montana to Texas visiting friends and family with three little girls. They do this faithfully because they love ALL their relatives. They are all tall (yes, even the little girls). They have a great root system in that they spend a great amount of time involved in Church, Bible Study and their own personal time with God. They do well in the country as they are avid campers and yet live in Big D. They adapt to whatever comes their way and have a very lovely way of not letting the world eat away their happiness. I find that many of their friends look to them for companionship and quality time.

On a final note the American Elm is extremely rare as Dutch Elm Disease has taken a toll on this wonderful tree. DED is a fungal disease which has ravaged the American Elm, causing catastrophic die-offs in cities across the range. It has been estimated that only approximately 1 in 100,000 American elm trees is DED-tolerant. You may be wondering what this has to do with the Langfords. I feel they are one from the 100,000 that have stood the test. They are rare in that they have chosen to have a marriage rooted in commitment and God.

In the painting I have the Husband and Wife as the main tree in the foreground and the trunks are entwined as they lean on one another in the work of marriage and family.

The three little girls are staggered behind them, their own beautiful, growing trees.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Top Ten Books of 2010

I know, I know. This is an ART blog. Where's the art? Well, books are a wonderful art form and one of the greatest influences on my life, my art, my walk with God.

First off, to be on the list I had to have read it IN 2010 and it had to have stuck with me for weeks and weeks after. I like to call it the "Book Hangover." These 10 did that. I can also testify to the fact that they have all helped me see the created world, God, people, and my faith in a different way and some of them convicted me where I needed it the most.

I find that I read a great deal of non-fiction as there are no fiction books that made the list. Go figure. Since I do enjoy fiction. I just really love real life, history and how individuals can share a truth and it goes right through your heart.

You may also find that most of these have to do with death or pain. I am not a depressed person nor do I relish in books of horror and grief. I do think it is wise to not be afraid to read these kinds of books so that not only do our compassions deepen but our joys. I find I cannot paint with bright colors without having the shades of muted darks. I walked away from each of the books here, that have to do with death, a person made more aware of the blessings of my life and how important it is to have a living, breathing faith that lives in the dark as well as the light. One of the greatest truths I walked away with was: there are just some truths that only the least of those around us (unborn, those with tattered faith, victims of horror, those in grief) can teach us.

By my nightstand lay several great reads for 2011. If your book didn't make the list it's not because I didn't like it it's because I read so slow. Give me a break people. I read in the bathtub.

Here's the list:

1. Refractions by Makoto Fujimura - A series of life essays that tie our culture into faith and art.

"An artist with the craftsmanship and global appeal of Makoto Fujimura comes along all too rarely. Such an artist with a strong faith commitment who both inspires and leads other artists--now that's really rare. Mako is a fine writer. I learned, and was provoked and frequently moved by these reflections that through Mako's eye have become unique refractions." --Philip Yancey

2. Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey - Life changing book on what it means to communicate with God and why we do it at all.

"Yancey strikes a moving chord with this book that is more full of yearning and wonder than it is of easy answers. Prayer, he writes, is our partnership with God, our chance to join forces with God's power to confront suffering and evil head-on. Yancey is candid about his nagging sense of failure in prayer, but the book is suffused with a cautious hope; he writes of his growing confidence and joy as his prayer life has deepened from a spiritualized to-do list to a conversational communion with God. The key, Yancey writes, is that prayer is a window into knowing the mind of God, whose kingdom is entrusted to all of us frail, selfish people on earth. As with his other books, Yancey draws upon his international travels to bring a fresh perspective to the topic, detailing, in nations such as Romania and South Africa, how he believes prayer has transformed hearts and permitted bloodless change. The book's strength lies in its balance, with Yancey holding equally important ideals in a beautiful tension: action and meditation, doubt and certainty, and the unchanging God with the God who appears so moved by people's petitions in the Bible that he changes his mind. Yancey also offers some startling and insightful observations about Jesus' own prayer life." (Oct.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

3. A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith and Art in the Life of Lilias Trotter, Compiled and Edited by Miriam Huffman Rockness.

"Lilias Trotter spent forty years sharing the gospel of Christ with the Arab people of Algeria. During that time, she kept diaries and journals and wrote a body of devotional literature. As a gifted artist, she painted and sketched beautiful watercolors and drawings along with her personal and published writings. These images and writings document the inner as well as the outward events of her life. Francis Bacon wrote: "God has two textbooks-Scripture and Creation-we would do well to listen to both. Lilias listened to and observed both, leaving to us this rich legacy of faith in her art and writings." (from the book)

4. What Good is God? In Search of Faith that Matters, by Philip Yancey

journeys here recounted are those of an extraordinary pilgrim. What Yancey seeks in his globe-straddling travels is spiritual understanding of how God works his miracles of grace through men and women grappling with life’s most wrenching difficulties. Readers thus join the author in marveling at how faith can sustain believers grieving the violent deaths of loved ones in Blacksburg, Virginia, and Mumbai, India; can empower prostitutes trying to escape from the sex trade in Perth, Australia, and buoy alcoholics fighting their addiction in Chicago; and can even enable black Christians in South Africa to extend miraculous forgiveness to their former oppressors under apartheid. Traversing the U.S. and the UK, Yancey finds that the same faith that comforts the oppressed can pierce the comforts of the wealthy, summoning the devout to aid the downtrodden. Still, Yancey refuses to reduce his message to simply a call for improving this world. Drawing on the work of C. S. Lewis, he affirms his ultimate allegiance to a God whose eternal dominion transcends all things earthly. A bracing witness, challenging both religious complacency and secular skepticism. --Bryce Christensen

5. 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. Heartbreaking, insightful and detailed.

In 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, New York Times writers Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn vividly recreate the 102-minute span between the moment Flight 11 hit the first Twin Tower on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the moment the second tower collapsed, all from the perspective of those inside the buildings--the 12,000 who escaped, and the 2,749 who did not. It's becoming easier, years later, to forget the profound, visceral responses the Trade Center attacks evoked in the days and weeks following September 11. Using hundreds of interviews, countless transcripts of radio and phone communications, and exhaustive research, Dwyer and Flynn bring that flood of responses back--from heartbreak to bewilderment to fury. The randomness of death and survival is heartbreaking. One man, in the second tower, survived because he bolted from his desk the moment he heard the first plane hit; another, who stayed at his desk on the 97th floor, called his wife in his final moments to tell her to cancel a surprise trip he had planned. In many cases, the deaths of those who survived the initial attacks but were killed by the collapse of the towers were tragically avoidable. Building code exemptions, communication breakdowns between firefighters and police, and policies put in place by building management to keep everyone inside the towers in emergencies led, the authors argue, to the deaths of hundreds who might otherwise have survived. September 11 is by now both familiar and nearly mythological. Dwyer and Flynn's accomplishment is recounting that day's events in a style that is stirring, thorough, and refreshingly understated. --Erica C. Barnett --This text refers to the Hardcover edition

6. Why Pro-Life? Randy Alcorn. A little book but one that helped shake me from the slumber of my apathy. I think it simply just answers why we need to take a stand on this issue.

"So much is at stake in the abortion debate. If pro-choicers are right, precious freedoms are in jeopardy. If pro-lifers are right, innocent children are being robbed of their most basic freedom—life. Though bumpersticker slogans prevail, the facts are rarely presented. We need clear and credible answers to the central questions of the abortion debate. For those who have had abortions or are currently considering one, for pro-choicers and fence-straddlers alike, Why Pro-Life? provides answers to these questions in a concise, straightforward, and nonabrasive manner." From the book.

7. The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn. Takes the holocaust and makes it personal (his own family) and traces their delicate lives back in time and up to their deaths. Made the holocaust come to life as you view it through the eyes of a grandson, a family and the Jewish culture.

"Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost is the deeply personal account of a search for one family among his larger family, the one barely spoken of, only to say they were "killed by the Nazis." Mendelsohn, even as a boy, was always the one interested in his family's history, but when he came upon a set of letters from his great uncle Schmiel, pleading for help from his American relatives as the Nazi grip on the lives of Jews in their Polish town became tighter and tighter, he set out to find what had happened to that lost family. The result is both memoir and history, an ambitious and gorgeously meditative detective story that takes him across the globe in search of the lost threads of these few almost forgotten lives." Text refers to the Hardcover Edition.

8. Lament for a Son - Nicholas Wolterstorff. A father's journey of grief after losing his 25 year old son in a climbing accident. Wolterstorff is one of the leading philosophers of faith. He uses the words, "demonic" for death.

"Wolterstorff, a well-known Christian philosopher, lost his 25-year-old son to a mountain climbing accident. His reflections in the wake of that tragedy are at times deeply personal, but always he expresses a prayerful anguish with which most bereaved parents will identify. Above all he refuses to turn from the "demonic awfulness" of death and, as he moves faithfully through grief, discovers new meaning in the Beatitudes, together with a new understanding of a suffering God. Spiritually enriching and theologically substantive." ECCopyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

9. America's Famous and Historic Trees: From George Washington's Tulip Poplar to Elvis Presley's Pin Oak by Jeffrey G. Meyer. Meyer took some of the oldest and most historic trees and was able to get seedlings from them to preserve these trees. He got me to thinking how each person is like a certain type of tree. You have to see the pictures to do this book justice.

"A decade ago, Meyer, a history buff and nurseryman who planted trees in new housing developments in Florida, had an inspiration to gather seeds from famous trees throughout the country and make the saplings available for people to plant in their own yards. He proposed this idea to the nation's oldest conservation organization, American Forests, and with their encouragement, founded the Famous and Historic Trees Project. Here, Meyer focuses on 17 of these trees, including the Frederick Douglass white oak and the Walden Woods red maple. For each tree, he provides abundant historical background, a description of its distinct qualities, detailed instructions on how to grow it from seed, and suggestions about where to plant it. Numerous illustrations enliven the text, and a 16-page color insert provides photographs of all the trees described..." Ilse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

10. Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham. Another book where you have to see the images to do this book justice. Pakenham has taken some of the oldest, most beautiful trees of England and gave us an up close and focused look at these monuments of age. Made me want to paint them all and made me think of Fairy Tales.

"In Meetings with Remarkable Trees Pakenham assembles a beautifully photographed gallery of 60-odd trees of Scotland, England, and Ireland, and magnificent trees they are. One is a 600-year-old king oak that looms large over Charleville, Ireland; another is the yew tree that Wordsworth called the "pride of Lorton's vale"; still another is a sequoia brought from the United States and planted in a Herefordshire grove in 1851, where it has since flourished. Pakenham helpfully includes a map showing the locations of his scattered dramatis personae; you could make a fine tour retracing his steps and having a look for yourself." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.