The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

Linocut Print of The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 2020, 15″ x 24″ printed on archival paper: Zerkall Book Smooth 145 GSM, made in Germany torn to size, 18″ x 27″

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is a relief print edition carved and printed by hand from a block of linoleum. It is available for pre-order in the Baumwerk Shop. It will be an edition of 100 prints. Numbers 1-75 will be black ink on white paper, while numbers 76-100 will be sepia ink on cream paper. There will be a separate listing for each color option. The black and white prints will be ready for shipping sooner on March 23rd, while the sepia and cream prints will be available a few weeks later.

The Spiritual Mechanics… began as a way of building a repository or archive for many of the symbols that help me to understand my place and function in the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, after a fashion, an info-graphic which serves a developing theology around the ancient kinship of labor to worship.

At the heart is a worldview which sees an holistic unity between what is spiritual and what is natural. These are crude words and a crude image which is looking towards something that is deep and nuanced in its beauty and inherent goodness within the mind of God. My hope is that in here is an echo of God saying of the earth and creation, “It is good”. Also the echo of the Words of the Creator resident in every atom and particle. May it be an echo of John the Baptist saying “change your hearts and minds, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” May it be an echo of Jesus saying “it is finished” on the cross. Heaven is coming to earth and our labor here is not in vain.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is also a prayer and an offering.  It is the noise my heart makes towards God, offering the smallest and most mundane moments of my days as He simultaneously offers them to me.  It both seeks to say and asks if it’s really true that labor spent shoveling dirt in a garden , roofing a house, or cutting a stone before God can be as significant a spiritual lever as the most noble words of the priest in the cathedral, or the pastor behind a pulpit, or the hands of a healer in a tent.

I have more openly exposed my heart in this image than in my previous work, where it is shielded by narrative. In following posts I will seek to lay out the symbolism and stories behind the details depicted here, but it should be understood that I have sought to use images like these because for me the words are fundamentally insufficient to describe what it is that I see and seek.

I also hope that you will consider purchasing this print. Many of you know my ambivalence towards the marketing. However, I believe I am called to engage the “marketplace” with my work in a way that settles with my conscience and ethics. Here is a link to pre-order The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest.

The Late Spring Farm

The month of May was wet for nearly the whole of Kansas, and we happened to be one of the wettest spots in the state with over 30 inches for the month. Spring rains make grass grow and the lambs are good and growing. Photography and blogging has taken a back seat in a year of heavy labor on every front, but I managed to take my camera with me a few times while I did my rounds on the farm.

A new print and BAUMWERKSHOP, our new online store

A Witness, the Heavenly Counsel, 2018 linocut print by Jack Baumgartner

Baumwerkshop

Marketing my work has always been precarious territory for me.  At a fundamental level, I am much more interested in making my work than trying to sell it.  Philosophically and morally, I struggle with the slippery slope of salesmanship and authenticity.  Authenticity as a word has already been pretty much trashed by our cultural trend towards filtered-authenticity in order to generate likes and sell products.  I am certainly guilty of it, myself.  Likes are addictive.  But it all leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.  It is hard to not feel like marketing breeds a certain level of dishonesty that we have decided to be ok with as a society. 

Usually my work is both deeply personal and (I hope) deeply spiritual.  I struggle often with the feeling that I am prostituting both myself and the things of God when I set out to peddle these visual representations in the marketplace.  I don’t really have a satisfying resolution for this uncomfortable feeling, except for the opposing weight of the reactions of “my” audience, expressing a desire to share in these things.   

do want to sell my work and provide an income for my family and finance future projects.  It is a part of life and a part of growing, of being fruitful.  It is part of work, which is a divine invitation.

I have a calling to make art and what I hope are beautiful objects, and useful pieces of furniture.  I have a calling to make that work accessible to the culture I am a part of.  I want to try to do that in as straightforward a way as I know how.  This new web store is an effort to do that. 

You can get to the store by going to https://baumwerkshop.com, or you can select the menu of this sight and click on “Purchase Work“.  I really do hope that you will visit and let me know what you think.  I also really hope that you might purchase something, if you see something you like.  There should be some exciting new things showing up there in the coming weeks.

Thank you, for supporting me and following along on this journey.  God is good.

  • Jack

    

The Sacred Process

Is labor a sacrament?  The invitation of the Eighth Day?  A sacred collaboration with the living God?  I can’t help but to note that the call to labor in the garden came before the curse of toil.  I am certain that labor is about more than just earning my bread.  There is something deeper there, not just for the artist, but for the ditch digger and the roofer, the farmer and the nurse.  “Whatever you think, it’s more than that…”  ISB.

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A Profile in Plough Quarterly

My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly.  There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe.  If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position

 

The Farm in Mid-Summer

celebrations of lucerne and other legumes, solar crescents, roots, and the husbandry of even toed-ungulates

sward of chicory, crimson, and white clovers

inquisitive crossbred pig in a paddock of rye and vetch

hampshire pig eating bolted chicory

improvised by a previous farmer, well worn window weight cover chains

nitrogen nodules formed on alfalfa (lucerne) roots

lucerne (alfalfa) roots and crown, pulled from the vegetable garden

garlic, un-earthed

root fire works

sonar malfunction (?) allowed us a daytime visit from a strange and fierce nocturnal beneficient

windrows in the alfalfa (Medicago sativa) meadow

the rusty old New Holland swather in contrast eating alfalfa

I read once that the Arabic word from which the name “alfalfa” came meant “best fodder”

Louis Bromfield justly brought attention to its role as a soil healer. It seems to live up to its names, feeding livestock, pollinators, humans, the soil and its inhabitants, and the atmosphere.

I feel grateful that I get to farm my own patch of lucerne. In the background is a mobile chicken coop with laying hens working the perimeter of the meadow. We’ve learned that alfalfa is a key ingredient in good eggs.

the angus bottle baby

bellows for milk

lambs in the illuminated profile of humid dawn

the young shepherd studies his flock

compact paddocks of soybeans and milo forage, bloody butcher field corn, and the Quonset barn looking at home in the landscape

the great blue heron disturbed from his breakfast, as we head across the creek to do the morning chores

sun in hand

interplay of lensing leaves and the light of 92% totality

solar shield

transfixed

the image of the solar eclipse projected through on half of pair of binoculars proved to be the most successful of viewing contraptions

photographing under the helmet, layers of eclipse and lense

contractions of the dry months

elevated mundane details; oxidations of copper and steel

a barn that is part celebration of geometry, part dog house

the colors of the barnyard hens grouped together over their dawn ration

wax goldenweed of the many cousins in the sunflower family

emergence of the inflorescence of Indian grass

dr. Seuss hairdo of thistle

snow-on-the-mountain

snouts and ears

coreopsis growing in a wheat field we are converting to perennial pasture

Walking Man Sketches

Walking Man Eats Alfalfa Roots

Walking Man Listens To the Roots Talking To One Another

Walking Man Looks Backwards Into Time

Walking Man Hefting Bodark Roots and His Water Pot

Walking Man Encounters the Spirit of the Lord In a Night Heron

Night Heron Detail

Walking Man Finds Strength and Purity and the Morning Dew

Tools of the Mystic (The School of the Transfer of Energy Lexicon)

Ministers of Beauty (S.T.E. Lexicon)

Hyper-Symbolic Tools for Use in the Transfer of Energy (S.T.E. Lexicon)